These days I do have more free time on my hand and if I am disciplined and conscientious, I should be able to pursue what I really want to do, which is to write and read more. Too often, my mind is like the traffic at Shinjuku, Tokyo, very busy and occupied. Perhaps mind is more like the traffic at the intersections in Hanoi and it is necessary for me to be decisive and be present just like what one must do when one is at those intersections in Hanoi. There are days when I can complete some work tasks that do require certain clarity of mind as well as being able to write about things I muse about. These are what I call good days but they do not happen often.
For the past years, I did write on and off some stories but nothing really make satisfactory reads. Then I think what if writing is not your destiny. We speak about calling. My sister’s husband has found his calling as he grows vegetables and we get to enjoy the ginger, vegetables , egg plants, cucumbers and lady fingers that he harvests weekly. He has green fingers. I know I can never do any gardening but I imagine gardening is fulfilling as gardeners get to see the fruits of their labour. Though I can spin together some words and string together some sentences, I do not have the discipline. That is why I continue working in the same field no matter how miserable I can feel on certain days. Then come the weekend when I easily while my weekend away and then come Monday.
This week I chanced upon an article entitled “ The Running Novelist “ written by Haruki Murakami and published in New Yorker, Life and Letters June 9 & 16, 2008 Issue
Haruki Murakami wrote about how he had this desire to write a novel when he was watching a baseball game. Murakami wrote:
‘ I can pinpoint the exact moment when it happened. It was at 1:30 p.m., April 1, 1978. I was at Jingu Stadium, alone in the outfield, watching a baseball game. Jingu Stadium was within walking distance of my apartment at the time, and I was a fairly devoted Yakult Swallows fan.
I didn’t have any ambition to be a “novelist.” I just had the strong desire to write a novel. I had no concrete image of what I wanted to write about—just the conviction that I could come up with something that I’d find convincing. ‘ – The Running Novelist by Haruki Murakmi in New Yorker.
From time to time I revisit some of Murakami‘s passages from his beautiful memoir about his obsessions with running and writing and to him they are interlinked. Some of the excerpts from What I talk about when I talk about running by Murakami can be found in my earlier post As it happens
It is always inspiring to read about a novelist’s memoir particularly about how he or she just knew that they wanted to write and then dedicated his or her life to writing. Recently I read Devotion by Patti Smith. The narratives are warm, dreamy and inspiring. Smith shares her creative process which is meandering and a combination of note taking inspired by her experiences and impressions of what she sees and her reads. Smith‘s language is poetic and vivid.
‘Fate has a hand but is not the hand. I was looking for something and found something else, the trailer of a film. Moved by a sonorous though alien voice, words poured. I went on a journey lured by a jukebox of lights conjuring a symphony of reference points. I threaded a world that was not even my own, wandering the abstract streets of Patrick Modiano. I read a book, introduced to the mystic activism of Simone Weil. I watched a figure skate, wholly beguiled.’
– Devotion , Patti Smith
‘What is the task? To compose a work that communicates on several levels, as in a parable, devoid of the stain of cleverness.
What is the dream? To write something fine, that would be better than I am, and that would justify my trials and indiscretions. To offer proof, through a scramble of words, that God exists.
Why do I write? My finger, as a stylus, traces the question in the blank air. A familiar riddle posed since youth, withdrawing from play, comrades and the valley of love, girded with words, a beat outside.
Why do we write? A chorus erupts.
Because we cannot simply live. ‘
–Devotion , Patti Smith
I had not known about Patti Smith who is a poet, writer and visual artist until my elder daughter gifted me Woolgathering for my birthday in 2012. It is the New Directions edition.
In Woolgathering, Patti Smith writes, ‘ The only thing you can count on is change.’ Patti Smith reads Woolgathering
Woolgathering was originally published as a Hanuman Book. In 1991, a request for a manuscript was made by Raymond Foye who cofounded Hanuman Books with Francesco Clemente. Smith wrote by hand on sheets of graph paper and she completed her manuscript on her forty-fifth birthday.
‘A Hanuman Book was only 3 by 4 inches in size like a tiny Indian prayer book that one could carry in one’s pocket‘ Smith writes.
The narratives are so surreal yet so visual. Smith‘s prose is descriptive and poetic . There is a sense of nostalgia that makes one think about one’s childhood. In the memoir, the scenes that Smith remembers about the woolgatherers from her childhood days are picturesque and dreamy. Since very young, Patti Smith discovers the pleasures of rescuing “a fleeting thought“. Patti Smith‘s memoir is descriptive and meditative.
We know our time on earth is limited and we do want to make the best of the time we have.
Often there are all kinds of distractions that may well serve as an escape from what you are dealing with wittingly or unwittingly. Conflicts are part of life. You feel this pain in you and you need to numb that pain you need to not think about it so you turn on Netflix and watch sitcoms. Then you need to give yourself that nudge, hey you’re wasting your time away. Change is the only constant. We want different things at different time. We must know that we may not get what we want but we must know what we want for ourselves. Quite often we compromise what we want to keep the peace and harmony around us. Life is a balancing act and I am still learning how to navigate changes, manage expectations and disappointments. Every now and then I get hold of these fleeting thoughts and write them down. It is the joy of writing. Guess that itself is a good enough reason to write.