This Little World
I address this post to those writers who aren’t writing but wish they were writing. I might be one of them. I’m returning to Patricia Hampl’s The Art of the Wasted Day, which I’ve been reading between my bouts of not writing, working at the day job, freelance work, reading books for my book clubs at the library, keeping the house in some bit of order, tending the garden. Okay. As we all do, more or less.
What can we do when, for whatever reasons, we can’t write? How about we just give it up and journal instead? (Which is of course writing). Why don’t we just “sit there and describe.” Hampl says:
“Sit there and describe. And because the detail is divine, if you caress it into life, the world lost or ignored, the world ruined or devalued, comes to life. The little world you alone can bring into being, bit by broken bit, angles into the great world. It’s voice, your style. Or, call it what it is – your integrity.”
When feeling overwhelmed, when it is all too much, I recommend getting small, zeroing in. Practice writing just what you see from where you sit. Concentrate on details. Get those right. Don’t worry about the big picture, sprawling epic dreams. Get in close, focus. Take notes. Will you use them? It doesn’t matter. Stop writing a book; start writing shards. The book will come together when it’s ready.
Hampl says that she has pledged her “allegiance to the note, the shard, the fragment, the bit that glints in the dirt and makes the book possible...”
Hampl also says this:
“And yet the great unsorted pile of detail – that’s what a life is. Not the organization of details into shape...but the recognition of the welter of life – notetaking. James’s ineluctable consequence of one’s greatest inward energy...to take them...as natural as to look, to think, to feel, to recognize, to remember.”
Quoting Hampl, I remember Rachel Blau Duplessis in Blue Studios, talking about the collage, the shard. She quotes Williams: “Plenty of debris. Plenty of smudges.” And she herself says:
“I try to write so that if a single shard were rescued in the aftermath of some historical disaster, that one shard would be so touching and lucid as to give the future an idea of who we were.”
This sounds like there’s a lot of pressure on that one shard, but the secret is to write all your shards, all the details. And then leave them and later pick through them.
Because, and this is something I return to and return to:
“One just writes as best one can. The vow is simple, although it may have taken years to recognize. To work in one’s time.”
Write fragments, write shards, collect details. Take notes. Collect debris and smudges. Describe those things that glint and glimmer. Describe the broken bits, the misshapen pieces.
Worry about what they are later, much later.
Write what you can. However small.