Sneezing & Typing a Few Thoughts on Writing.
I think it was Edna Ferber (Giant author) who said the work of writing must be done, "sick or well", or, I might add, if the muse sprinkles fairy dust or not. Recently, I had to write an artist's statement for a fellowship. In a page or less I had to say why I write, how I write, and what writing means to me. I worked on it for about three days, and almost sent in it, but decided to sleep on it one more night. I assumed they wanted to know how I write so they could tell if I knew my stuff. Like a bread baker or mechanic. So I described "how" I write-- my daily routine, my desk, my computer, my note taking, first drafts and revisions. I type with two fingers. Which is okay to admit, since some very good writers don't type at all-- John Irving, David McCullough, and that brilliant guy who wrote The Art of Fielding. Luckily I slept on it before sending it in, because the next morning on my way to exercise class I had a flash of horror, and insight--They didn't want to know how I type anymore than a friend hoping to get in shape wanted to know how to do a proper sit-up. They wanted to know How with a capital H. Where does the motivation or the ideas come from, and How do they evolve from that moment of intention or astonishment to the page? (Which still was no picnic to explain. Maybe I should become a baker?) My standard reply is taken right from that Mary Oliver line-- I pay attention, I'm prepared to be astonished, and then I tell you about it. On good days, that works really well. This morning I don't feel so well though. I have a cold, so I was procrastinating by chatting with my friend Margaret, a journalist. We were talking about wolves. Are there more than usual? Or are more people just hearing them? Are they in town? I don't think so, but I'm not sure. We talked about who might know more than we do. I ticked of a list of hunters and trappers and old timers and the few small farmers in the area. Margaret said I should be a reporter, and then said that basically, I am. Nope, I told her, I am not. Because I am prepared to be astonished. A good journalist must be prepared not to be astonished, right?