Photo by Michal Zacharzewski
Writing is the art that I love. Obvs. I am comfortable spitting words out on a blank sheet of paper, a blank composition window, a bright white new document in word processing software. Even collections of words that are, at first, meaningless to anyone but myself. Or even meaningless to me. (There is always CTRL-Z.)
I also really love music – the music itself moves me but when there’s a particularly clever lyric well then I’m done. Stick a fork in me. I don’t spend a lot of time discovering new music much anymore but Pandora and Spotify and YouTube have helped me in that department.
Last week I started something rather foolish, for a woman whose time is maxed out. I joined NaNoWriMo and typed the first 1700 words of a novel on Saturday morning. And then I wrote about 1800 more the next day. And I have been doing that every day since. In fact I just wrote 1688 more tonight, even though when I sat down to work tonight I had no idea what I would write next.
Forcing myself to work on this, to push the story forward, to explore what the characters will do, to live in this world – it puts me into an unknown mood. I’m not used to writing fiction. It feels closest to the times when I was young and studying, immersed in learning. It’s not like getting lost in a good novel that someone else has written. This is a world I am researching but the files are inside my head.
This writing makes me contemplative and puts me in a dark mood. The story takes place in the afterlife, which I don’t even really believe in most days, and I get lost in figuring it out.
To counter the gloomy mood, I did a few things this week that I don’t normal do. Three, to be exact:
I created a painting.
I went out dancing.
I attended a poetry reading.
Only two of the three would surprise people who have known me for a long time. I love to dance. I have danced alone and with one person and with ten people and with thousands, but if you like to go out dancing you might agree that the right vibe has to be in place. Sometimes alcohol helps, and certainly the right music has to be playing. I got lucky Saturday night and joined a group of liquored-up ladies with a designated driver by my side, so I was free to indulge and get lost in the music. The excursion was an unexpected success because the nightclub was in Westlake Village, a tony suburb near where I live, not a place you’d normally find a bouncer/velvet rope/cover charge type of club. But there it was.
The surprises are the art and poetry.
I made this painting on Thursday night at a Mom’s Night Out that some of my colleagues produced for a fun event to raise awareness and collect supplies for charities that help children in hospitals. I had no idea what to expect except that there would be wine, and that was good enough for me. My friend Elizabeth came along and the two of us sat in the corner (“Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” I joked but we stayed there anyway) following directions, more or less, and the end result makes me so proud I love to look at it and show people and say “I made this!” Who knew?
And then the third event in this artistic trifecta was the poetry reading I attended yesterday. My friend and sometimes writing partner Deborah is a poet. “I don’t get poetry,” I confessed to her once, in much the same vein as I say I don’t like art, and when I say “like” I mean I don’t understand it, I just know what I think is pleasing to the eye, but I don’t always know why. But Deborah has just been published in a poetry anthology called Beyond the Lyric Moment, and I love her, so I drove across town and self-consciously took a seat in a hall attached to a church and sipped my peppermint tea and opened my mind thinking “Bring it, poets.”
And the poets brought it.
I compared the experience to a friend later. I said it was like each poet (and there were at least two dozen of them) read a poem that was a small piece of rich, nuanced fudge, so delicious that you moan with pleasure when you take a bite, or with such odd combinations of flavor that you cock your head and try to identify them – is that cinnamon? Jalapeno? And after five or six bites you are sated, filled up with rich chocolate and curious tastes, that it’s time for a cleansing glass of water or a deep inhalation of the scent coffee beans, to clear the palate and your head. Additional fudge is lost on your overstimulated tongue.
I was prepared to not get the poetry, but I was moved by the speakers’ words, their tiny stories, their emotion. Some of them had clearly practiced the cadence of poetry reading, and I had to close my eyes or look away so I would not be distracted by their subtle, or not so, theatrics. My own Deborah’s understated reading was elegant and spun a clear scene of complicated emotions and dying flowers. I was there with her, with the poet whose car crashed in a field, with the man mourning a lost friend, with the woman who planted a garden to attract angels.
I bought the book. I want to see if the words on the page move me like the performances did, or in a different way.
The bottom line is that all this art and poetry and music and movement out of my comfort zone – the one in which I am dressed in lounge pants and an oversized T-shirt, snuggled in my bed reading a novel or watching The Big Bang Theory, transported, saved for a moment from my own restless brain – this departure from what comes easily has helped me remember that I am capable of adventure, however suburban and contained it must be for now. Stories can come from infinite distances within, after all. The little tornadoes inside me can manifest through the keyboard, where I can be 21 again, jumping up and down on the dance floor without worrying that I’ll pee in my Spanx.