A lot of writing (not to mention life) is waiting. Not the kind of waiting you do in the doctor’s office where you have no choice to be in that place at that time at the beck and call of someone else. But instead the kind of waiting that keeps you moving and questioning and listening as you wash the dishes or drive or stare blankly at the computer screen.
I suspect some writers push through this waiting time by just getting words down on the page – writing something. I do this, too – blogging each day, jotting down idea for essays or books, capturing observations or thoughts in the tiny marble notebook I carry in my purse. But even as I do this, I know I am waiting. I know that these things are not IT. These are not the things I am meant to be working on, at least not long term.
Always, in these waiting times – and I feel like I’ve been in a waiting time for months now – I am mulling things over, turning ideas in the rock tumbler of my mind. I’m looking for that shiny piece that catches my eye and makes me reach in and grab it.
I imagine THE IDEA is like the flakes of mica that my brother and I used to peel apart by the hour when we were kids waiting for my dad. By the greenhouse at his school, there was this huge pile of mica – excavated somewhere? Hauled in to supplement soil? I don’t know where it came from, but it gave Jeremy and I hours of entertainment as we sat there and peeled the tiny silver sheets away from each other, glittering the ground with their shards. At night, we could go home shiny and blissful, a day well-spent.
That’s what I look for in a new project – something that shimmers, something that is multi-layered and can be pulled apart to make what it touches sparkle.
So today, as I read Wislawa Szymborka’s poetry, as I scribbled my thoughts in a notebook, as I stopped, breathed and listened, the idea shimmered to the surface of my mind – I will write a book about all the ways I have been seeking to slow my life down – essays on alpacas, and quitting my job, and pursuing writing, and reading. A collection of essays that captures my life for the last couple of years.
The idea – as simple as it was – sent a bolt of energy right through me. I felt like my eyes got brighter and my face was glowing, just a little. Here it is – what I have been waiting for.
And now, as I write this, I realize that the waiting is part – maybe the whole point of the project. To get the idea to write about slowness, I had to slow down enough to hear it and see it for myself. I had to take the time to sit on the pile of mica-ideas and peel them apart a little to see what bright shiny thing they would yield.
Oh, the shiny stuff of writing. Yeah.