26 January 2012

reflections on "The Writing Life"

Tonight, I was reading Annie Dillard's The Writing Life. While her experience with writing is far different than my own (to be expected, I suppose), the book still resonates with me in ways that I am not sure I can search out. And I fear that this musing may prove to be rather solipsistic.

I've been reading since I was five, listening to stories since I was less than a year old. And something of what Dillard had to say about reading seemed apt to my experience: “Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?” (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life, 1989, p. 72). I read for many reasons. I want to know the story. I want to know the whys, the reasons for a happening. I was profoundly disturbed by a recent dream I had, and much of that was because my dream dropped me into the middle of the story, so I didn't know why the person I was in the dream was doing what she was doing.

I want to know why. I want to start at the beginning, turn the pages, and continue to the end, through the whole entralling journey.

I have been writing since...late grade school? I'd been telling myself stories for years before that. What I write, and why I write, changes year by year, because I change. My motivations shift. Dorothy Sayers' words, "Write it out and get rid of it," have been a primary reason at many times. I work out my thoughts, my feelings, my understanding, through essays and poems and stories. I let the words pour out, and grow to understand my self and my world better. At times it has seemed like I must write. The notebook that lives in my purse attests to this at times, certainly, as would the notebooks I kept for years.

Articulation through words is easy. But articulating what I keep silent is hard. Grasping at the truths found in the stillness, I write, trying to find my way. Much of what I struggle with remains in my mind, where I turn it over and over again, sorting through it, asking again what it means, but little of it finds its way onto the page. Some of it finds itself in conversation, in the discussions that I have with those who are kindred spirits. Sometimes it emerges in what I make, my thoughts silent, yet visible to me in the stitches of the items I knit.

Tonight some of those thoughts are spilling into these typed words. I write to tell the stories that spill into my mind, from circumstance, from thoughts of possibility, from the dreams I experience. And I write to explore what I cannot understand. Tonight, I am trying to follow that resonance with Dillard's words to its source, which I have yet to find.

24 January 2012

the elusion of sleep

One of my favourite authors, Sarah Vowell, wrote an essay on insomnia some years ago. I'm fond of that essay, partly because it is humourous. Now, partly because I can sympathize.

The question, of course, is, what should I do when I'm awake in the middle of the night? There are a multitude of things I could do with my time.

Sometimes I write. Or I knit. I read. Some times I have ended up doing the dishes and then tidying up the living room. The other night I organized the drawer-thing on my desk and emptied out a box of junk that needs sorting through (haven't finished sorting it yet). I thought about mounting my whiteboard on the wall, but activities involving nails and a hammer are usually best reserved for daytime hours.

I'm considering crawling into bed for now, in the hopes that I'll actually fall asleep. If I can't though, I might find myself cleaning the bathroom at 3 in the morning. We shall see.

05 January 2012

J. went to play board games with some friends tonight, promising not to be too late, and here it is 11 pm and he isn't home yet. Well, it's his fault if he's sleepy in the morning when he has to get up at 5:30.

I'm arriving at the point of sleepiness, where I consider switching off the computer and curling up in bed. Inevitably, this leads to my being awake for about an hour as I try to fall asleep, unless I'm very lucky and my body decides it's going to sleep quickly.

I wouldn't call myself an insomniac, exactly, since I can and do sleep (and I love sleep--it's awesome). But sleep doesn't always come easily, and can be quickly shattered, unless it's when I have to get up, which is, naturally, when my most colourful dreams happen.

The other night, I dreamed that I was vacuuming, and the vacuum gathered up a tangled, skein-shaped mess of purple yarn bits, that, I observed in the dream, would be enough to knit a hat with if they were all in one piece, instead of snippets. Last night I went to a place that was a combination of a retreat centre I used to work at, and an underground hideout with many complicated rules based on a society that had evolved underground. And there was sushi. A friend I haven't seen in years, who got engaged recently, was talking about her wedding plans. Her brother was chattering about his overseas travels, and my husband and I were trying to figure out how to leave, since the meal was over. Also, there was someone who hated my guts, for an unknown reason, and I couldn't figure out why.

Let's see where I end up tonight.

01 January 2012

I recently discovered that people have made my "Harvey the Vampire Squid" pattern. Other people. That I don't know. That's so incredibly awesome. Makes me want to try my hand at designing something else. Don't know what yet. I think have some ideas written down somewhere. I'll probably start with something small.

Recently, I needed a picture of intarsia knitting for a writing project, so I gritted my teeth and knit a dishcloth. I changed the original design somewhat, but the result was rather nice. I still don't think I'll ever love intarsia like I do, say, lace, but it's not that bad. This reminds me of a nine-patch quilt I made one summer.

In the meantime, I still have Christmas presents to finish knitting. There are some socks, and a shawl. I'd best find my way back to them before I get too carried away with wanting to start new things.