Hello. You again. At the risk of breaking all the rules of blogdom, I have to ask, why are you here? What do you hope to gain? Is there some grain of wisdom you seek that has not shown itself in your life? What do you desire more than anything? What do you wish to do with your breath? What do you wish to exhale?
If it is art, I can tell you that you better get to it. You will read perhaps, or maybe you already have, loads of advice on how to spend your time. Someone will tell you that being a working artist is 80% administrative and 20% actual making of art. This might actually be true. But anything that comes with an equation is a box you’re being told you must step into. “If you want to be an artist here is the artist box. Step right in.”
I have my own equation. Well, it’s not an equation. More of a theory. An artist’s job is to love the world. Loving the world means taking it in. Getting outside and sitting on a rock. Walking in the woods on a rainy day just to feel the trees’ interest in you. Going out to a cafe and sitting there with your tenth free refill, jittery and nerved by the caffeine, “doing nothing,” but all the while listening to the people around you, eavesdropping not just on the their words but on the patterns of their language, their gestures, taking note of clothes, and hats, and hands and shoes. Oh my god – especially hands and shoes. These are like portals to character. I recently read a description of a woman on a bus in Miami (where else?) who wore all pink, and had pink hair, and on her feet wore a pair of sandals with a goldfish floating in formaldehyde in each clear Lucite heel.
You might find that on the Internet, but you’d have to know what you’re looking for. And this is my point, you don’t know what you’re looking for. There is no search engine that will turn up the odd little surprise that life can give you, that tiny something needed for your story.
One night, many years ago, I took my dog for a walk after my night shift at a grocery store deli. We didn’t go far. I was tired and just wanted to get out of my grimy curry-smeared clothes and into my pajamas and bed, but I had a dog, and dogs have needs, and so I found myself taking that walk. At home, on my desk was the second draft of my first novel. I was having a hell of a time naming the commune in that novel. I had a list of names. Lazy Love Ranch. Chicken House. Butterfly Abode. I plugged in one after another and hated them all. It made sense for me to hate them. They didn’t arrive inside the story for any reason. It was as though there was someone outside of the story thinking things up, and there was. It was me. Fiction is a sleight of hand, and I was failing at it.
And then that night, on that walk, it came to me. Two Moons, named after the way, in the extreme curve of the road I lived on, the full moon switched sides, going from being over my right shoulder to over my left. I had noticed this plenty of times on full moon nights driving home from my grocery store shift, but as a solution to the dilemma of naming the commune, it hadn’t occurred to me. Maybe it was because I was driving. Maybe even twenty-five miles an hour is too fast for me to really feel the world speaking. Maybe not. All I know is that I went home, sleepily wrote down Two Moons on a scrap of paper, left it on my desk and went to bed. The next day the commune was named, and a new scene was born, one that is integral to the story, that weaves in naturally. I consider this moment a gift from the universe.
And here’s the thing I want to really get across to you. The universe is in favor of you doing your art, but the universe speaks in tongues. It’s a language you have to decipher, and you don’t decipher it by thinking. You decipher it by experiencing it.
So, at the risk of losing you as a reader, I have to ask what are you doing here? Are you looking for something not likely to be on a blog? Are you killing time? Avoiding your art?
Or perhaps you are avoiding the discomfort of admitting that you don’t know how to go about your art? If so, then lean in and let me whisper this secret to you: None of us know how to go about it. We just go about it, that is all. After enough time of going about it, we learn to trust that a certain unveiling will happen as we continue to go about it.
So go about it. If you do not read my blog for three month, six months, a year because you are in the beautiful throes of going about your art, then I will be so happy. I will look forward to when you return, all wild, with leaves and grass in your hair, your cheeks rosy and bright, your voice singing an unknown but well-known song, your discoveries and journey reflected in those beautiful feral eyes of yours.