Thursday, December 15, 2011
My love affair with the pen
I took a detour from writing about running to writing about writing. This is draft one – may come back to this when I get further into the dissertation:
I’m in the middle of a 20-year love affair with writing. What I couldn’t illustrate with images as a child, I could certainly depict with words. And a tradition was born.
I think I love writing because all of me goes into writing. My handwriting is my own and no one else’s. It is messy, frantic, and even sometimes illegible. “I’s” and “t’s” go undotted and uncrossed – or dashes fly by two letters too late. My eagerness to splash words across the page surpasses any desire for perfect penmanship. Heaven forbid I die before my notes are transcribed – no one will have the patience or even the capability to read them.
When I handwrite, I must hold the pen funny – I certainly press hard – the ink from the page collects and makes a black mark on the outside of my right pinkie – a stain that grows throughout the day.
As a child in the car, I always carried books in the car to lose myself in. I ended up being so engrossed that I barely know my way around my hometown now – because I never looked up until age 16. But I also sometimes would carry along a notebook as well, so I could write things down – ideas, stories, lists, anything. The blank pages represented promise, not fear. They promise a future, not a void. And as a researcher now, my notebook has exploded into a set of notebooks – ringed, spirals holing all of my thoughts. I can read over a hundred books in a summer, but the best way to manage my thoughts on them is to write my notes down. If there was a way to transcribe your brain, I am doing what I can in these notebooks. And sometimes, I clutch my computer in the same way, eager to clack away at the keyboard. The cursor says “go” even my brain is trying to say “no.” My fingers fly frenetically. My pen flies. I love underlining, bolding, capitalizing, all ways to emphasize the bajillion thoughts.
When I take notes, I don’t just take notes in the margins, but I use marginalia – truly going back to my medieval roots. Signposting and drawing out those little or big, related or tangential ideas.
I love the sheer idea of being a writer – completely in the throes of writing. Mentally, I am not here. I am writing in a café in Paris, carefully scripting out my ideas while sipping coffee that was brought to me by a garçon named François. As the coffee swirls, and the caffeine stimulates my mind, my eyes gaze off into the distance, perhaps the distant past or the far-off past. No one else is in my head. I dictate the rhythm and flow – sometimes to a steady beat, others more limpid and fragmented. I salivate at the possibility of writing in many genres: poetry, free-verse, haikus, prose, the expository essay. I can manipulate the words in many ways. I count out syllables in my head for haikus: marveling how the word “refrigerator” occupies all five syllables for a haiku line. I can rhyme and reason.
I can, I can, because I say I can. My writing is not a recipe, dictated by measuring cups and separating three large eggs. It is not regulated by time or limit: “must be read by” or “ready-made in 30 minutes or less.”
My love of the pen, the scrawling, sprawling ink, allows a multitude of vocabulary terms to describe all my thoughts and beliefs, facts and fictions, all things fortuitous and delicious.
Why yes, I do love writing words like delicious, lugubrious. I have a ravenous appetite for this stuff. It is an insatiable, unquenchable love for being in a scriptorium, equipped with the mighty stylos.