I keep opening this page. Do I have something to say? What if there are only so many words? Could you run out? Could I?
It's a new year, so let's take stock: the kids are taller, the dogs are older, the bird died, my finger broke, the Christmas ornaments are packed up but still on the front porch. I remembered to pay for the insurance. I should go to the dentist. What more is there to say? Think of everything as a bullet journal. Make a dot for everything you need to do, didn't do, shouldn't do, or should. I picture a line of dots, extending to the horizon. At the horizon, I'd place a mountain. A sunrise or a sunset. Everyone needs something beautiful at the end of their line of dots.
They say that blogging is dead and maybe it is. Even the word "blog" feels awkward and lumpy, like something we thought was stylish a long time ago that's really gone now, never to return. Like shoulder pads or polyester as a clothing fabric, or -- shudder -- a combination. There's writing for an audience and then there's just writing, trying to remember how to make that happen. Dropping the words onto the screen and feeling reassured, that's writing, even if it is a blog, that shoulder pad of real writing. Just writing for the sake of writing, it's like knitting. It feels good to look at a finished row or page, your imagination turning into something tangible. My finger might be broken, but look! This is a paragraph. I typed it. My finger is a stiff hook. My son has the flu. Everything looks like a song lyric if you say it in a short enough sentence. My daughter has been writing songs. One says, "Stop being so judgemental, start being more reverential." "That's a big word," I say, "do you know what that means?" "I spelled it wrong," she says, "I meant 'Start being more relevant.'" "I'll try," I say.
This year, on the docket: an adult book, a YA, a middle-grade. When are there enough books? A letter from a friend's daughter says, "This is your best book. This book will make you rich." Do books make anyone rich? JK Rowling is swimming laps in her pool full of money. She's done well with the adult books, too. But what's the real difference when you write them, between a book for kids and one for adults? Everyone asks. Like they assume that there is a different set of rules for one than for the other. I always feel confused by the question. It's all just getting the words out of your fingers. Letting the characters fall out of the place where you made them. Picture vines. They are hidden behind the vines. You cut the vines. You force them out. You make them tell what they need to tell. Beyond that, isn't the difference only the age of the protaganist? I answer the question on a staticy line. My voice distorts. They don't understand. I don't know the difference between writing a kids book and writing an adult book, I say. The audience! I add. Maybe it's just the audience. Children are much more emotionally mature than they are given credit for. Although the audience for kids' books is largely made up of adults. Why do we need there to be a huge distinction in the rules? Writing it, I don't feel a difference. Maybe it's just that the adult book can move more slowly because adults have more patience for multiple pages describing a clearing where leaves are composting and a deer wanders by, chewing something. The adult reader wants to know how the leaves smell heavy with mulch, how the variegated shades of brown and orange look in the low hanging sun. How do deer scratch when they are itchy? Hooves must make that awkward. A kids' book would go right to the itch. Adults shake their heads impatiently. No one cares how a deer scratches!
My dogs have been keeping me awake at night, scratching. They don't have fleas. Put it on the bullet list: Take the dogs to the vet. Delete the entire scene about the deer. No one has time for that. It doesn't move the story forward. Go for a walk. Move yourself forward. Watch an actual deer walking across a real clearing. He doesn't scratch. Maybe deer don't get itchy. Hold on to the dogs. It was the dog's leash that broke my finger in the first place. Well, I don't blame the dog. Not really.
I've been feeling happy. I think things are good. I look tentatively around my life, into all the categories and everything looks OK. I feel optimistic. Let's take that and run with it. Let's do that in 2016: be optimistic. Let's stop being so judgemental, start being more reverential. That's all there is really, isn't there? Our own inner lives flow by just under the surface of everything we say or do, the people we meet, the faces we love. It's the river that flows under the sidewalk of visible things that matters. That's what we have to look after. The river matters most of all. Everyone can see the concrete. We don't need to talk about it so much. All the talk about the things on the surface is exhausting.
Happy New Year! May your words come easily and your rivers flow smoothly, whatever that means to you, whatever you think I mean by that.