Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Watcher

Are writers cold-blooded? Sometimes we seem that way to others. Sometimes we seem that way to ourselves.

One corner of our hearts is always reserved for the Watcher. That's the part of us that observes the high emotions of our lives and whispers "What great material."

This voice ... asks us to leave behind a record of what Dickens left for us: the workings of the human heart in the time we live in.

Walking On Alligators, Susan Shaughnessy

This weekend I spent a few hours helping some friends move. I was scribbling in my pocket Moleskine cahier from time to time, trying to get down on paper some of my feelings and observations about the event. My friends would rather spend the rest of their lives in this house, I think, but circumstances have unfortunately dictated otherwise.

I felt a bit ghoulish trying to document the day. The ghosts of my time spent at the place lurked in every room. And I only visited for several hours once a week. I didn't live there. An inner voice said, "You're going to stand here and write about this like it's someone else's experience?" No, I responded, I'm going to write about my experience. That's the only one I can write about.

Throughout the day I was struck by the disparity of emotions I was feeling: a deep sadness over the plight of my friends and my own sense of loss at the prospect of no longer being able to come to this wonderful house to play weekly games, overlaid with the camaraderie and kinship of working with a group of wonderful, silly people, most the friends with whom I've gathered weekly for seven years.

And I scrawled down some notes. I noticed things. I tried to be present in the moment, though those moments were sometimes filled with sadness.

I tried to collect those notes and my thoughts and feelings Sunday morning, but was successful only in copying them out of my notebook into my computer. The feelings were still fresh, still uncomfortable. I didn't want to face them, though that's really what my purpose was in writing them down. It's a very different kind of writing experience for me. The drops of blood weren't coming from my forehead this time.

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