Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Meaning of My Life

The Anchoress has a great quote from St. Catherine of Siena, she who bullied the Pope until he left Avignon and returned to Rome: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire."

She goes on to say, "I think most people have several things they can do well…but only one thing they do exceedingly well, a thing that, when they engage in it, places them outside of time."

I nodded in agreement. The few things that place me "outside of time" are usually creative, especially reading and writing. I'll start a book and when I look up, an hour--or two--have passed. Writing is the same way. I get going and then, BOOM! 60 minutes gone. I've been that way for most of my life, long enough that I know I cannot sit at the computer and "just" check my e-mail or log on to this blog and "just" type a few lines.

Nope. It's full sentences and a three paragraph essay, if you please.

Strangely enough, I hated writing essays in English class as much as anyone, even though, in those pre-SpellCheck days, I didn't have to worry too much about spelling correctly or grammar. (I do have to watch my tendency to use too many commas.) Until I read books on writing, I didn't realize I had "white page" syndrome: I was intimidated by a blank page. Once I got started, I was off to the races, however. And then I learned how to use a PC and I could make several false starts and had unlimited "do-overs." I could relax a little. No more tedious re-typing just to change one sentence in the middle of a paragraph.

So by now I should have written the Great American Novel and changed the face of American literature, right? I haven't. I have many excuses, mostly having to do with the reality of there being only 24 hours in a day and I have a family and a paying job (that I'm also very good at, but that doesn't involve writing). But mostly, I just haven't made time for writing; I haven't made it a priority. And when I don't, I can feel it in my soul.

Lately, I've been feeling that malaise. I have been away from the keyboard too long. There have been other demands on my time, important ones, but they are draining. I am "too tired" sit in front of the screen and think coherently, knowing, subconciously, that sitting and thinking out loud (which is what writing is for me), I would regain my energy. Regain my zest for the gift of life. Enjoy the absurdities that God has put there for me to discover.

Writing is what I have to do.

Next week, I'm going on a business trip and I won't have access to a computer. I'll have to do my writing the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. (Hey, that's how J.K. Rowling writes Harry Potter!) There is something physically satisfying, something intimate, about writing that way, which I don't get from the keyboard. Most of poetry is written first with paper and pen, then transcribed. I am hoping that by being lifted out from my daily routine, I can shake some of the ennui I've been feeling and find a few nooks and crannies of my soul to explore that otherwise would have been buried in the routine of everyday.

I mean, I am going to be on a plane for five hours each way...