Spring is crazy. There’s an electricity in the air. I can feel it humming in my bones. The trees are singing. Storms sneak up on the horizon and explode the sky with unexpected rainbows.
I’ve been walking, taking it all in. Spongy moss bed beneath my feet on Summit. Heavy sweet smell of Lilacs on Roy – coupled with the unmistakable scent of dark roast coffee grounds and soil. Fresh tilled earth, acidified by Starbucks.
I spent most of Saturday at my (still unnamed) workspace in Frellard. Had a few minor epiphanies. I’ve been getting bogged down in the business part of “doing business,” paralyzed with little energy for doing.
I keep forgetting that I know how to write. That maybe I’ve gotten the hang of it by now. I’m so easily pulled into the quicksand world of metrics, ruberics, stats and charts – dense sand closing over my head, hands useless at my sides. Drowning in Excel spreadsheets.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with writing for money. I believe all artists should be compensated fairly for their creative efforts – enough that they don’t have to think about money and they’re free to create. But it’s a tricky tango – you have to write as though you don’t care whether or not you’re getting paid. As soon as the focus turns to finance, the creative process breaks down. It’s bizarre and frustrating for me. Like not being able to look at the sun during a solar eclipse.
Monetization is slippery. And necessary. And hopefully the key to further creative productivity. You just have to pretend it’s not so you can make some art.
Feeling totally overwhelmed by aforementioned metrics, ruberics, stats and charts, I slammed my notebook closed, gazing out the window of my workspace at the trees thickly unfurling their spring leaves. (Do you prefer furling or unfurling? I tend to be an unfurler, but a good rainy Sunday furl is fabulous once in awhile.) I stared out that window until my eyes unfocused, listening to Django Reinhardt, drinking pomegranate iced tea slowly through a straw.
Wasn’t there a time when I knew how to write? When I was in love with words, when my heart tripped up over a perfect string of adjectives, laced together with bailing twine, sealed with a kiss?
Rocking back on my retro chrome and daisy-vinyl chair, I suddenly felt gravity take over and the ground rushed up to meet me. I fell backward but was stopped by the bookcase behind me, which smacked me broadly across the back of the head. The bookcase that’s lined top to bottom with my writing in its various forms. A single notebook dislodged and fell into my lap. Like Newton’s apple from the tree.
I righted my chair, dusted myself off, and began to read.
Winter 2003. My heart was torn open on those pages; plagued with insomnia, I prowled the city streets at night. I wrote. About magenta lights on snow, about the Manhattan skyline in a black and white photo sunrise. About New Orleans and the sweet music of the streets. About the deep blue of my room. About Seattle – a city I’d yet to meet.
The words were tangled up and spread out, thrown like stars across a black sky. I read my words and it felt like home. I was re-reading some of these entries for the first time.
All of it reminded me of how different it feels to write without thinking about the money. Like dancing when nobody’s watching. Like Jonathan Livingston Seagull rejoicing in his own winged flight, I played on the page. My script was loose and comfortable; it fit. Barefoot and intimate with my words.
I realized how essential walking is to my writing. Every heart-stopping phrase came on the heels of an urgent journey on foot. Down cobblestone streets, moss-lined avenues, through subway stations, across the Commons. Down Newbury past Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, Hereford. Bricks slick with ice, the cork track at Tufts similar to the spongy feeling of walking on thick moss in Capitol Hill.
I reloaded my iPod this morning and walked to work, chunky headphones on – I took the scenic route. The fresh air and sights are like brainfood. My words require them.
If I walk long enough, I’ll eventually lose sight of the money. I’ll fall in love with the words. The fear will dissipate like a thin mist.
And I’ll achieve clarity – that beautiful pause between inspiration and desire.
I’m heading there now.