25 July 2013

The Writers Room

“Writers are always selling somebody out.” -- Joan Didion

Since forming the Holly Springs Writers Circle a month ago, writer-ly topics have moved into a more central place in my thinking with a sharper focus. I think, for example, about ways I might change my daily routine to  encourage a more rigorous, disciplined practice:  getting up every day at 5 instead of rolling out whenever I wake up; writing every day at a prescribed hour rather than waiting for "inspiration" to nudge me toward a blank page or computer screen; committing to seriously researching any of the kazillion things I wonder about.

Words -- reading them and writing them -- have always held a special fascination for me. Writing -- doing it myself and reading the work of others -- has always mattered. A lot.

From an early age, reading a book was a conscious choice to journey into a different world. And though I almost always surrendered completely, my awareness returned over and over to the author's presence:  the story-vehicle was being driven by someone else and I was along for the ride. I noticed the driver's skill -- or lack of skill. I noticed whether I felt safe or at risk. 

Before she left for work, my mother would write notes to the four of us. We were latch-key kids and the notes outlined chores to be completed and rules to be obeyed during the unsupervised hours after school. Beyond the content of the notes, I observed her handwriting and the words she chose, the way I could hear her voice in my head as I read (mysterious and magical phenomenon!), and the shift in my mood and worldview (though I did not know that word yet...) that the notes produced. 

Didion's statement enters my consciousness at a time when my attention and sensitivity to language and writing are high. What does the statement mean? 

I've performed all manner of intellectual gymnastics in the days since I first read it in an attempt to understand. Something about writing....something about betrayal.  Someone stands aghast and hurt by someone's words on a page...

At times, I think I have it...and then it slips away again and I don't know what Didion means.

In my struggle to think about writing and betrayal, I've bumped into two thick-bodied shadows. They have not shown their faces yet but I can smell them...and they linger.

The first shadow holds the ways in which I betray my artistic integrity at times. Shortcuts through stories to avoid offending someone -- someone who may never even see what I've written.  And other stories truncated because I doubt my ability to find words for the deeper, more complicated aspects.

The second shadow holds an unvoiced scream.  And a lament. 

We are together in a small room this week. The Two Shadows and I. 

I know I will see my own face if they ever pull back their hoods and step into the light.

I am setting a table.