My eight-year-old son said to me the other day: “Haters gonna hate; skaters gonna skate; potatoes gonna potate.”
Writers gonna write. Right?
Apparently not, since it’s been more than three months since I’ve written anything more involved than a grocery list.
Most of the time, that’s okay. I’ve got a lot of other outlets in my life that keep me busy and, for the most part, satisfied. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling that once-familiar nudge. It says, go on, just sit down and write a little. Tell that story you thought was funny. Describe that struggle you’ve been having. Reflect on that event. Share yourself a bit.
It’s really true, what is said about the creative process. It’s about doing, and one has to do in order to create. If you’re a painter, or want to be a painter, you have to paint. Or, say, if you are an organist, you have to play the instrument, a lot (some more than others, ahem.) And if you’re a potato…well, you know what you have to do, and the more you do it, the easier it is, generally.
I’m finding that the opposite is also true. Not writing makes it more difficult to write.
Wait. Actually, it’s not the opposite at all: not writing makes it easier to not write.
It’s still true that there are some areas of my life that I think it’s best not to share through writing, chiefly my jobs and the inner workings of my family, save for some witty or telling comments here and there. Most of the time, work and family are all- or almost-all-consuming at this time in my life. So what is there left to explore through writing?
I went to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday. There was free admission, and I took my daughter and her friend for a couple of hours in the morning. We spent most of our time in the Ancient World wing, with artwork from the civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. Both girls ate it up. I enjoyed it, although there are only so many mummies and sarcophagi one can see, fascinating as they are. After several mummies, in particular, I started feeling a little sad, thinking about how the deceased no doubt expected to remain in their tombs and/or pass on to the next life in the way their faith traditions held to be true. None of them would have thought they’d end up in a museum thousands of years later, ogled by so many passersby.
I felt better when looking at the ancient coins, and found the exhibit on the gradual evolution of coins and monetary units to be fascinating. I was particularly intrigued by a Roman coin that dated from the lifetime of Jesus, and reflected on the biblical aphorism attributed to him, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but render to God what is God’s.”
And the jewelry! I’m not much of an accessories girl, but some of the breathtaking ornaments created by Roman goldsmiths were so intricate and beautiful, I found myself thinking, “I’d wear that.” I loved the spirals that are believed to be hair ornaments, as well as the diadems for “high coiffures” (as the explanation read.) I’d pile my hair high every day if I could wear a gold headband like one of those.
I was staring at a pair of delicate gold earrings, with the famed granulation characteristic of Roman jewelery-makers, when I thought, someone made that. Someone took the considerable time necessary to create something of beauty, and today, long after its creator was returned to the dust of the earth, that thing he made still endures, and people still find it beautiful.
There’s a Grook by Piet Hein called “Simply Assisting God,” which comes to mind as I reflect on the creative process:
I am a humble artist
molding my earthly clod,
adding my labor to nature’s,
simply assisting God.
Not that my effort is needed;
yet somehow, I understand,
my maker has willed it that I too should have
unmolded clay in my hand.
Maybe that explains, at least in part, why potatoes gonna potate.
For more Grooks — I have a book of them and I absolutely love them for their wit and wordplay — visit this page.