I spend all day working on a pivotal chapter in Presences of Absences, condensing a couple of pages into a single paragraph. Papa Hemingway advises us to write “hard and clear”. I spend hours trying to craft such a paragraph.
I tweak and tweak again, rearranging words and sentences, and reading the thing out loud. I take a break to go to the community garden, then return and pick at it again.
In the early evening I sit down and watch a heartbreaking movie. I question my choice when I’m preparing for bed and scenes replay in my mind.
Maya and I climb into bed. She, nervous at the wind, curls up under the covers at the top corner next to my head. Awkward, but I rearrange things to make space, then reach for my iPad, go to my Dropbox, and open my manuscript to the troublesome paragraph and tweak it some more.
Enough, I tell myself. I put it aside, pick up my Kindle, and fall into the book I’ve been reading. And there, big as anything and smooth as honey, is a paragraph saying the exact thing I’ve been wrestling with all day.
I could be discouraged or I could remember Madeleine L’Engle’s wisdom:
Of course. It’s all been said better before. If I thought I had to say it better than anyone else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said; by me; ontologically. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try; to put it down in pigment, or words, or musical notations, or we die.
Some time ago I set a writing goal. I keep it on an index card on top of my writing desk: Find fresh ways to write timeless truth for the benefit of others.
It’s exciting that this thing I’ve been writing about was touched on by another (in reality, others). It is timeless truth after all. So, I’ll return to the page today (and probably that paragraph) and do my writer-best to make it fresh.
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Here’s one of the images I shot at dawn yesterday. I’m glad I captured it. We’re back to gray today.