I recently read a piece from Maya Angelou: she said that although she had a large house, she retained a hotel room in town. On the desk of the room she had only a deck of cards, crossword puzzles and a pad of paper—and a pen. She would take herself out of her comfort and her distractions and would sit and pretend to play solitaire – to trick herself into writing.
Reading this was an enormous comfort to me. Here I am thinking that once I stake my flag in the sand saying that I will always be brilliant I will be promising that I will always say something noteworthy and entertaining.
As if — but I am not always thoroughly entertaining.
The thing that makes me completely nuts is when inspiration comes – I am so afraid that I will lose the thread – so I rush to keyboard or pen and I am writing and writing and writing and pop….I lose the thread or suffer an electronic glitch and lose everything.
But darn! It was a flash and for five or ten seconds I was completely brilliant. Then gone.
What I need is not only a trick to get me to write – but a treat. I need a trick and a treat. I need popcorn balls, candy corn, wax teeth and licorice. And for those days that I feel really dumb I need Smarties.
I will walk down the road in a world gone wild and I will whisper: are you here?
So then a door will open a crack and inspiration will whisper ‘come on in’. I go a few steps and I recognize the funhouse mirrors that get me going and the smell of flowers and air and I am on my way.
Suddenly ideas in doors and windows are opening and closing and opening and closing until wham! A door closes on my finger.
Now I can’t type.
Alright, alright, I’ll tell you, ….this just happened. The door closed, the computer glitched and I lost everything I was working on (and it had been so darn funny, too.) I was so mad because we were leaving for Milwaukee but R said – bring the computer in the car (but I was sure that I would never get the thread back…)
And when I did I was even madder at him for being right.
But of course, as he predicted, when I wrote it the second time it was better.
A weird time to think of it but at the time I thought of biblical Jonah – a guy who was sitting in the hot desert sun – and just as he is losing his sanity a palm suddenly grows over his head (sent by the Divine)– shading him from the sun. Of course he is very happy enjoying his shade and enjoys a restful night when then, the next morning a worm comes and eats the plant – it withers and dies.
He is super mad. Double darn!
He, according to the story, pleads to God. What did you do to my palm? I was miserable and then I had shade and now it is gone! Why did you do that?
In the story God replies….well Jonah, how very strange that you would be so mad at the loss of a palm that you did not plant or water or grow…..?
(I am not sure I remember the point of the story but it seems odd that I was be happy to suddenly inspired and then madder than mad when it is dashed away.)
But where did the plant come from if not from the “universe” – from the Divine? But what is the source of my inspiration – a well which sparkles and rushes and dances – when it is not hiding and toying with me?
And therefore, who am I to complain and thrash about when a worm comes to eat my inspiration and it withers and dies?
Who am I to complain at all?
Instead, I need to trick myself with crossword and game, teasing the mistress into the dance?
I have been dancing and it is almost time to write. I am thirsty. I look for the lemons,
I am crazy for lemons.
It is all those sour bits. I love each and every one of them.
When I make my lemonade I halve them and I juice them into my tallest cup with a bit o’sweetening….five halves in all, And then water. I made my lemonade deliberately and with generosity (five halves just for me!) and drink it every spring.
It is not I who grows those lemons but gosh darn how I am going to use them. I crave them when the soft breezes start.
Some days the lemons at the grocery are hard and thick-rinded. How am I going to make the lemonade I love with this kind of lemon.? I need them to be more flexible, as lemons go, They just need to make the lemonade with no drama. Make the lemonade and be done with it.
But oh, were writing only as is making my lemonade. Then I would know, I would absolutely know that when the forsythia is yellow I would be bounding up and down, jumping here and there, getting ready to juice five halves of words, a bit sweetened. …and drink it up. Imagine – me writing deliberately and with generosity (five words just for me!).
With writing there are always the sour bits and the sticky bits and the stones – nobody ever wants the stones in their drink. But a good story like a good lemonade makes you feel lighter and makes you want to pucker.
Or you are left to the discarded rinds and sours and strands and looking at them sideways you can write something deconstructed. …a haiku, perhaps.?
I pritter and I pratter at my tapper at my typer and I sing of the day when the words went away.
And how I got them back,
And how it pained me so that he knew so, so…..
Much About me.
I need a hotel in town with a deck of cards and three lemons and my tallest glass.
To trick myself into doing the thing.
I need a palm to shade me so I know that the one who grew the palm who may eat it tomorrow – is the selfsame one who gave me the words.
And the lemons. Always the lemons with their sour bits and their seeds and their sticky and their rind.
To get involved with a lemon, you might take a moment to think about it,
I hear they can be fickle.