Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hey You: A Note to Self from Self

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Just because you know a thing, and they don't, is no reason to call attention to that. You're suddenly twelve years old again, but the now-you is still making apologies for not being not-you. Sometimes you get surrounded by your own words, engulfed in dreamy self-absorption, swallowed up in me-ness, obsessed with image, identity, and imagined worth (or lack thereof).

Cleaning out the closet ... finding lots of debris. Funny, hadn't noticed before--how much of it there is. Sometimes the sheer verbiage overwhelms ... chokes, even. You can't take refuge in habit. Habit, too, suffocates. It was so much simpler when you had nothing, when you attended to the task at hand, started the new path, empty, eager. Got beyond, somehow, the too-many-someones, -somethings, -somewheres all pulling, like so many grasping winds. The ghosts kept coming back. When are you coming back? they cried. Don't come back, others said. Who are you trying to be, really?

Words are a tool you thought you might master. You clothe yourself in them, glad to have found a fit, happy when anyone notices, disappointed when they don't, but terrified when they throw the spotlight on the pen behind the words. It's like being blinded by a flashlight in the eyes, it's disorienting. You stumble, lose your balance.

The hardest times are when you're absent, when the you of you is gone, when the focus is on the other--their wants, their needs, their happiness--and you notice that you've disappeared. Your pen takes note, tells your story.

The happiest times are when you're absent, when the me of you is gone, when the focus is the other--their wants, their needs, their happiness--when you disappear but don't notice that you've disappeared. Your pen takes note, tells their story.

Sometimes your you catches you and says: Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Enough. Stop. You don't have to build a castle. Clean your house. Stop taking little side trips. Get back on the path. Talk less. Think more. You don't have to say ... everything, write about everything, comment on everything. Just because you can write, doesn't mean you always must. And don't say "I can't not" write.  Every writer says that. But even when one itches, one doesn't have to scratch oneself raw, nor is one particular person's method of scratching  any more important than another's. Just because you have the urge, and your inkwell never dries, your inspiration never ceases, doesn't mean what emerges from your pen will find receptive eyes. Better that it resonates with one, then bores a dozen.

Write ... but--better. Leave the me of you aside, for once. You will never not be you. Those things that are the most important, will still be the most important, pen or no pen. Will your legacy be quantity--or quality?  Or irrelevance? Does it matter?  The answer to that last question tells you all you need to know about yourself. Joseph Brodsky stressed that "Words matter"--How you choose them, how you say them, how you write them, how you use them, how you abuse them. They matter. One deconstructs, analyzes, flaunts, steals, stretches, conceals, enhances, beautifies or manipulates them, all to make a point, or to fashion what one would like to think is a work of art. Writers come and go. Their words may outlast them--or slide into oblivion, unheard, unread. Again the question: Does it, matter?

The me of you says Yes--yes, it does matter.  If nothing else, it's a legacy for those you love, to pass on. The not-me part of you says No--you have no say beyond the grave and what becomes of your "things"--books, papers, writings, reputation, etc. will cease to concern you.  There is no longer any "you" to be concerned with it.  You have been dissolved into and become one with the All.

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.  Snakes shed their skin; writers should, too, from time to time.  Reappraise.  Refresh themselves.  Change the ink color.  Get new skin. Look at some things differently.

It's Spring.  Clean the house.  It's time.

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