I’ve been watching my pre-written blog posts do their thing a day at a time and the spirit to write has been wanting. I’ve been in the writing doldrums — the place on the globe where there are no strong prevailing winds in any direction and a sailor can sit with luffing sails.
It’s not a case of depression, I’ve been in this place before, it’s more like a foreboding of change and while I’d like to think there’s just change coming in our personal life it’s possible that I’m a little down in the dumps in advance of the inauguration.
The real news is that the road construction is nearing completion. About 1/3 of the roads have been oiled in advance of asphalt application and I suspect the rest of them will get their oily spray down today. Yesterday at the pool the aroma of oil was heavy in the air and while no one loved the smell it was a harbinger of a completed job so no one was complaining either! They seem to be doing a great job, and soon the only notable negative about this RV park will be history.
No one wants to drive on freshly oiled roads, so a few of us are keeping our heads down and simply puttering around the house until this last inconvenience is out of the way. We altered our grocery schedule so that we’ll have adequate provisions in the house for a couple more days and should it work out that miss the notice of when our street is going to get it’s oily bath and asphalt lining it won’t be a big deal.
I’ve been filling some of the time reading. Believe it or not I have never read a P.D. James book before — even though I’ve watched some of the movies made from her writings. Or, should I say, derived from her writings.
I was struck by one line in the book that I picked up recently…
You can only write what you must write
— P.D. James
I would never put it quite that way but there is truth in those word that jumps up and down on my keyboard every time I sit down to write. There are all the thoughts in my head, and then there is what I’m supposed to write. Often they differ in the extreme. I may write an entire post and set it aside only to trash it a week or two later. It’s like that angry letter that we all used to write in the days before smartphones — those letters that we wrote and stuck in a drawer for a week or two while we decided whether we were really angry enough to say what we’d been thinking. Of course discretion often got the best of us and I and many of my contemporaries would tear up those letters realizing that sending the letter would accomplish no good at all. Perhaps it’s too bad that smartphones don’t have a “drawer” into which people can put those angry thoughts until they are sure they really want anyone else in the world to see them — much less to have them enshrined forever in the ether of the InterWebs.
I’m not sure that in the last five years there’s been a similar situation to that in which we find ourselves right now. Some of our laxity is because of the road construction. Some of it is because we have the coach up for sale. Some of it relates to waiting for delivery of stored belongings. Some of it is still recuperating from the past summer’s constant camper pressure. (As much as I enjoy camp hosting it’s just too many people for too long a time — I need this quiet and even if everything else was ‘normal’ I still might be feeling the same way. People exhaust me.)
I grew up reading a lot of classics. In first grade I got very bad marks on my report card for reading — I don’t honestly know how much reading there was in first grade in the early 1950’s but I do know that I came home with a bad mark at the end of that school year and my mom determined that I would learn to read. That summer (as probably every summer in those days) the library had a Billy BookWorm club. I don’t know how often I was back and forth to the local library but I started reading that summer and … I never stopped. Once I got the “idea” down that I could learn or learn about anything in the world they couldn’t get books out of my hands. And most of the way through school my mom would get upset with me all over again because I seemed (to her) never to return from the library with works of fiction — always with books about stuff I wanted to learn: from travel to philosophy to Eastern Religion to woodworking and plumbing and how to build a radio mix up a potion. She didn’t pay any attention to my fiction reading. In Jr. High I got two lists — the 100 most important works of fiction and the 100 most important works of non-fiction — and started at the top of both of them and just plowed down them one by one.
The last several years I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary fiction. I read fast enough, and until last summer I never bothered to get an electronic library card — so for a few years I was reading whatever I could find in the RV park lending libraries and at Goodwill. Hey — I didn’t mind buying a hardcover book for $2.00 — it was a day or two’s entertainment for me. And of course in an RV park library where you take one and leave one there isn’t really any cost at all. Except for the fact that you are reading things that someone else picked out. And believe you me I have become aware of a few authors I don’t care if I never see or read again.
I’ve never thought that popularity was a good thing. I guess that’s because I realize that people like all sorts of things that are truly mediocre. And I try not to be content with mediocre. It seems that I found a wife with similar tastes and there were quite a few purchases in life that took us a long time to make because we couldn’t find something more-than-mediocre so we waited until a better choice came along. With books I guess I didn’t do that when I was hungering for something to read. Sometimes in order to be alone with my thoughts all I needed was a book to sit on my lap and let my mind go where it needed to go. Books were my way of absorbing the world, they were my way of learning how to phrase my own thoughts, I took courage and inspiration from the successes and failures of others. Still do for that matter.
But back to only writing what one is supposed to write…
The human brain truly is a miraculous machine. Through some ongoing miracle we have experiences all day long and all night long our brain sorts through them and makes sense of them filing them away for future reference/use/inspiration/caution. The process by which experiences transform into memories, and memories into words, and words into paragraphs is nothing short of a miracle. Let’s not even throw in the more stellar human achievements like flying a rocket to the moon, walking on it, and then returning to earth!
We humans are peculiar little creatures. And this ability to communicate in multiple ways seems unique to us. Sometimes I wonder if we would be better off if we physically could not communicate things we weren’t supposed to say. There’s been a lot of Facebooking and Tweeting that people have regretted. There has been still more that was embarrassing and the author never realized how embarrassing their comments had been. Truly, we do show who we are to others whether or not we choose to; we cannot help but do so. Our character shines out — whether good or bad, admirable or damnable — and try as we may all the world is there to see what we manifest.
Maybe… just maybe… revealing who we are is what we are supposed to write. From Caesar to Ghandi to Genghis Kahn to Mao to Mick Jagger to Richard Nixon to Jimmy Carter — the world is filled with different kinds of folks. We get to tell the world just who we are in our own way. I think on some level, no matter how sincere or how duplicitous a person may be you really can’t hide who you are. We can put on a mask but masks crack and fail. What we intend to do or to be doesn’t matter. History is filled with people who made great claims and whose claims proved to be empty. History has the final say. It makes no difference whether I think I’m pretty cool, or hot stuff, or an idiot. I don’t get to make the final call. None of us does. Whether in writing or in life — we can only write what we must write.
Thanks for stopping, I’ll be here again tomorrow if you want to check in and see what’s up!
P.S.: it seems to me that character is important in a man. I think I’m going to spend a few days pondering character in an age where so few people seem to possess it. My posts will be a little different until I come out the other side of this temporary sanctuary.