Today we celebrate by bringing our new puppy home, which, though joyful, also reminds us of the dog we had to put to sleep in May. We love Maggie, but we miss Charlie horribly, and we know that the only reason we have Maggie is because Charlie is no longer with us. Being able to hold those two conflicting emotions at one time is amazing – the writer in me says, yes, now can you get a moment like this in your pieces? Can you create that horrible emptiness of mourning accompanied by the joy of a new beginning and all the promise it holds?
It’s been total puppy pandemonium – it’s like having a baby in the house again. Constant Vigilance! Make sure she doesn’t chew on the dining room table, chew on a live electrical cord, redirect her attention from playing tug of war with my skirt to one of her toys, treading water until a new routine, a new normal in the house, re-establishes itself. Amazing how something that doesn’t even weigh ten pounds can completely alter everything within its vicinity.
How on earth can I be expected to get any writing done while this is in my house??? Especially since she’s chewing on the electrical cord to my computer?
But on the writing note: I catch a really stupid movie on the Disney Channel – something about a magicians’ school (as opposed to wizarding, I suppose) with, wonder of wonders, it looks like Frank Langella playing the headmaster (Hello? What? I kid you not, but it can’t be because I can’t find it listed in his IMDB profile, unless he’s really ashamed…). But…here’s what caught my attention. The plot is that there’s a kid at the school who can do real magic, though he doesn’t realize that’s what he’s doing. The headmaster tells him that the idea of real magical powers threaten magicians because magicians provide illusion. He says there is a long history of magicians debunking claims of supernatural powers (I think of Penn & Teller) because a magician’s bread and butter is made by playing on the audience’s desire to believe the illusion is real.
I love that idea that entertainment relies on our willingness to be lied to, our willingness to suspend normal rules of reality and believe what we see rather than what we know.
One of my students tells me she’s been thinking a lot about her work, but she’s worried because she’s not actually writing a lot of pages at the moment. After telling her that, since she is in a class, she will have to put some actual words on actual pages, but that thinking about the work is a valid part of the writing process. I qualify this with a) the final result has to be pages produced, and b) sometimes “thinking” about the work really means procrastination and it’s important to be honest to yourself about what you’re really doing, and you know the difference.
I really think that when you’re engaged with your work, when you’re actively working on it, you find resonance in what occurs around you – you find what you need in the daily detritus through which you move. There are so many times when I’ve been working on something and go to the grocery store and see something that fits so perfectly with the scene I’m working on or the time I was at a coffeehouse and one of my characters sat down across from me (he was just a guy with a sketchbook – but he looked exactly like how I’d pictured my character, who was an artist) and I spent a half hour talking notes on how this guy moved and observed the space around himself which helped make my character more vivid.
Which may be why things aren’t resonating for me right now – I’m not engaged with my work, but with the end of a very long to do list that started back in September.
There’s the busy that interferes with your work and there’s the busy that happens because you’re doing the work. I have way too much of the former and not enough of the latter in my life.
An artist friend of mine tells me he’s got a show opening and a commission piece he’s working on plus teaching, so much to do that he hasn’t had time to design and build his family’s Halloween costumes and his kids are facing their first Halloween with
Liminal – a threshold space, neither here nor there.