Friday, March 24, 2006

The Essential Questions

I was re-reading an article in the literature issue of The Atlantic, in which Rick Moody lists off some essential questions about writing. I’ve been thinking about them in terms of how I write the “story” of my own life, of how I create my identity:

1. How would this writer put paint on canvas?
2. Does this story like music?
3. Does this story answer the question “Why bother to write?”
4. Can this story save any lives?

I’ve been thinking of the painting and music that would symbolize the story of me. In the past year, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” has been my theme song of sorts, but it has not been without irony; I do see life’s and love’s illusions, but sometimes, it has become a fixation. Obsession has been mistaken for introspection. The painting that is me would be one of disembodied parts, of pieces bursting out of the frame. Certain people in my life have tried to hold me within their limited perspectives, but I’ve remained an enigma. Parts of me must disappear or be just beyond their reach in order for them to maintain their vision of me because they cannot accept my wholeness, or do not take the time to see it.

Why bother to write my story? Beth Powning writes that words can be like seeds, and people like soil. Often, however, I feel that the reverse is true: I am the seed, nourished by the soil of words. I still lie hidden under the earth, the seed yet to germinate, yet to announce to the world that I’m alive, I’m here. The identities, the masks that I put on sometimes seem to operate independent of me. I don’t truly write them into being; rather, they mold my world, so that sometimes I’m unsure of whether I have a core that is free of all external influences.

As for whether my story can save lives, it is all I have. It has saved me thus far. Even when I feel as though I’m drowning in a pool of self-created misery, I always know that I can expect the world to treat me with kindness because I deserve it. This knowledge offsets the jadedness I’ve developed in the past few years. Many a time, I fear that I feel too much, that everything is experienced with overwhelming intensity. My heart breaks a million times a day; fortunately, it is sometimes in the “right way,” such as when I find pleasure in the smallest of things – a line of poetry, unexpected laughter, the feeling of fresh snow underfoot. Occasionally, however, I worry that experience has numbed me from feeling anything at all. I’ve grown used to seeing injustice, so that it doesn’t even hurt me anymore. I suppose that’s life – that’s balance. We all have to reconcile these extremes and continue on.

1 comment:

  1. What's with this metaphorical writing? I remember when Ray and I used to find poems in your garbage. Remember, your thoughts are worth saving. Worry less about how your story can save others, and just save your stories.