"Hey, Jillian!" you exclaim. "Where've you been? You haven't written about anything since the garlic! And you haven't changed the 'weekly quote' in weeks!"
"Around," I say, casually. "Reading fabulous books. Working on the first draft of a complicated novel. Trying to get involved in an online writing group called Scribophile. Disciplining a cat. Ya know?"
"Really? Is that all?"
No, really. I do feel at times that I'm galaxies away from Daedalus Notes, and it's hard to get back when so many other things are filling my head. Such is the life of a writer: there never seems to be enough time or mental energy to give everything the attention it needs. Sorry about that, readers!
You know I've been waxing poetic about Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird lately. I read it twice in a row. I'll probably buy it so that I can read it a dozen more times. She simply speaks my language - not just because she understands the plight of passionate but anxious writers, but because she has conveyed wisdom in helpful, beautiful little metaphors richly sprinkled throughout her book. One little image to which I keep returning is that of the one-inch picture frame: this focus beyond the storm of self-doubts and distractions that plague her when she first sits down to write. It is a starting point, a little assignment to stoke the fires, silence the doubts and carry on. And I love it. She says:
"It reminds me that all I have to do is write down as much as I can see through the one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being. All I am going to do right now, for example, is write that one paragraph that sets the story in my hometown, in the late fifties, when the trains were still running..."(Bird By Bird, page 17-18.)
This image has come back to me repeatedly in the last several weeks. A one-inch picture frame is tiny, perhaps the size of a locket. It only has so much room to stay something. Either you'd have to write in tiny, infinitesmal print or choose your words carefully.
And then I happened to wander into Michael's, which is usually where I find myself on a casual artist's date. There is so much - I don't know - possibility in craft stores. I've always been excited by scrapbooking papers and embellishments, special pens and the smell of new journals. In the midst of my perusal of clearance and sale items, I happened across a little (cheap) 2-inch picture frame, as well as a stack of fun Victorian-esque craft papers: images of keys and sprockets, flowers, butterflies, old letters and turn-of-the-century lovers under an umbrella. And... a little image of a fancy keyhole. Something clicked in my head. And this is the result:
The frame is roughly 2 inches by 2 inches, but the keyhole itself is roughly one inch, and even tinier in places. I have it on my desk to remind me of the starting point, beginning with the scene glimpsed through this tiny opening... so tiny you have to press your eye to it. (Pretending of course, that it's a real keyhole below a doorknob in some deliciously old fashioned house.) Only one image can fit in that little space, only a few words of truth, but they will launch you nonetheless.
So my frame and Ms. Lamott's frame are a little different, but I feel we understand each other. The frame isn't what really matters - this $2 plastic-pretending-to-be-copper frame and a little piece of cardstock - but being able to silence all the noise in one's head so that we can finally sit down and listen to our hearts. Focus on the keyhole, the squint, the slats between the blinds and write what you see, however you see it!
See you around!