Sunday, February 24, 2013
The Long Commute
Do you ever have one of those days when you know you want to do something, but you don’t know what? For instance I know I want to add to my blog, and I know I need to get back to the new story I’m working on (a sequel to “A Beautiful Place for an Ugly Death”), and I have other stories I want to work on. It’s just that the “moment” doesn’t seem to have arrived. What to do?
Usually, when I’m in one of these holes in my head (definition: an empty space with lots of things sitting loosely on the edge, about to drop in, but nothing so wobbly that it will actually fall), I simply start writing; much like this. Whatever comes into my head goes down on the keyboard and up on the screen. Sometimes it leads to a real thought (!), and at others it just begs for more words to follow. Eventually I either find something working, or I give up and go do something physical.
It is a reflection of my way of life, I think: a balance between what I can do in my head and what I can do with my hands. I’ve always been of two worlds, as it were, and I see no reason to change. At least part of every day must be spent writing, or letting my mind travel among the things I’m working on, if not actually writing. The other part of the day has to be devoted to something physical: building something, repairing or servicing a piece of equipment, cleaning gutters, mowing grass, cutting firewood. On days when I can’t do both I find it hard to sleep at night, a feeling I guess, that I have accomplished nothing, or at least not enough.
When I’m writing I often think I would have been happier working in a garage or building houses (I’ve done both). When I’m frustrated that I can’t solve a mechanical problem I tell myself that it was a good thing I discovered writing as a profession.
Writing, of course, has its own frustrations and challenges. I once had a client who asked me (without expecting an answer), where the words came from. I couldn’t answer him, because in truth, I didn’t know. Some thirty or forty years later, I still don’t. Anymore than knowing where the connection is between hand and eye when I’m cutting a piece of wood or rebuilding some mechanical part of an old car or tractor. I’m happy that the phenomenon occurs, and let it go at that.
Writing, even the non-fiction film writing in which I specialized for decades, rewards me with every word, every line or paragraph that I keep. Writing a line that “sings” brings pleasure to me first, then to the reader or listener. There is still a thrill when I write a line that I know is right, crafted to achieve the goal I have set for it.
I consider myself among the most fortunate of people. Very early in life I discovered the pleasure of working with my hands, and soon thereafter, the reward that comes from depending on my own internal resources to make not just a living, but a life.
In a way it like commuting between two worlds.