My ever helpful friend emailed me to tell me that she spotted several mistakes in one of my recent articles. I told her that I hadn’t proofread the article too thoroughly and had written it all in one piece.
“But what were you thinking?” she asked. “To mispell three words in one paragraph?”
“I wasn’t thinking,” I replied, “I was just writing.”
I won’t sully your ears with her response to that or what I said after I hung up the phone. I realize that what I said sounds pretty dim, but I stand by it. Sometimes, when I’m writing, I don’t have to put any effort into thinking. The words just seem to flow from my head down to my fingers to the keyboard and onto the screen, as if the blank page is pulling them from my mind.
I assume that this is the same “state of grace” that my kids get into when their art is going well. I know that, like me, when my son is sketching or my daughter is drawing or sculpting with clay, they don’t hear people talking to them. And when I do get their attention, they turn to me with that drowned look in their eyes, as if they’re having to come back from a long way to answer me. It always makes me wish I hadn’t interrupted them, because I hate it when someone derails me when I’m on a writing roll.
It isn’t only writing that brings on this oneness with the universe sorta thing. I’ve felt it while reading and while sitting on the deck looking at the moon through clouds. Good music is very likely to make me feel this way, which is why driving and listening to music probably should be illegal. I counteract it by dancing in my seat, which keeps me aware of what’s happening on the road in front of me and so what if my daughter thinks I look stupid. As any fool can see, stupidity is not against the law, while insurance companies and police officers frown on crashing your car. (Of course, you can’t insure yourself against stupidity, which is a shame, because most of us would collect at some point. But I digress.)
Like driving while listening to music, knitting while listening to music is an activity that often brings on this feeling. I’ll be sitting there knitting on a cold winter’s night, listening to Tom Paxton or Phil Ochs (folk songs seem to go along with knitting wool socks, don’t you think?), a cup of tea beside me and the pellet stove creating warm white noise, when I’ll come to and realize that I’ve gotten a little carried away while in the groove, and my ankle sock has morphed into a garden hose cover. (I’m sure this never happens to the Yarn Harlot, but she’s a special case.
Although I know people who get into this state of mind with housework and other tasks that don’t take a lot of mental effort, housework doesn’t do it for me. It’s just time wasted when I could have been doing something I enjoy, like gardening. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out to deadhead the peonies and come to an hour later and half a mile down in the meadow, picking daisies and marking wildflowers to transplant. Or I’ll go out to pick a few strawberries for dessert for supper and come in to find that the kids have already eaten, had ice cream, loaded the dishwasher and have gone off to their separate pursuits, so the berries end up on our cereal at breakfast the next morning. I’m very unreliable off the leash and out in the yard.
Of course, sometimes, I sit down to write and the feeling just isn’t there. Worse yet, sometimes the blank page seems to be resisting my every effort to push out some words and make them stick to it. I come up with a couple of sentences and type them in with effort (this is when with turns into wiht and I don’t notice that there there are double words
to too), but they’re no good, so I backspace and start again and then again, until I realize that it’s just not going to happen.
And this, Gentle Reader, is why I sometimes write for hours, sometimes for a few minutes and sometimes, only a shopping list. It’s also why some of my essays are long. Some are short. Some are funny and some are serious. I rant. I (attempt to) regale. I write like the gadfly I am – interested in everything and everyone and about as selective as a toddler in a candy store. It all depends on whether the words are flowing.