Writers dislike being prevailed upon to write. At least, this is what I have come to suspect. Nay, it might even be said I have rather confirmed it. I always thought I fancied writing, but suddenly found it quite a chore. At first I thought I would attempt to be artsy, and write in my lazy middle school summers. I made deplorable progress, and that darn Paulini kid, I wager, spent the same time making himself a pretty penny rehashing old plot lines into something marketable. At the time, I was volunteering in the school library, and noted with some disgust the profligacy of whoever wrote those silly Spinechiller books. For that matter, I will harp on Stephen King, or whoever else has a bit too much pep to his quill. You understand why the thought writers like to write entered my brain as an irrefutable fact.
I write today because I believe that fact to be a lie.
The suspicion began to introduce its scandalous tentacles my freshman year at Bryan College, where I took a freshman English class with Dr. Beth Impson and read thoroughly through Annie Dillard’s “The Writing Life.” I remember thinking, in the delicate fragility of my frantic freshman mind, that Annie Dillard was just strange. Yes, she had some clever imagery, but I would never read her for fun, if only because her imagery seemed pretentious when it only described ordinary things. Yet, perhaps Dillard’s normal isn’t dull, after all. She talks about locking herself up in rooms, hacking firewood, late night wanderings. I mean, what is going on with Dillard? She has some choice quotes, but good gosh, she seems to really hate writing. I empathized.
My suspicions did not die the day I laid Dillard’s book to rest on my bookshelf. I noticed the agony of fellow English majors as they completed assignments with the backs of the muses to taunt them in the distance. I worked nights in the writing center, and really felt the tension that necessarily accompanies the forced completion of assignments both trite and grand (or perhaps that was just the tension of Nathaniel Hawthorne gazing upon me with his stormy eyes of judgment). So I tried something different. I went to the Middle East for a semester and wrote about politics and faith and other equally insurmountable topics. Talk of politics may roll off the honey tongues of more seasoned veterans, but for me, it equated fourteen cups of tea in two days. I tried everything. I locked myself up in my room, shut the curtains, opened the curtains. I listened to the same song over and over, I listed to nothing. I made muffins. Two batches of muffins: lemon, cinnamon apple streusel. I cleaned, organized, prioritized. My pen was leaden, my keys were brands. And that was just for politics . . . !
The other day I stumbled across a blog I rather liked and noticed how the author stated she cross-stitched for her diversion. For her diversion! So nonchalantly she states this, as though the pain of writing is every bit as well known as the sting of a bee or the pangs of hunger when one has gone without overlong.
My diversions, I have decided, take many forms. So winsome are they, that they nearly always succeed. It maybe that even now I write this out of caprice. No, I am certain of that, no other purpose occupies me at 4am.
Yesterday I watched the BBC version of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I understand the BBC films to be a rite of passage for many, and I offer no excuse as to why it took me this long to become one of you. I knew it to be a long film, which suited me, for I had just smashed a casserole dish to bits to make a mosaic of the pieces, bur wanted to paint each piece before I did so. Hand and head diversion taken care of.
I settled on the floor of the film and was struck by the idea that Jane Austen, that sly woman, might also be a woman of diversion. In Mansfield Park, a group of young people with no better way to occupy themselves, decides to put on a play. Their choice? “Lover’s Vows.” I don’t think I took much notice of this play the first time I read Mansfield Park, but this time, I wondered what the play was like in it’s entirety. So I did what anyone would do and looked the book up in my e-reader (furnished, no doubt, by Project Gutenberg) and read it.
Fanny Price wants nothing to do with the play in Austen’s novel; while the play ends with typical moralistic twist, it hardly deals with the most proper topics. which makes me wonder why Austen read it in the first place! I mean, maybe she just sat down one day and thought, you know, I am tired. I can’t think of anything to write. I am going to kick back and read some sensationalistic fiction because I can. By the by, she may have discovered the frankness of the book to the perfect foil for her own passionate characters. This is an absurd little thought of mine. I shan’t entertain it further and thus induce the rage of Austen purists.
One last thought, if I may tread on my own eggshells: inspiration comes from unlikely places. “Lover’s Vows” has some good lines. Being locked up in rooms is the kind of stuff that produced such classics as “The Yellow Wallpaper” (which I also read last week out of the conviction that I refer to the story about three times a year on average, and, up until last week had never been prevailed upon to read it).
I fear my entries in this public space are becoming less entertaining and far too serious. Fool I am for trying to top my Jagged Edge entry. But 80’s movies do not present themselves willy-nilly. Absurdity must be sought, I say! It happens everyday and we ignore it because no one has big hair or stupid hats or cheesy lines.
I have watched a lot of documentaries on Netflix lately. I haven’t counted, but believe twenty to be a very modest estimate. It is a easy way to kind of educate yourself while undergoing boring or necessary tasks. I am sure the idea came to me in the absence of my old custodian job, where I got to listen to free Librivox books on my ipod while cleaning. So imagine my delight when I found a documentary about philosopher kings: Custodians at various prestigious institutions of higher learning. I thought I would just get some of that camaraderic understanding that comes with those who’ve shared in similar professional trials, but the documentary also successfully presented beauty from ashes.
Tough life experiences and ill respected jobs may be all we see right now, but they are shadows compared to other life fulfillments and joys. So, yeah. I am going to take a hammer to casserole dishes, drink a lot of tea with friends, read a lot of books, play “Just Dance” on the wii, and write blog entries at ungodly times of the morning. Because distractions are inspiring.