06:03. thank god I turned internet off.
It was 05:58 when I sat here with my laptop on my lap
at the head of the bed, jammies on, covers drawn high
and I thought never shall I
to write my life.
one hour, alas! Alas, said I
and the sands of time slipped through the hourglass.
then I sat and dreamed of castles
well, not really, but something like — what was it?
oh yes, downhill skiing. that’s what it was
in a puffy pink snowsuit.
so I went online, just to find
just to quickly find, told I! an older post of mine.
the brain has a funny game it plays
to keep I on social media all day.
stimulus response, the pleasure brings
till it quickly slips away.
But on I went, anyway, believing my I and what
it might say
but happy day
I’d blocked myself
from the internet.
So here I am, only 53 minutes to spare
to write my life
and gone is
06:10. blinking cursor. dreams again
will the dreams never end?
so many events, people, loves, lives
and not enough time
my hour has grown short
the glass grown port
and I’ve tasted
you, says the universe
still have minutes to spare
I suggest you take time
but how! I wail
for you see, I had fifteen stories to tell
and that little mouse in the corner
is looking hopefully at me
its sweet little eyes
nervous and scared
aw crap, I lost the beat.
well, I might as well give
06:20. Unbelievably, even after all that, I’m back on the Internet. But only for this drop. I swear. The mouse, by the way, which is real, and does exist (though it’s not visible right now) not just metaphorically, but actually for real in my bedroom, and sometimes in the kitchen and it’s just not shy at all in any way, it’s so used to me and my laptop.
But this mouse —
I’ve been reading a page here and there from “Startle and Illuminate,” Carol Shields’ posthumous book on how to write -— and to be quite honest, I can hardly bear to read “how to write” books anymore -— in most cases because I’d rather write; but in this case partly because Carol Shields (whose book “Unless,” a Christmas gift from my mother, I first read nearly three years ago and never quite let go of in my mind), feels so much like my own modus, in many ways, except that she/her writing is(/was) far more psychologically beautiful, more talented, and more experienced. So I get jealous and close the book till the next time I can get over it.
But anyway, this one quote, near the beginning, was perhaps the only thing I really needed to read, in the whole book, in the preface written by her son:
— aw crap. Have to go get the book. Hope I don’t wake up the kids —
06:33. Blinging cursor. I haven’t gotten the book yet because I just sat here deliberating whether I should get the book. But I could have been there and back already.
(Blinging, haha, I like that! Reminds me of puffy snow suits.)
06:38. Now I’ve added in a bracketed phrase about “Unless.” Sigh. I can’t stand my own meta-nonfiction. Okay so this hour now has 22 minutes.
Carol Shields, she told her kids that the secret to her writing was to write as though she was whispering the words directly into the ear of one sympathetic listener. And to tell the story plainly and simply, without artifice nor embellishment.
And with that, she solidified the idea with a gesture, putting two perfect fingers to her perfect lips, maintaining eye contact, and then touching them to her perfect ear.
Okay I know I’ve paraphrased and added in a few more “perfects.” But to me, she is the epitome of perfect, as a writer.
So yesterday, I was musing and noticing that my perfect listener keeps shifting in my mind, but that it would be best to tell it to the mouse. Because the mouse has no vested interest in the story. It (well, he, to be quite honest; I don’t know why I think of it as a he, this tiny little guy, but anyway — see what I mean?) would be completely impartial.
But this morning, during that poem, I’ve realized that perhaps he’s not as impartial as I’d thought. And that today he’s somehow become a he. And he’s scared. And that yet again, a device that worked for one author is not working for another.
Or perhaps, I’m just not there yet.
And yes, here I am, imperfect me, with 770 words, however imperfectly, and who knows… they just might benefit somebody. Maybe even just one person. Who feels like me, most mornings, as they face the page: timid as a mouse.
That can’t be all bad, can it?
Love (oh shit, is she signing it “love” again? so sappy),
* * *
p.s. I have to admit I playfully knicked blogging-buddy Joseph‘s “I”-style. It tickles my inner linguist. But it was also a bit of a nod to the id, the ego and the super-ego psychic-apparatus trio-thingy.
And no, if you are now spying imaginary coincidences, that poem yesterday was not about Joseph (if it was in fact about anyone at all, specifically), though he is a ridiculously brilliant, talented, hard-working, multi-artistic mofo.
In today’s poem, the id led the I, the super-ego gave credit where it was due, the ego dropped away for the benefit of both.
But then spend way too much time deliberating on whether that last line made any sense.
And now this hour had an extra 22 minutes, and I’m late. Again. Off goes the rabbit.
* * *
NaNo: Bit of editing. 987 words. If I count them, which I will, that brings me to a total of approx 10,500 for the month. Omg seriously running so late…
Edit 10:35. Have looked all over the house for the book, upon my return and after some chores. And guess what? Turns out that all that time, it had been right there — on the nightstand beside me, in the dark — like a scared little mouse. So the mouse can always be a she.
Maybe even a Shields, once upon a time…
And it wasn’t her son, who’d quoted her, and put together this curated book: it was her daughter, Anne Giardini, and Anne’s son, Nicholas.
* * *
Nadine inhales & exhales words & images from current vantage point in Zone of Emptiness, France. Thank you for reading. ❤︎