The Magic of Tidying Up: Between the Lines

I started a post about the “irrelevant” part of this very “trendy” trend setting book and ended up a few lines in talking about death. This happened with another draft that was a kind of new artist’s statement. I think it’s more to do with the act of writing than any real experience of death. Writing goes with memory. Writing for someone like me, with a very bad short and long term memory, or a very random memory of the irrelevant, is permission to remember whatever I want and make up the rest.

Writing is kind of its own version of memory. It’s like the title “In Search of Lost Time” or maybe it means a specific “time lost”. The only time capsule I have is to use writing to get to that time period. It’s a time machine that doesn’t really go anywhere but your think you just jumped into 1985.

Painting can be like that but not so specifically. It’s more like an archeological dig and involves the finding of weird rare artifacts, using them in some piece of art, digging something else up, putting back what you thought was rare and was not important, digging down and up at the same time, or just hiding all the artifacts and adding more layers to the dig, which I guess could be digging upwards- the opposite of digging up. Making layers on a painting or using old drawings in collage, all that is much more fun than writing. When I thought I had to choose between being an artist or a writer, I chose artist partly because it was much more unfamiliar. There is not much mystery to writing. The process may be weird, but basically writer’s write. Being an artist is much more like being in a fun house because it’s way more fun, at least for me. Being away from words is a huge relief. I also chose art because of something else, maybe judgment and fear of judgment or freedom. Being an artist means making stuff that is very hard to pin down and judge, figure out what’s wrong or insincere or boring, have to edit out and shape. you just get some materials and play and worry about whether it’s good or not another day. When others see my art, they usually just have interest and aren’t sure why one piece may seem more compelling than another. As an artis, I am aware of competing with myself, whereas as a writer, you’re competing with a high standard and it’s easy to get crushed by judgment. At least for me. Someone can pick up your pages, and read them and tell you they didn’t even read more than the first page. You can’t just see a corner of a painting, but you can read two sentences and decide to put down the book or piece of writing on paper.

Writing is not archeological for me. It feels like playing in the sand box, jumping in excitedly, feeling like everything in there is new and fun, building a weird clumsy looking bizarre sandcastle and enjoying it, then having to leave it and go home to dinner. I come back the next day and sometimes the sandcastle just disappeared; more often I look at it and need to step on it and destroy it; then I get fed up immediately with the sand castle and forget what it even looked like. Then I’ve got sand on me and in my socks and shoes and just want to wash it off as quickly as possible and go find something else to do.

Then maybe the loss part is, you kind of remember the sand castle but it’s hazy, you suddenly remember that particular sand box and that sand, you miss it and try to find it but it’s gone, so you make another sandbox that you’re trying to make it like the lost dead one; the whole thing just doesn’t work out and you’re left with a feeling of Fuck it so you just  sit in the sandbox you made that doesn’t look like the really great one you lost, throw sand around and cover yourself up in sand or dig a huge hole.

Writing in one probably cliche metaphor. Doing that repeatedly can be downright torturous and exhausting.

I can clearly remember the writer’s notebook I found during my first Kondo “Tidying Up” frenzy two years ago. It was a regular Meade notebook with a green cover, spiral bound. There was a short poem or paragraph in there somewhere written on the left side of the page as I wrote on both sides, where I’m comparing writing to something and the teacher has written something like yes, interesting or some encouraging phrase. I was in 11th grade in a writing class.

Unfortunately soon after the excitement of finding that notebook in the late fall of 2016, I had the brilliant idea to bring it to my therapist, which worked out fine, kind of a show and tell session. I did hear an outside person say to me, “what possessed you to bring that to therapy anyway?” clearly not a let’s play show and tell in therapy kind of person, which a lot of people are. Not everyone is still in first grade or 7 in the session. Of course I had very good reasons as a writer to want to bring it to therapy. I was coming out of yet another weird writer identity “closet”. It seems that coming out of the writer closet is a bizarre thing for me of going into other closets and weird rooms and thinking I’ve come out only to see another door  to open. It’s like a fifth dimension closet.

The notebook also had my best photo taken in high school, black and white of course and developed in the dark room my sister made at our house, of my kitchen clock which was backwards in the photo. Stupidly I left it in there. Then I went to Home Depot, got some paint and heavy stuff and left the bag with the notebook and my special Zojirushi coffee thermos in the bag. I tried desperately to retrace steps and do all the stuff you do, call the MTA Lost and Found, run to the next station. Both it and the thermos and the Tote Bag had vanished. I hope a housless person sleeping on the subway had an enjoyable read and now has very hot coffee that stays hot for 7 hours at least.

Writing and coffee go together. How fitting to lose both. Over a few cans of paint.

I wouldn’t have cared if it was just a diary type of journal, but it was a time capsule specifically giving me a window into my teenage self as a developing writer with the comments of my English and writing teacher sprinkled throughout. Your reader is always important but really super Important if you’re really young and just discovering your voice or writing as a process. She was encouraging throughout and also stepped into therapist territory when I wrote some more real stuff that probably disturbed her.

I remember a bunch of stuff I wrote in there, but I want to remember the poem I wrote about writing as a process because writing is such a strange monster haunted house torture chamber process for me and because, as a writer I like to read about what writing is like for other writers. This 1984/85 me was a different writer from me now but connected to it. I think I wrote a poem repeating the phrase “Writing is like…” over and over and putting something in it but I can’t remember what. It may have had something to do with leaves and raining. Something very different from a sandbox.





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