Thursday, May 2, 2013

Secret 11

11. Write what you love.

Okay. Do I start now?

Traditionally this one has been “Write what you know.” And though it might behoove me to get all humble and dissembling and say I don’t know much, I actually know gobs of stuff. Most of it is not going to cut it on the written page. Somewhere along these lines Henry David Thoreau said  “How vain it is to sit down and write when you have not stood up to live.” which greatly impressed me as a young man and freed me up to watch a lot of television. I have followed in the great Thoreau’s footsteps not so much in defiantly standing up to live, but in occasionally saying pithy things that diss others and elevate myself. See, I just did it now to poor Henry David Thoreau? Unfortunately I have learned that this isn’t a terrific life strategy, and when I say “Isn’t terrific” I mean it’s the soul’s equivalent of cigarette smoking: it’s addictive, can look stylish and sophisticated and produces malignant interior cancers with magnificent facility. You’d think it would also make people like you less, but it doesn’t, so much, unless a little like with the cancer, tending to appear as you get older.

What does all this have to do with writing what I love? Wow, nothing, really, except, I’m thinking, if I’m not tearing too much down there’s enough that I love that generally it just shows up when I write. Writing sort of makes a space for it. What I start out writing hardly comes into it. And the same with what I know and with what I’ve lived. It all just shows up. Writing is a party! It’s a feast! It’s a tiger pit trap. Wait, where did that come from, but, yes! Writing is exactly like a bunch of pretty leaves scattered on a sunlit forest path, all in the most natural, random way possible, and you innocently step there and, wham!, right through the ground into the deep tiger pit trap you go. That’s exactly what writing is like, but a little more in a good way, but only a little. Which explains why I am out here roaming these woods, looking for tigers and carrying my shovel and my ladder. And my ladder has eleven steps, and they are the secret secrets of the secrets of writing. Come on up.