A few months ago I read Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The book’s premise is that a deadly flu sweeps the world, killing most of the population. The few people who survive must adapt to a new world without modern essentials like electricity, refrigeration, gasoline, antibiotics, computers, and so on. The book follows different characters as they react to a world they never expected to live in, and their stories intertwine in beautiful ways.
I find with a really good book like Station Eleven the scenes, characters, and ideas rattle around in my head long after I’ve finished it. I found myself thinking about what I would miss if I lived in the world of the book. Obviously I would miss my computer, my car, the Internet, modern medicine, etc. But what about the non-obvious, non-essential stuff of 21st century civilization? Here’s my list of unnecessary, trivial things that I would miss in the event of a global flu-pocalypse:
Brightly-colored drinks with fruit and decorations
Cupcakes with icing
Glitter glue pens
Big glossy magazines with aspirational content, like Martha Stewart Living
It’s winter. My hands are dry and the skin near the top corners of my fingernails is starting to crack. My feet are cold. My back itches. I’m hungry and I don’t know what to eat for lunch. These are the profound thoughts that went through my mind this morning while I lay on my meditation cushion, trying to pay attention to the present moment.
When I took a meditation class, I asked the meditation teacher, “What if the present moment sucks?” She smiled and suggested I pay attention to it anyway. Continue reading →
Tomorrow is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or nanowrimo, as it has come to be known. Don’t let the word “novel” throw you off, because all you need to do is write 50,000 words between Nov. 1st and Nov. 30th and you win. There’s no one judging the quality of what you write. Continue reading →
The other evening I went to the supermarket with a friend. She just had a few things to pick up, so we went to the self-scan checkout. She clicked on the screen to begin, then clicked something else quickly, and then I noticed the VIC Lady (not her real name) was no longer shouting “WELCOME VEE EYE SEE CUSTOMER” like she usually does.
I have a Pinterest board for inspiration. One of my favorite pins is a picture of Virginia Woolf surrounded by text. The text reads: “I WILL LOCK YOU IN A ROOM OF YOUR OWN UNTIL YOU FINISH YOUR NOVEL.”
These are not my students, nor are they CSU students, but you get the idea.
Back when I taught writing to undergrads at Colorado State, I asked them to observe their writing processes. That is— what really happened when they needed to write something? Did they begin by drinking coffee? Watching TV? Cleaning their rooms? (Was there something going underneath these avoidance activities?) Did they settle in at a table in the library or the student center? Or did they head outside to sit under a tree with a notebook?
You may have heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2009 TED talk about about creativity and inspiration, in which she discussed the idea that writers and other creative people are visited by a Muse while they work. This extraordinary being (angel? daemon? goddess? blithe spirit?) drops by to guide the writer’s hand and leads the writer to produce something beyond what her normal abilities would allow her to produce. This is a very old idea– so old, in fact, that the Muses as we know them date back to the classical period in Greece. If you look around on the web, you can find lists of their names and information about their appearances in classical literature.
It’s an interesting idea, for sure. But Gilbert suggests that this is more than idea. It is the way that you make peace with your creativity. You understand that your part of the deal as an artist is to show up and work hard. The rest is up to the Muse. It’s not up to you, the writer, to be an amazing creative genius. Therefore you don’t need to feel badly if the writing isn’t going as well as you’d like. You just keep going. Sooner or later the Muse will show up.