Connections, mileposts and portents
After feeling sort of uncentered for the last several years, I feel like I’ve started to get some direction. I mean, in day to day life, it’s not like I sit in a corner rocking back and forth and moaning or something, but I’ve missed a sort of “big picture” sense of my past connecting to my present connecting to my future. In no particular order, some tiny and weird connections I’ve noticed:
I just read the Isabel Allende book Zorro, and I really enjoyed it. It was nicely written, and it felt fantastic and imaginative in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez sort of way (what a couple of storytellers!), and it also felt like a Zorroized version of Batman Begins. Anyway, I got back into my Murakami kick, this time a new one to me called The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. It’s a long read for me, not difficult or arduous, but I can’t quite tear through it as I can with some stuff. (I’ve got some thoughts on Murakami that deserve their own space.) Lots of weird connections as I get into it; in both Zorro and Wind Up Bird, a character loses the ability to speak, for example. Very different circumstances, different results, different implications, different style. Or the characters who are mapmakers or map enthusiasts. Or a certain way of describing a scene using smells or architectural details, even though one was set in pre-America California and Spain and one is set in contemporary Japan. I’ve had that experience probably 15 times just between these two books, not to mention how they each relate to other things I’ve explored recently. It’s not that the stories are the same, at all, and it’s actually pretty inspiring to see how these non-unique storytelling components can be used so differently; to see the connections doesn’t show me the same-ness of the writers, somehow it’s a lesson in how “it’s all the same, but different,” and 30 authors could write about 30 family dinners and have 30 different points. Life doesn’t really change, but everyone’s watching it from a different perch, and that’s where it gets interesting. It’s no different than 2 songs being in the same key or on the same instruments; that hardly means the songs are automatically alike. I don’t really know what it all means yet in terms that I’m comfortable putting in writing, but I feel like I’m learning something important. I feel the connections, I just haven’t intellectualized them. For me, that just means I haven’t overthought them yet, and that’s a good thing. And at the end of the day, maybe there isn’t any big lesson behind it all; maybe it’s ALL just little unconnected moments and associations. They feel connected because I happened to have witnessed them all, and that might be it. And for now it feels like enough.
I’ve also started to get some gentle nudges back into writing again. I stumbled across a book called The Artist’s Way and have started going through the exercises. The original goal for me was to just see what I might have sitting there untapped or blocked as far as my music or any of my other so-called “creative” endeavors. But the book was created by a writer, originally for other writers, and focuses on writing, so without seeking to do so, I find myself in the odd position of suddenly writing several pages every day for the first time in many years. If it sounds like a backwards way of getting more into music or photography or cooking or parenting, it probably is, but it’s always interesting to witness yourself making choices that are different from how you tell people you are or how you tell people you think.
I also now see the connection between that and my impulsive purchase of On Writing, Steven King’s book on writing. (Cough.) I bought it because I’m always interested in the creative process and even though I consider myself to have grown out of my Steven King phase long ago, I still respect him a lot and the book was reviewed well. I wasn’t disappointed; it had really good insights into his creative process, and a lot of it rang true to me. It’s not like I’m seeking “The” creative process, some theoretical perfect way of doing things, I just look for more insight into my own scene. The creative process in his book was pretty heavily filtered through a writer’s perspective on the craft of writing. And that’s starting to percolate; it pairs well with my quest for fulfilling creative outlets and also crosses over into my interest in literature and writing from a whole lifetime ago and ties into my appetite for books of all sorts. And I can see that I’ve either unconsciously steered myself toward some of these connections, or life has thrown me what I’ve needed when I’ve needed it, or both, or maybe something else. But it’s happening.
I’m also trying to not say “no” to opportunities that come up, out of town gigs, for example, and as you might expect, saying yes to things opens doors. I was in Taos last weekend for a gig, it happened to be at the culmination of a week long writer’s conference, and it was a nice scene. I was playing with Joy Harjo, a Mvskoge writer, poet, singer, musician, and more, who I have the good fortune of playing with, both live and in the studio. After it was over, we were chatting afterwards, and she mentioned to me that I ought to think about doing some writing and maybe even coming to next year’s production of this workshop. I was pretty surprised, and to be honest, my ego needed to hear it from someone, and the fact that it was her was a pretty good thing for me. I haven’t mentioned my interest in writing to her as far as I remember, either, so it was unsolicited and therefore very valuable for me. It’s on me to do something about it.
My old boss Marshall Karp and I are still in touch, and it’s largely through his own writing efforts; he’s on his third book, and I’ve been able to do a little work with him on his own website and things of that nature, it’s been great to see him go through that process and to have an excuse to stay in touch, and it really seems like it’s been a source of fulfillment for him. I can’t say “happiness,” that would be an oversimplification and it would gloss over the work and the trials that come with his successes, but as it seems to be with all people who are doing what they love, the ups and downs don’t seem nearly so hard for him when he’s working on something he cares about, in this case his writing. I’m not going to get published simply by knowing him, and I’m not far enough into anything to pick his brain or take him up on his offer to read through stuff, but I’ve taken a lot of big-picture inspiration from him, and at the end of the day, the weird thing is that one of our main connections started as writing, and remains so.
At the end of the day, I’m just trying to stitch together some little fibers of my experience into something that’s not so diffuse and random, something more akin to string than floating cottonwood tufts. I’ve been actively looking for signs or mileposts in my life, and as I reflect over the last little period, I recognize that I’m getting some. And some of them point toward doing more writing, for whatever reason. So I am, and it feels right.
One of the strangest things is that by starting up with writing, it’s unblocking some other things at the same time. I’m also starting to write some new music again, I’m starting to take pictures again, just for fun, I’m starting to cook again. Rather than sapping energy from other areas of interest, when things work right, they all seem to work in cooperation and create more energy. I have absolutely no idea what it all means or where it’s going, but there’s something going on, and it feels pretty damned right. And I even get little respites from work dread – rather than feeling that desperate thing where “I need to get away” from what I’m doing, I’ve started having regular periods where I actually feel like I’m moving positively toward something else. Call it a “glass is half full” type of issue, my interpretation of the facts feels like it matters to me. I’ve been ready for a change for a while and it’s sort of odd to realize that it’s already happening. And always has been.
This writing thing is the tip of the iceberg, so many little things going on in so many ways. Meanwhile, short of a raven perching outside my office and cawing “WRITE,” I feel like I’m seeing the, uh, writing on the wall. About writing. Who knows?