Life is tumultuous, sometimes sumptuous. Life has intervened, interfered with my writing throughout the years. I have written in snatches, on backs of envelopes, on notepads I generally carry with me, and in full concentration in the journals I have kept and continue to keep.
When I was 12 years old my friend Julia and I bought diaries with locks. Mine had a green leather cover with faux gold lettering. Amusing, now. One of the first entries I made was of a kiss. It was my first kiss under the stairwell in the boy’s apartment building on Grant Avenue in the Bronx. He had flaming orange hair and his name was Jack. And that’s what I remember. Was it wet, was it delicate, was it embarrassing? I don’t know. It’s not important. The importance lies in the memory. Perhaps we are made of more than our DNA, perhaps it is the memory of time past and the promise of time tomorrow, and the promise of life at the moment that gives our lives substance, a legacy to be passed on to the next generation and the next, and the next.
And so into my ninth decade of life, I stop, I pause and begin reading my old journals to ask why I wanted to write, to record, to remember. As I read I discover not only my comments on writing, but the life I lived as I wrote. It is as though writing was sandwiched in with the events of my life: graduations, marriages, births, successes, illnesses, divorce, death and all the ephemera that built my life in time gone by. A lesson in me. Startling, revelatory, sad, funny, amusing, spiritual, brave, prayerful, fearful, angry, pages filled with pleasure and contentment…and if I can think of anymore human attributes and failings I shall find them in the thousands of hand written pages, and perhaps include them. If I remember. The writing, however, was me and all me. It was the time I reserved to myself, to think, to tell a story. How my deaf father loved stories. He’d wait until I lifted my hands in sign/speech.
I would create stories for him, and he would ask, with a grin on his mustached face, his hands rising into the air, “Are you telling me the truth?
In mock seriousness I would both sign the word “Yes.” And nod my head.
In return, he signed, “You lie to me. Tell me another story.”
It was a time of deep pleasure, my father and I cavorting with language and the telling of the tales I spun with my hands.
I begin to search out reasons for the gift of storytelling, the gift of witnessing an event, the gift of watching yellow tulips fold for the night and open for the day. There is gift after gift. The primary gift is the gift of language. The gift of pen to paper, the gift of hands to the keyboard and I have been so gifted. The process is mysterious. I do not have the words to describe the muse that enters my soul and the need, the absolute need to write it down, write it out. Whatever that ‘it’ is at the moment.
And so I now make an attempt at writing yet another book on writing. It may be moot, yet, like all writers, composers, painters and artists of every stripe; the process is the same, the process is different. An oxymoron, not so. It is so. I speak to my young grandson, and ask, “How do you compose?” He says, “It just comes through my fingers.” He composes at the piano, as I write, through my fingers, either on a computer keyboard or in longhand.
I prefer writing with pen and ink on a blank white page. The computer offers legibility, speed, and immediate editing, either by deletion or a rewrite, sometimes, a word, here or there. On occasion, I have regretted deleting a paragraph or a sentence; sometimes it might have served a better purpose, if I had saved all the cross-outs. The deletions may have contained a thought-germ, or a phrase I might have used.
There are no deletions of the mind. Every thought is packed somewhere in our brain cells, even those struck out. The mind is the fount of work. Some call work creativity. I shy away from that word. We are all workers who create: music, books, plays, poems, songs, homes, cars, trains, buildings, an apple pie and the list is forever. Working is the touching of another, most of the time. The farmer tills his soil and creates nourishment for our bodies. The mother creates food for her infant. The father (usually) creates income for his family. Doctors create health. Artists create entertainment, sometimes instruction for all of us.
Entertainment for the mind, for the soul, is essential, to understanding who we are, where we come from. And storytelling is my path, my journey, my musings, and this is an invitation to my writing process, to my story as a writer.
Come; join me.
To read more of this extraordinary writer, try Reparations: A Tale of War and Rebirth (click on the title to order) or the charming Woman’s Primer, a perfect gift for the graduating young woman. (Again, just click on title to buy ebook or paperback.)