It’s cold outside, and my laptop is (true to its name) perched on my lap, warming me as I stretch out on the white* sofa, engaging with a split screen.
It’s near midnight, and I’m watching my 10th hour of online Continuing Legal Education. I have a long way to go before next week’s deadline, and because multitasking helps me concentrate (ahem), I’m also writing to you.
Friends, my screen is split.
The split screen–“Preparing for Deposition” and writing this blog–isn’t my only distraction. I also have in front of me a galley of the imminently forthcoming book, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature, edited by Meredith Maran.
Actually, it was browsing through this book while listening to the Depo Prep video, reading and nodding and underlining key passages about writing, that forced me to write.
Like this gorgeous piece:
“At its best, writing draws from the inner life, from a place deep within where we are sourced. We could call it the life of the soul. This place is filled with so much genius–an ordinary genius that’s common to us all. It’s the room where our dreams and imagination live. It’s where our wisdom lies, where memories are metabolized, images are born, and creative connections are made. I see it as an inner reservoir, I think there’s even divinity in it–something beyond our egos and our conscious selves. I’m talking about the contemplative life, of course, which is, for me, a significant part of the writing life.”
— Sue Monk Kidd, Why We Write About Ourselves
I’ve had a split personality as long as I can remember. Lawyer Me seeks fair play and justice, wants to help right wrongs in the concrete real world. Writer Me wants to listen to the small, still sounds of the soul, to unearth a nugget of truth and shine a light at it and watch it sparkle and refract, to hear the rhythm and lilt of a string of words and capture them before they are gone.
There is a tension between these sides of me–the practical and the magical, the grounded and the sky-flying, but I think they coalesce into the whole. The commute I take between my two halves connects them in a single desire: to be of use, to be of consequence, or as Sue Monk Kidd writes, “to make my small dent in the world.” And, as the writers in this lovely book do, to reach out from the page into a reader’s quiet living room late at night, to enter her mind, and nod along in mutual recognition.
*White sofa? Am I daft? Delusional? Optimistic? Perhaps all, but the sofa is a hand-me-down, not purchased but gratefully accepted, one of a pair that lived in my parents’ living room in pristine bliss for decades. After weathering a year of my family’s crawling and jumping and dirty shoes bumping, of our comings and goings, only some of its stuffing is coming out.