I need to write myself into existence – again.
During times of stress I realize that I am not writing enough. More importantly, I am not writing enough about topics other than business.
One of my favorite books is A Year with Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary. The author published a year of notes he made and I found the eclectic collection a joyful way to spend many hours. Brian describes his journey into generative music in a diary entry:
“Of course, the real can of worms opens up with the new stuff I’m doing – the self-generating stuff. What is the status of a piece of its output? Recently I sold a couple of pieces as film-music compositions (a minor triumph, and an indication of how convincing the material is becoming). I just set up some likely rules and let the thing run until it played a bit I thought sounded right! But of course the film-makers could also have done this – they could have bought my little floppy (for thus it will be) containing the ‘seeds’ for those pieces, and grown the plants themselves. Then, what would the relationship be between me and those pieces? There is, as far as I know, no copyright in the ‘rules’ by which something is made – which is what I specify in making these seed programs.”
“For me, this is becoming a stronger body of work every day. Having now had the chance to try out some of the work on lots of different people (even without telling them how it is being made), I am convinced of its musical worth. Then the fact of its infinite self-genesis comes as an incredible bonus. So I will be very happy if, at the end of it all, I get recognition as a pioneer in this area. That in itself (given the way things have worked for me in the past) will also turn out to pay the bills. It’s something to do with what Esther Dyson was saying about servicing an idea: if I let the idea free, then I get paid for servicing it – extending it, updating it, extrapolating from it.
“The end of the era of reproduction.”
In a previous variant of writing myself into existence, I came across Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. She encourages daily free writing:
“This book is about writing. It is also about using writing as your practice, as a way to help you penetrate your life and become sane. What is said here about writing can be applied to running, painting, anything you love and have chosen to work with in your life. When I read several chapters to my friend John Rollwagen, president of Cray Research, he said, “Why, Natalie, you’re talking about business. That’s the way it is in business. There is no difference.”
Learning to write is not a linear process. There is no logical A-to-B-to-C way to become a good writer. One neat truth about writing cannot answer it all. There are many truths. To do writing practice means to deal ultimately with your whole life. If you receive instructions on how to set a broken bone in your ankle, you can’t use those same instructions to fill a cavity in your teeth. You might read a section in this book that says to be very specific and precise. That’s to help the ailment of abstract, general meandering in your writing. But then you read another chapter that says lose control, write on waves of emotion. That’s to encourage you to really say deep down what you need to say. Or in one chapter it says to fix up a studio, that you need a private place to write; the next chapter says, “Get out of the house, away from the dirty dishes. Go write in a café.” Some techniques are appropriate at some times and some for other times. Every moment is different. Different things work. One isn’t wrong and the other right.
When I teach a class, I want the students to be “writing down the bones,” the essential, awake speech of their minds. But I also know I can’t just say, “Okay, write clearly and with great honesty.”
Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones (pp. 4-5). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.
My latest reminder that I need to “write myself into existence” came from an announcement in my email from the On Being blog:
Sunday, May 12, 2019, 3:45 p.m.
The Loft’s Wordplay Festival
Krista will interview poet Ross Gay. After his 42nd birthday, Ross promised to write a mini essay every day for one year to capture anything delightful. The Book of Delights is the culmination of this project — essays that all start with a simple moment and blossom into larger conversations, ranging from politics and racism to Ross’s mother and gardening. He is also the author of three books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
I immediately ordered the book and enjoyed the delights. In the Preface, Ross reminded me yet again that it was time to Wake Up! and write:
“One day last July, feeling delighted and compelled to both wonder about and share that delight, I decided that it might feel nice, even useful, to write a daily essay about something delightful. I remember laughing to myself for how obvious it was. I could call it something like The Book of Delights.
I came up with a handful of rules: write a delight every day for a year; begin and end on my birthday, August 1; draft them quickly; and write them by hand. The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice. Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day.
It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month or two into this project delights were calling to me: Write about me! Write about me! Because it is rude not to acknowledge your delights, I’d tell them that though they might not become essayettes, they were still important, and I was grateful to them. Which is to say, I felt my life to be more full of delight. Not without sorrow or fear or pain or loss. But more full of delight. I also learned this year that my delight grows—much like love and joy—when I share it.”
Gay, Ross. The Book of Delights: Essays. Algonquin Books. Kindle Edition.
My daily “Lifelets” are a way of noticing the world around me as I continue my resilience journey.
My commitment for the next year is to write a Lifelet a day.