This morning, I missed the AB bus to the Denver airport. It was the first time I'd ever done that. When I realized I'd have to drive, I went to the Brewing Market for coffee where a box of soy milk exploded onto my newly-highlighted hair and the only sweater I am bringing to New York. I laughed because that's all you can do sometimes.
And on the plane, I am reading the New Yorker and finding in it a treasure trove of things that stir me up, that add new flavors to my inner soupy mixture. It is the April 20th issue. I am taking notes. I write:
- the idea of having "blood-knowledge"
- "Porter had a habit of inviting ruin into her home so that she could flee it."
- rephrased: "The funny thing about writing is that, in order to have anything to write about, one has to live — i.e. not be writing."
- page 112, third column — amazing piece on "negative liberty"
I looked up this "negative liberty" idea when I began to write this. The phrase comes from the following passage regarding the fear that comes from creating one's art (in this case, writing).
"Dyer's characters failed to write not because they were indifferent to writing but because they wanted too much to write. Negative liberty expresses a fear of completion; if you never start a work, then at least there is no chance of your having finished it. To complete something is in some ways to make it disappear; not starting it is a preemptive strike against loss, a way of elegizing what has not yet disappeared."
This idea deeply resonates with me. I love writing more than anything else in the world, and sometimes find it hard for me to sit down and do it. There is nothing I would rather do, there is nothing I would rather be than a writer — and the fear that I can't even do that sometimes, often times, when I would rather lose myself in some rap song, some simplistic magazine — that terrifies me.
I know a lot of artists who go through this. Who can sometimes do everything but their work on a day when all they really want to do is their work. But, to do that work is a purposeful want — it's a desire that is so close to our hearts that the fear of disappointing ourselves feels fatal. If we want to go to a museum and then fail to do so — when we arrive, we're just not in the mood anymore — it doesn't feel so bad. But if we want to create meaningful prose and then fail to do so, after we have already arrived with our laptops, our keys, our latte steaming the screen, our fingers, finding our thoughts drifting away from us — it can make one doubt the core of her being.
Back on the plane, I am so inspired by this magazine, by this particular issue. I am devouring it, I am eating a grilled vegan salad, I am warning the stewardess of my severe peanut allergy. I walk around the plane in socks. I turn off the personal television screen with snobbery guiding my finger. I have bursts of inspiration, necessitating pulling out a pen, a tiny notebook and writing frantically. I have four pens in my purse, two blue, two black, pain colors, but also catharsis colors.
I yearn to find someone else on this plane going to the live This American Life show, because, to me, listening to that radio show means something about a person. It indicates patience, imagination, pleasure in creating your own visuals. It shows an openness and acceptance of other people's emotions and how they can alter your insides. It proves that you believe, even if it's subconscious, that we are all connected, that we all have stories worth telling, and that through our experiences we can help others. It indicates an appreciation of words and the crafting, molding and artistic placement of them.
And all of that matters to me, because they are things I value in myself.