A pigeon muscled into my imaginings recently. I was suspended between lines—words were elusive and connections weren’t coming—and I couldn’t help but notice that the avian equivalent of a Harley had pulled up outside my office. The throaty coos echoed in, amplified as they bounced off the many concrete surfaces nearby, and I sat, almost drumming my fingers, willing the words to come and the bird to pipe down.
Man, I remember thinking, you’re quite the delicate flower. It’s just a bird. But at that, the pigeon gunned its engines and the decibels climbed. I figured I’d see if I could spot it and shoo it away. I got up from my chair, and as I reached the glass, I heard a small voice in my head saying, “Open a window. Let something wild fly in.”
Open a window. Let something wild fly in. The pigeon was gone as soon as I pushed the curtains aside—it had been on the ledge and startled at the movement—but I’ve been repeating those words to myself all week, thinking at first about the disoriented sparrow that flapped around our living room when I was a kid, and a bat that whizzed past my ear in the dark, both of us vibrating like tuning forks.
Those small encounters stay with me like dreams. I don’t know why the wild comes to us that way—maybe because the contact is inevitable, with only thin glass panes and our habits of seeing keeping us apart.
I take everything as a message for my writing—though this was the first delivered by carrier pigeon—and I’ve been trying to open myself to what’s around me rather than shutting it out. Even on the Internet, I’ve been spending time with what’s less familiar to me, paying attention when I something feels wild and alive as it comes through my computer screen. Perhaps that’s why I’ve stumbled onto so much inspiration this week. I can feel something new taking shape.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that regularly I round up a few “small and magical things,” mostly related to writing, that I gather ‘round the Internet and append as links to the bottom or margin of the newsletter. This time, I want to share them at slightly greater length. If something strikes you, I hope you’ll engage it. Go to the comments and let me know what happens.
1. Beautiful musings on writing, reading & the stories we tell
Guernica magazine online (www.guernicamag.com) has a memorable excerpt from Rebecca Solnit’s new book “The Faraway Nearby,” which explores the way we make stories. Guernica’s presentation is laced with exquisite images of eggs in nests, the work of Northern California photographer Sharon Beals—even more reason to click the link.
A taste of Solnit:
“Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone.”
Read the rest of the excerpt at:http://www.guernicamag.com/features/the-faraway-nearby/
2. A sharp-eyed guide into the work of memoir writing
Friends and clients working on memoirs, I highly recommend the pieces to be found on the blog of the wonderful teacher and writer Debra Gwartney. Two posts in particular, a recent one titled “A Few Memoir Pitfalls,” and an older one called “On Beginning a Memoir,” are excellent starting points and refreshers, full of examples from powerful works. Go read them, especially if you’re puzzling out that big question, “Who’s the I telling this story?”
From “A Few Memoir Pitfalls”:
" A memoir that truly engages ... explores emotional patterns, the relationships that draw us in, that still have their hooks in us for reasons that are often unconscious. These memoirs recognize that the person called “I” is attached to a certain version of the past. At the same time, it’s important to remember that memory is malleable—our memories shift over time. Just ask your sister about a certain day in your childhood, and no doubt you’ll have divergent details of whatever episode you brought up. Also, the way you remember a childhood incident today is likely not how you remembered that same experience five years ago. Our memories are there to serve us. The ways we need to be served change as we change. Tapping into this very notion—just how are my memories serving me?—is a door into compelling memoir writing."
You can find Debra Wartney at:http://www.debragwartney.com/blog/
3. Roll the words in your mouth and discover what they mean
You’ve never seen a maluma or a takete, but from the sound of the names, which of the objects is soft and rounded and which is jagged? Poets and others will be interested in linguists’ research into the evocative power of names, and the way they sound.
The New Yorker “Elements” blog has the details.
4. Notes on scraps of paper: snapshots from the creative process
Creating is messy, and the Pocket Notes project,http://www.pocketnotes.org/ collects the evidence: “Pocket Notes can refer to a passing scent, a bill, a type of bond, a memorandum, an effort, commentary or reference, an indication, a formula, to notice something, an observation, a piece of news, a reminder. Pocket Notes documents process, charts, maps, lists, graphs, diagrams, drafts, recordings, & the leftovers of experimentation.”
For me, flipping through the pages of Issue 2 opened a dozen windows into wildness, as writers and creators show notes, scraps and drawings and describe their projects.
Start here, with the messy notebook of Amaranth Borsuk, and then see the rest of the projects by clicking the “current issue” link in the menu bar. See what shakes loose.
5. Your turn
Take the inspiration and run. Keep writing in small bursts, if scraps of time are all you’ve got. And don’t forget to open a window, beautiful writer person. Let something wild fly in.
(Image of birds by $omebody, via Flickr)