November 23, 2014, 2:44 a.m.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written. Just woke from a dream in which a woman is talking about writing with a fountain pen and how it is perfect for those times when you know what you want to write, and it is relatively short. Then I woke up, and I think, I guess she prefers a more even, reliable flow for the hard work of just starting to write when you don’t know what you want to say–or when you have so much to say but you haven’t been saying it so it’s backed up and clogged and things are going to get messy enough without adding a fountain pen into the mix. That’s what I thought. Because I’ve never used a fountain pen, but I imagine they are messy.
So, it has been a dark three days–yesterday not so dark as the previous two–more recovery from the indulgence of the previous two. Really, yesterday was supposed to be the day I would finally sit down and start writing, but it was a cleaning day instead and much needed. New old dishes to be unpacked, washed, and put away, old old dishes to be taken from the cupboards, packed up, and stored away for Aaron when he moves. It was good work and I’m glad I did it–very gratifying to sit down to dinner last night with china gleaming on the table.
But this is the problem with not writing. There is always something else to be done, and the longer you aren’t writing the easier it is to continue not writing, until, if you are like me, you have some truly nasty days. Dark descends and every thought turns down that path. The destroyer awakens and feeds, and takes every occasion to convince me that my life is worthless, my ideas vain and insipid, my loves illusion, my joy dust.
Usually I can count on having one or two insomniac nights a week, where I go to sleep at the usual time and wake up at 2 a.m. (or, when the clocks changed, 3 a.m.). This past week, from last Monday to this morning, Sunday, every night but one has been an insomniac night. Wake at 12 even a couple of those nights and get back to sleep around 4, but when I wake at 2 or 3 usually it’s for the night. And I’ve been so tired that I just lie there hoping to fall back asleep but today… today I woke from a dream about writing with a fountain pen and I got to thinking about the day ahead–how once again there are many things to do and how was I ever going to fit writing into that? Well, why am I waking up in the middle of the night? Maybe it is hormonal hell, but it also is a damned good time to write. Most of the nearby world is asleep–their mind waves deep gamma or whatever–and peace reigns.
When I am writing–and by that I mean active, regular, daily writing–peace reigns in my world. Thoughts flow clear, and ideas come…freely from that mysterious place ideas and dreams and myths come. I can go a long time without writing–especially if I am doing some form of creative work instead–but eventually I get clogged up, dried out, and start thinking my life is over. Writing is the juicy fruit that sustains my life, and I deny myself way too often of that sustenance.
Why is that? It is easy to point to the daily grind–work, school, the odd yoga class, keeping house and home together…all these things keep me from writing. But I know that isn’t it, because when I have something to say I will write it–it will out, and if that means schoolwork or housework doesn’t get done then so be it. I’ve witnessed this, many times. I’ve also had long stretches of time when external commitments were light or even nonexistent and I didn’t write. So no, it isn’t busy-ness that keeps me from writing.
I think it has more to do with calcification. We are born imitators–looking first to our parents and then to other sources for what to think, how to act, what to say. You can see this if you have children or know some children fairly well. They imitate, and so do we. It is our way of adapting to the world around us–a basic survival mechanism.
But not only do we imitate others–we imitate ourselves. We form habitual patterns so to free our minds to think about other things; and this also is a form of adaptation, a survival mechanism. Imagine if you had to think about how to drive every time you got behind the wheel? How to cook an egg? How to write?
So we learn to do things by repetition and practice and we get comfortable doing them. What I think we forget is the reason why we learn how to do things. And no, it isn’t so that we can grow up and become middle managers and good consumers. We learn how to do the basic survival stuff in this world so that we can create our own lives. We learn the rules so we can break them–innovate.
I think I don’t write basically for the same reason that I don’t think about the immensity of space. Or to use an example from Jung: religion is a defense against religious experience. My daily, habitual life is a defense against the hard work of digging into my psyche and fleshing out the thoughts and conversations I am always having in my head. It’s uncomfortable–if I am doing it right and not somnolently. It stretches the boundaries of my mind, the way the immensity of space stretches my conception of myself and this world. Whoa. It’s hard to take. You want to be comfortable and secure–to know who you are and where you are going, what you will cook and eat for dinner, where you will walk your dog. In the face of the infinity of space that all becomes so small and easily…just blown away. You must let go of all the barriers you construct to keep yourself safe in order to really think about the immensity of outer space (or the equally infinite, though infinitesimal, immensity of inner space). And that is what religious experience is, and that’s what writing is. Scary, but it nourishes the soul.