This “series” reminded me of yet another excerpt on the topic. This time, from Barbara Kingsolver’s High Tide in Tucson (affiliate link).
I also long for more time of my own, and silence. My jaw drops when I hear of the rituals some authors use to put themselves in the so-called mood to write: William Gass confesses to spending a couple of hours every morning photographing dilapidated corners of his city. Diane Ackerman begins each summer day “by choosing and arranging flowers for a Zenlike hour or so.” She listens to music obsessively, then speed-walks for an hour, every single day. “I don’t know whether this helps or not,” she allows…”My [Ackerman’s] muse is male, has the radiant, silvery complexion of the moon, and never speaks to me directly.” (pp. 95-96, High Tide in Tucson)
So, uh, okay. Except for that poetically forced silvery-moon-muse, I’m jealous of all of that time those writers have to create writerly rituals to prepare them. Kingsolver agrees.
My muse wears a baseball cap, backward. The minute my daughter is on the school bus, he saunters up behind me with a bat slung over his shoulder and says oh so directly, “Okay, author lady, you’ve got six hours till that bus rolls back up the drive. You can sit down and write, now, or you can think about looking for a day job.” (p. 96)
Kingsolver also quotes a poet named Lucille Clifton responding to the question “Why are your poems always short?” Ms. Clifton replied, “I have six children, and a memory that can hold about twenty lines until the end of the day.” (A slightly longer description, quite charming, is found in Kingsolver’s other book of essays, Small Wonder.)
That’s one solution—write short. Store up thoughts until the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and the words can spill out. Or use voice notes app on a smartphone. Kingsolver’s continuing insights speak directly to this so-called series I accidentally invented and explored.
I would probably trade in my whole Great Books set for an epic-length poem from the pen of Lucille Clifton. But I couldn’t wish away those six distracting children, even as a selfish reader, because I cherish Clifton’s work precisely for its maternal precisions and trenchant understanding of family. This is the fence we get to walk…I can hardly remember how I wrote before my child made a grown-up of me, nor can I think what sort of mother I would be if I didn’t write. (pp. 96-97)
Neither can I.