Today, Barbara Ueland’s advice was to “moodle away” time just thinking, just showing up to write even if I just sit there and ponder. So I took this to heart, and just stared out the window for a bit this morning. It’s such a great practice. . . many writers recommend it – Anne Lamott, Laraine Herring, Gayle Brandeis – okay, so I only know female writers who recommend it – have any of you read men who suggest idleness as an important part of the writing process?
Out of this idle mental wandering, I looped myself into an idea for a possible book theme, something that holds all of these seemingly disparate pieces I’ve written, that pulls them into some sort of verbal mosaic. It seems that a lot of what I’ve written has been about the various ways I’ve left things, always to find new things. This realization got me to thinking about all the things we leave behind when we create things – the words we leave unchosen, the pieces of paper that don’t get included in a handmade book, the slivers of wood that fall away when my father whittles a walking stick, the notes not chosen for a piece of music. A student of mine has recently written quite a good poem about shard ruck, the pile of debris leftover near a pottery factory. So now I’m actively seeking terms like “shard ruck” that name these leftovers. If you know any, please share them. You may just help title my book.
Other bits of conglomeration are showing up in my life right now, too. This week, when I upgraded my ITunes, it installed this great feature called “Genius,” which takes any song of my choosing and then creates a playlist – a digital mix tape of sorts – from the songs in you library, using that song as a starting point. Today I chose “Ohio” by Over the Rhine, and Genius added some mellow pieces by The Decemberists, Wilco, Patty Griffin, Jonatha Brooke, Elliot Smith, Ani DiFranco, and many more. I think this little genius is so amazing because it allows me the chance to hear my music in new configurations, ones that I did not consciously choose.
So what I see when I take time to be idle, to be still, is the way that the beautiful mosaics of words and songs come to life in the world without my willing them directly. Here again, I learn a lesson of control – that if I give it away I often find myself with more beauty than I could ever imagine.