Saturday, January 11, 2020

Extraordinarily ordinary

I'm starting to feel better about things. Not great because I still have to organize my manuscript, but better because I still have several months to do so. But as I'm re-reading my poems I'm realizing that they aren't terrible. They might not be great and are by no means phenomenal, but they're good.

Ever so slowly, I've been reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. A piece of hers from this book was shared in the writing class I took last year and I liked it so much I decided to get the book and read the whole thing. Some of the advice has been helpful, some has been less helpful, but that's just how advice is—you just take what you need, right?

Well, I put this book down quite a while ago and it got lost on my desk under a pile of books. My desk could probably be described as a "chaotic good." The only clear space is where my keyboard sits (and even that is covered with my keyboard). I have seven books on my desk (including one book of family history), an embroidery hoop (from making Andrew's Christmas present), a packet of stickers (for potty training purposes), a clipboard (which doubles as my homeschool planner), a little dress that needs to be mended, various artwork by my children, notes to myself, records from our last doctor visits, my camera (and its case), a CD and cassette tape (from my grade four teacher), an envelope full of old envelopes (acting as a "list" of people who sent us Christmas cards)...and so on.

Nothing bad is on there. It's just...definitely not lawfully good.

My nightstand looks similarly. There are four books over there.

And two at my reading/nursing chair.

There's one in the hallway by Alexander's room (so I can read it on the floor while he falls asleep), and one by Zoë and Benjamin's door (our read-aloud novel).

Then there are books downstairs...

Is it possible to be reading so many books at once? It is. It's possible you'll feel like you're not reading anything for a long time because you'll be stuck halfway through a zillion books. But then, suddenly, you'll start to finish them all and you'll feel incredibly productive.

Part of why this works (at least right now) is that I'm not in the middle of any gripping tales. They're good books, but a lot of them have sections/chapters that more or less stand alone, so it's possible to leave and come back.

Writing Down the Bones is like this. Each chapter is a complete thought, so I'll read a few and then stick it in my diaper bag to read at the park (or any number of various locations/circumstances) and then will forget about it for weeks at at time. But I found it on my desk the other day when I was feeling anxious about my writing (which is, once again, strewn around the floor in an arc).

Goldberg says, "I am not saying that everyone is Shakespeare, but I am saying everyone has a genuine voice that can express his or her life with honest dignity and detail. There seems to be a gap between the greatness we are capable of and the way we see ourselves and, therefore, see our work" (p. 164). Eventually she hopes we can "learn to embrace ourselves as the fine creative human beings we are...," not that we should "become braggarts," but that since we are good (and we are, God told us that in the beginning) we are capable of making good things, of "[writing] well] and [claiming] it as our own" (p. 166).

"We are good," she says, "And when our work is good, it is good. We should acknowledge it and stand behind it."

So I'm trying to get behind this thing I created, whatever it is. And tonight I didn't cry when I spread all my pages around on the floor around me. So that's progress, probably.

One more Natalie quote before I go:
When I reread my notebooks it never fails to remind me that I have a life, that I felt and thought and saw. It is very reaffirming, because sometimes writing seems useless and a waste of time. Suddenly you are sitting in your chair fascinated by your own mundane life. That's the great value of art—making the ordinary extraordinary.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. We each have a voice, and our voice is good. True of singing, true of writing. True of speaking.