Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Place Where a Title Belongs

I don't suffer from delusions of grandeur. If I suffer, when I suffer, it's from complete disillusionment. I drove one of my writing profs crazy because of my reluctance to publish. He is convinced I don't publish because I am afraid, and though of course that is partly true, the deeper truth is that it seems rather pointless. Someone has already said it better, prettier, smarter and in a more excitingly experimental way than me. I walk into bookstores, used bookstores especially and drown in all the books, and if it's a good day my knees go weak and I think I'm in love, and if it's a bad day I break out in a sweat, my head starts to throb and I try not to throw up too much. There are so many words and so many voices shouting from all the shelves and I become overwhelmed by all the humanity vying for my attention.

I took an American lit course a few years ago (you Americans have some good people in your corner) and read "All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers" by Larry McMurtry. There is a point in the book when the main character, who is a writer, asks himself if there is any point to working his ass off so that maybe someday he might become one of the major minor writers around. That almost killed me, not just from a writer's point of view, but from a human's point of view. Nothing is sacred. Great love and great work amount to so little in the end.

I have not found anything more frightening than the everyday. It is relentless in it's drudgery, beauty, meaninglessness and meaning. It is everything. It is nothing. It is what we fight for, die for and mourn over when faced with death, and it is what we kill when we are bored. I write of the holiness of the everyday so often because I forget it so quickly. I write of God in my skin and my coffee and the crack of ice in a puddle under my shoe because if I don't, all will be lost for me. I write and throw out anchors, trying to pull myself ahead to the next day because most days it all looks so pointless. I write because if I stopped I might stop.

Tonight I asked my mom what she thought the purpose of life was, if she was afraid to die, if it bothered her that she would not be remembered one hundred years after she died. She taught me well because all her answers are mine, but they do not lead her to meaninglessness. She believes that the things I do in my tiny life will affect someone else, mainly my daughter, and be passed down and down and down till my decisions touch people that will never even know I once lived. I liked that idea - the sense of needing to remain faithful to goodness, to God, to love out of selflessness, for the good of the whole. Most days I forget I'm not alone.

Right now I'm supposed to be writing, or at the very least reading. I'm taking a master's class in creative writing and it's scaring the shit out of me which might explain why I'm writing about writing and if I should throw in the towel. Half of the class is working on a Ph. D and the other half is finishing up their master's and I'm giddy and starting to feel sick, like a kid in a candy shop who is caught with a bill she's not sure how to pay. If you've read this far I feel as though I owe you some sort of pay off, some sort of way of tying all this together with a thread of continuity.
Today, this is my everyday. This is me getting through. This is you reading my life. This is us not alone.
It's all I've got for continuity right now.


madeleine l'engle said...

It's all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I'd never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn't what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.

Deanna said...

You just got a comment from Madeleine L'Engle.
She passed away in September.
Forget whatever I was going to say.

Cecily said...

Threads to pull everything together are comfortable but... is everyday life really like that? I love your writing and if you're never published, you've touched at least one person with your writing. (I liked your exhibition piece so much I snivvled all over the keyboard and made Frank come and read it0

Drawing in another slightly related thread, I sometimes feel that God is taking my whole life to teach me about smallness. I desire greatness because I am human and because I am influenced by a culture that exalts celebrity and fame, but many things that happen to me leave me feeling cast aside. Something I do is small, few people come, the results seem minimal, no one noticed my contribution, it was hardly a contribution. And God whispers, 'but it mattered to that one or that one. Let that be enough for you.' And I fall down and remember that in the small things life is lived, personal battles are won and fought in the everyday, in obscurity there can be greatness. (Maybe this is why I like your writing so much, because you draw out the greatness from the smallness...)

So, small writer, you have touched my life and in this is greatness.

Anonymous said...

What Cecily said. Wow. And Madeleine l'engle, too. They're both ... wow.

And you are wow. You are so wow you make me feel the way you write about in this post.

Angela said...

i'm not sure if it was better hearing from the dead or being called dude by deanna. you ladies make me better. thanks. and madeleine, i've been thinking of tatooing that wonderful quote accross my forehead since i read it on some lovely blog a while back...thanks.

oh, cecily. thank you. that was so kind. somehow i know salvation is found in smallness, and somehow i always forget.

ms. shannon, i miss you! i miss your journal and the crazy things emma says and how teaching is going for you. sigh. i suspect facebook is to blame. or maybe happiness? maybe you're too happy to write? sometimes that happen to me. that would be alright.