search your history
gold hidden in the attic
if you climb the stairs
I don’t have the dedication of a clear uncluttered mind; mine is full of hidden nooks and sheltered crannies that harbor the frantic fears of the hunted. I don’t have the slightest idea of the meaning of anything, it’s all pretense and clouds, garbled syllables mumbled by a clown wearing a bear suit. I don’t have any more time to practice, the time to start living is now. I don’t have any more room, any more time, any more excuses. All I have is this blank empty page.
We’re all guilty of lazy writing sometimes. We use adages and clichés, which are used second-hand thoughts, when we should be writing first thoughts of our own. Here’s a tip to think under those clichés. Pick an adage. Any one will do. Don’t judge a book by its cover. When it rains it pours. Now write what the truth is under that adage. See if you can find your first thoughts. Here is what I wrote once when doing this exercise. I used the adage Silence is Golden.
Silence is golden, the old adage says. No. Silence is many colors, one at a time. Silence is the compulsively clean white fur of a snotty Persian cat. Silence is the deep green at the edge of the forest that beckons you into danger. It is the yellow sun-butter roses of the garden, lazily glowing in the mellow afternoon, their hot breath drugging the bees. Silence is blue shadows lying on winter snow the moment before nightfall, and the pale lavender pouches under tired eyes, hinting the exhaustion of wasted lives. Silence is singular and condensed; it is one slow deep thrust of color at a time.
Here is the smell of trees, dusty and sweet as dirt, and the smell of an August sun beating through the branches, a hot smell like strawberries too soft to eat. The trees cluster thick along the twisty length of the Skykomish River, high in the Cascade Mountains. Our father fishes for rainbow trout, wearing hip boots and scientifically casting his line, and mother hunts for her can opener while she sits behind him on a blanket. The wild Skykomish dances likes Russians over the rocks. My brother and I plunge into the icy swirling waters and wade upstream in the shallows, lurching from rock to rock. We grab the slippery rocks for balance and shriek with laughter because this risky strategy does not often work and we are soon drenched and shivering. When our stinging legs turn numb, we ride fallen tree branches hanging low over the river. They are limber and bouncy and make fine horses, and the neighs of my brother’s conjured horse can be heard as far away as the Drop Inn Tavern in a nearby logging town.
Oh that awful blank page or screen. What to write about? Suddenly your mind is as blank as the screen. What to do? Be like a boy scout – be prepared. If you know this will happen to you (it happens to every writer), one thing that might help is to have a prepared list of things you are interested in. Make this list when your mind is NOT blank, but teeming with too many subjects that interest you. Actually what is on the list doesn’t matter, as long as you have an interest, and preferably a passion, for the subject. Don’t elaborate, just write them down. Then save this list! Here’s a list I made a couple of years ago. Some of the subjects I’ve already written about, others I no longer have an interest in. But others are still fertile ground waiting for me to plow through them.
Bee-keeping. Paganism. Candle-making. Hippies of the 1960s. Growing large zucchini and making zucchini boats. Spider webs. Starting a new business. The role of grandmothers. Aromatherapy. Community softball. Bungee cord jumping and those insane enough to try it. Television sitcoms and what they show about us. Siamese cats. The psychological effects of constipation. What you can learn from Alzheimer’s victims. Square dancing for round folks. True love and what it doesn’t conquer.
Seen from space, I am not even visible. I am microscopic dust, blowing away in the blink of an eye, and as much missed. We are, all of us, Halloween ghouls with clackety skeleton bones, dancing as all marionettes do, pulled by unseen strings tied to strings tied to strings tied and retied and retied. All is meaningless, and I am therefore free.