I sometimes forget the surprise joy writing brings. I forget and begin to doubt every single word I've ever presumed to write or even think. I feel the same about singing. I want to hide in my room under the covers and dream about writing or singing or other pleasures.
"That's why they invented rush-writing." My fictional character, ML, says this. She smiles her wickedly knowing smile.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with rush-writing, let me introduce you. First, pick a topic. Could be the color blue, terminal cancer, mockingbirds, reading Housman by the boathouse at Central Park, eating caramels, swimming parallel to a strand of beach, doing push-ups on the roof, passing notes in church. Anything that strikes your fancy. Then take out a timer and set it. Usually it's good to start small - say ten minutes. You can work your way up to longer time periods after that. Once you start the clock you also start writing and you don't stop. No backspacing; no pausing. If you can't think of what to say, just write 'blah blah blah I can think of what to say this typing thing is completely ridiculous and I want to order eleven different cakes right now. Or maybe I'd like to have a cup of tea and then walk down the street with one shoe on. Then maybe I'll sit down near the lake which is close to the boathouse and I'll start typing about the train ride to Queens or the row of mason jars behind the counter here in the shop or the kind of soup they're serving tonight or maybe the time I won my town the race blah blah blah what the cluck am I talking about I can't seem to stay on topic I'm supposed to be writing about chickens right now...." That sort of thing. Just go and don't stop going until you hear that little buzz of the timer you've set. That's rush-writing.
"Here where I find that I've wasted my time, hopin' to fly 'cause it's almost over now." Alison Krauss sings in the background. "People come together people go their own way. Love conquers few.... How many days should I smile with a frown 'cause you're not around with the sun on your shoulder..."
I rush-write from the Starbucks on 145th and Bradhurst, across the street from the condo I used to live in. Lots of images and memories come back to this space. I come back to this space now. One of my characters, a writing teacher my protagonist calls "ML" has instructed the class to do a fifteen minute rush-write. The subject is "Falling."
I write from the point of view of my protagonist and about a converstion he had with ML once.
"If I found myself actually falling, I hope I would come to a quick and bold recognition of the situation. 'I'm falling now. I'll soon not be. No more time except right this second.' I'd find some hidden huxpa and then joy, rage, scream, beat my chest to sky or the gound - the one rising fast to take me in. I am here. Here I am!"
Would I take out my iPhone and call someone? Would that someone answer? Would I even get a signal? I'm assuming I've fallen from somewhere sexy like off a tall tall cliff or from an airplane. You know, maybe two or even three minutes of free-fall. What would that someone say if I got him or her on the other end?
"You'd probably go into shock and die of heart failure before you got to the ground." This is ML's answer to my romantic notions.
I rush-write on and on like this for fifteen minutes. It's the last fifteen minutes before Starbucks closes.
"Excuse me, you there in the corner. We're closing."
"Yeah. I'm just saving this then I'm out."
This is when Alison Krauss starts singing her Paper Airplane balad. "No choice I fear. Love is hard to measure, hidden in the rain..." She's still singing as I exit Starbucks.
Recently I read a blog post from a real-life writing teacher who was mourning a building that was closed. This building held countless important memories for her; some included her dad. She said that its closure made her feel like her dad was dying all over again.
My sister said the same thing a few months ago at our uncle's funeral. "When will I be able to go to a funeral and not feel like it's dad's?"
I don't think she wants to know the answer to that question.
The writing teacher wrote with hope. "I'm still here," she said.
My mother said that same thing yesterday while we talked over the phone about my Aunt Robyn, who just passed away. "There is still life to be lived," said my mom. I chuckled with that light but sad feeling of letting go.
"The dead will have to bury themselves this time," I said. "I'm not sure I can afford to come to the funeral." Cliche I know, but it feels like I'm dealing with too many deaths at one time. And there seems to be no end in sight. I got on the phone to discuss one aunt - my mother's sister - who died two days ago, only to discover that another aunt - my father's sister - is in the hospital and not doing well at all.
I'm with the writing teacher and my mom, who say "I'm still here. I have memories of extraordinary people and experiences to treasure."
I like that. All true.
But here's my question. What if that extraordinary person or persons, wants to brush it all under the rug and pretend, for the sake of those who hold power over him or her now - what if they want to pretend none of it ever happened? In fact, what if this person or persons wants to participate in the demolition of that memory space and then walk away with their back to you? And they don't want you to talk about it either or remember the truth of it. What happens then? What happens when you're under that kind of gag order? Not a direct one - a passive one. 'Don't tell. It's too difficult to tell it. Keep your tongue and all will be well with you.'
For me, writing is one way through. I can rush-write my own boldness, my will to see and protect those memories. Not at the expense of now. No, I don't mean that at all. I mean to see, even if inconvenient or somewhat painful, the truth of those past extraordinary people and events with as much detail and mercy and kindness as I can muster. Myself included. And anger too. Anger can sometimes fire up the moment and allow me to build boundaries that may be necessary for now. A sword of flame and that sort of thing...
I vow not live under a gag order. I realize it takes restraint and kindness and a fierce resolve to do this. I also vow to do my best to protect your choice if you choose or feel you must live under your particular brand of gag order.
Life is too short. We fail to speak and then the moment passes us by. That's the real heartbreak.
The ground is rising from this particular paper airplane fall.