Wednesday, January 11, 2012


For a moment, I am full of certainty. Where my house sits, it seems to point directly west. The sun goes down in front of it and sets behind it. I can see Mt. Elden which is due west. I can see the Skydome, to my southwest, which I thought was distinctly south. And yet, Mt. Elden also, when I'm driving around, seems to be due north from downtown. And now, I doubt which way my house sits.

I grew up in Salt Lake City on a very perfect grid system. Houses did not face 297 degrees northwest. They faced west, or north, south or east. That Mt. Elden is confusing because the town essentially wraps around it. It is north and west, depending on how windy the road goes. Downtown and the skydome are both west, but the skydome is more south and the downtown, slightly so. I think. I keep driving around town, holding my hand to over the dashboard to see if I'm picturing the orientation of my house correctly. When I pull into the driveway, I hope the hand and the house are parallel.

Which is why I find writing so hard. Not writing. Writing is easy. I love writing. I giggle and I have to stop myself in the middle of sentences to look at Facebook not because I'm stuck (well, sometimes because I'm stuck) but also because, coming from good Mormon/Max Weberian-type-protestant stock, I'm sure I'm supposed to be having this much fun doing work I jump around the room when an image from paragraph one has miraculously (by that I mean not consciously intentional). When I find out a word means both hot and prickly. When the full stops come fragments. When the connections between the 2004 tsunami and the burble of an IV don't seem arch. When the sentences run long and I can still piece my way back to the beginning and see what I was saying. When all this is happening, I am sure. I am convinced. I know which direction I'm facing and am certain it's the right one.

But then I go driving around town and doubt keeps in. Maybe tsunami and IV together are arch. Maybe there's too many images. Maybe the subconscious placing of the image in paragraph 11 isn't serendipitous. Maybe it's stupid. Maybe I cannot interpolate food and Y2K and fertility all into one essay.  Sadly, when it comes to writing, I can't pull out a compass and say, oh, that's where I was pointing.

It's one reason I like to write fast. The serendipity is cleaner. The one-true notion remains pure and directional. I write and write. It's the stopping that let's the doubt creep in.

But, and this in somewhat in responses to Mary Anne's post about Rilke's Letter to a Young Poet. Where does the doubt come from? From the ability to foresee the piece being published? From what Erik may think about it? From what my friend-writers might think? Or is there some real basis for the doubt? But even if there is, does real basis matter? I was having a good time writing. Less fun doubting. So I will go work on my syllabi until I find a way to reorient my doubt or until I can see a way to straighten the thing out. But as my friend Rachel used to say, always go forward, never go straight.

1 comment:

Lisa B. said...

This post is exactly what I needed to read today. Particularly the part about having fun writing, and also the part about going forward but never straight. Thank you.