Presents of Mind

“It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.” —Jack Kerouac

At Swim Up-Hill

I spend most of my days in front of the computer, reclusive and huddled down into my own confusion, discomforts, fears, and peculiarities. Sometimes I read and write poetry and fiction. Sometimes I go on a run, usually at night. Sometimes I eat a little of something. Sometimes I sleep a little. But I never go anywhere or do anything unless it’s absolutely necessary. There are reasons for this. But I don’t know what they are.

Life comes to a close too fast, and a lot of the times goes grim both inside and outside. That’s why life must change, must take out its trash. It needs to eat itself, as in autophagy, which is a healthy thing.  Self-consumption is the process of ending. But unlike we’ve been taught, endings aren’t a bad thing. They mean This is ending so that Something Else can begin. It’s like coming to the end of a book. But life, unlike a book, has no full stops (processes continue after the heart stops and the brain dies), only commas, dashes, semi-colons, page breaks, chapters, or sections (unless you count the illusion of time; but unlike the best literature, lives have expiration dates).

I cling to everything. I cling to life because I’m afraid of un-existing and of un-possession of things because I’m afraid of exposing my fear and nakedness and inadequacies.

Being around people makes me extremely nervous. I look around for the nearest escape and make my excuses. Sometimes I’m trapped in a room with people, say, in a classroom or at dinner. I have to make sure I know where the door is and my mind flies beyond the walls and strictures to other things. Hence, I miss whatever is being said, going on. That’s not always a bad thing, but it’s rude.

Art to me is a big deal. It’s the only thing I’ve ever found that opens things up with questions. Things that aren’t art are usually more like answers. They don’t like to be changed. I like the quote (don’t know who said it) “Turn your fear into curiosity.” That’s good, because I’m fueled by fear, or rather, anxiety. A certain amount of fear is healthy. But letting it carry me is chasing an answer, while curiosity is an opened-ended question. If I ran on questions rather than answers I might actually get somewhere.

As a writer in training one of my goals is to learn how to de-familiarize myself with everything. Things and places and people I see every day. I want to see all of it with new eyes. I want to write about it with new eyes. But this will take some doing. I’m working on it like a turtle crossing the highway backwards, up-hill.

The title of this post is a nod to the masterpiece, Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two-Birds which begins with words spoken by its protagonist Dermott Trellis (who unfortunately isn’t here to defend himself)

Having placed in my mouth sufficient bread for three minutes’ chewing, I withdrew my powers of sensual perception and retired into the privacy of my mind, my eyes and face assuming a vacant and preoccupied expression. I reflected on the subject of my spare-time literary activities. One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.

Exactly. Same as a good life.

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This entry was posted on February 8, 2012 by in Books, Craft, Process, Revelations, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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