"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

20 April 2006

Too Overwhelmed Not to Write

So many things swarm the mind this time of year. The huge number of papers to be graded, the preparations for the final class periods to make them genuinely useful, creating final exams, facing down the infinite and infinitely varied pleas for extensions and accommodations, choosing books for next fall’s courses, preparing for the trip to see parents half the country away immediately after commencement . . . Overwhelmed is an understatement.

Reading Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing a couple of days ago (no, I wasn’t merely enjoying myself, more’s the pity; I was preparing a lecture on Bradbury for my freshmen, who are writing their final essay on Fahrenheit 451), I was reminded of a truth vital to my sanity: “if I let a day go by without writing,” Bradbury says, “I grow uneasy. Two days and I am in tremor. Three and I suspect lunacy. Four, and I might as well be a hog, suffering the flux in a wallow. An hour’s writing is tonic. I’m on my feet, running in circles, and yelling for a clean pair of spats.”

Yes, indeed. Well, I rarely have the energy to run in circles, but it gets me out of the wallow at least. I am a writer, and I must find perspective and a measure of peace through writing. Churning thoughts, determination to schedule my tasks, ranting about the hectic flow – these do not help me to center, to calm, to find the strength to move through each task effectively.

Maybe this explains why ideas for the writing flood my mind when I am, it seems, far too busy to pay them heed. I may not be able to give them all the time I would like, but I need to open heart and pen to them for whatever time I can – and return to my more urgent tasks with a better will.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a nice piece, Beth, both in its capturing the frenzy of this time but also in its capturing your life as a writer. It expresses very well the paradoxical truth that for a writer the extra writing time is a crucial way of dealing with being overburdened.