“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.”
~ Franz Kafka
I am reminded tonight, adrift as I am again in the horse latitudes of creative inertia, of a line from the writer Anne Lamott.
“Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this…”
Believe me I’m deeply motivated to blame others for the reality that I’m creating nothing out of nothing. Jean-Paul Sartre said “hell is other people” because the judgments of society are always in our minds, so we are never free. Even now as I type this, all alone in my condo — with no impressions of the outside world but the gentle exhalations of the freeway and the whisper of the sprinklers coming on — I am not free.
You are going to judge me, aren’t you? People who know me and people who don’t are going to read this and make calculations, draw conclusions, read between the lines, assume and presume to understand. And brains will have reactions. So you have a claim on my freedom from the future, as I have a claim on your attention from the past.
That is a weird concept: You’re in my head, for better or worse, and I’m in yours. And it seems to be a kind of magic. But if we’re not careful, it’s more disillusion than illusion, less trick than trial.
Sadly, that is the Grand Illusion, that we have the capacity to know each other, or even to know ourselves. Nevertheless, that is the poet’s job: to look out at the world and explore and illuminate moments subjectively, with the self as primary subject.
It’s late – the mind drifts. I leave you with a few ponderables from my Commonplace Book, perhaps to be parsed furtively in a future post, if God wills it:
“No matter how piercing and appalling his insights, the desolation
creeping over his outer world, the lurid lights and shadows of his inner
world, the writer must live with hope, work in faith.”
— J.B. Priestley
“Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.”
“In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.”
— John Steinbeck
“No one deserves to know the real you. Let them criticize who they think you are.”
Up with life. Stamp out all small and large indignities. Leave everyone alone to make it without pressure. Down with hurting. Lower the standard of living. Do without plastics. Smash the servo-mechanisms. Stop grabbing. Snuff the breeze and hug the kids. Love all love. Hate all hate.
– John D. MacDonald
I found a list of daily journaling prompts online and the one for yesterday was “you have film for one picture.” I’ve also been thinking about the word shimmer. It’s a good word. So I’m working on a poem inspired by that idea and that word. Maybe it’s a poem; it’s something that wasn’t there before.
Here’s a quote for your day:
“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don’t expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”
— Nikki Giovanni
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.”
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden
A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome. One of our ancient methods is to tell a story begging the listener to say—and to feel— “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.” Of course a writer rearranges life, shortens time intervals, sharpens events, and devises beginnings, middles and ends. We do have curtains—in a day, morning, noon and night, in a man, birth, growth and death.These are curtain rise and curtain fall, but the story goes on and nothing finishes.To finish is sadness to a writer—a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.– John Steinbeck
The storyteller makes no choice
soon you will not hear his voice
his job is to shed light
and not to master
Since the end is never told
we pay the teller off in gold
in hopes he will come back
but he cannot be bought or sold
– The Grateful Dead, Terrapin Station
Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it.
Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain.
Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead
pencil markings endure longer than memory.
– Jack London, March 1903
Here’s a stray thought from my notebook:
Whatever has the power to save us will also break our hearts.