6 September 2013
I know it’s not winter yet, but I’m getting that cold-weather feeling. And, speaking of Sara Bareilles and songs we love, I immediately thought of this one.
I also kind of thought of it last night, though I didn’t know it yet. I was talking to a friend on the phone, trying to catch up with what is happening in his life right now. All I knew was that he had spent some time in Chicago this summer playing music, and hanging out with another of our friends. It seems like you had a great time, I said. He corrected me: I didn’t go for fun. I went for survival. Some big changes happened in my life, and I needed to get out. I needed to be anywhere except where I was. When I heard that, my listening changed. At the end of the conversation, I said, sometimes you need people to talk to who haven’t already heard all your stories, who are just supportive parties at the other end of the phone. You can call me for those times, if you want to.
He replied, I think my friends are sick of hearing about it. My mantra for the whole summer was basically “Love isn’t real.“
Love is real, J. In fact, it’s more than real. It’s alive. But that means it’s organic, and it means that it hurts, and it means that it can grow or decay. It’s not some mythical, fantastical element of human emotion. It’s just human. And sometimes it can get things wrong.
Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. Or rather writing is saying to the no one who may eventually be the reader those things one has no someone to whom to say them. Matters that are so subtle, so personal, so obscure, that I ordinarily can’t imagine saying them to the people to whom I’m closest. Every once in a while I try to say them aloud and find that what turns to mush in my mouth or falls short of their ears can be written down for total strangers. Said to total strangers in the silence of writing that is recuperated and heard in the solitude of reading. Is it the shared solitude of writing, is it that separately we all reside in a place deeper than society, even the society of two? Is it that the tongue fails where the fingers succeed, in telling truths so lengthy and nuanced that they are almost impossible aloud?
I started out in silence, writing as quietly as I had read, and then eventually people read some of what I had written, and some of the readers entered my world or drew me into theirs. I started out in silence and traveled until I arrived at a voice that was heard far away — first the silent voice that can only be read, and then I was asked to speak aloud and to read aloud. When I first began to read aloud, another voice, one I hardly recognized, emerged from my mouth. Maybe it was more relaxed, because writing is speaking to no one, and even when you’re reading to a crowd, you’re still in that conversation with the absent, the faraway, the not yet born, the unknown, and the long gone for whom writers write, the crowd of the absent who hover all around my desk.
Sometime in the late nineteenth century, a poor rural English girl who would grow up to become a writer was told by a gypsy, “You will be loved be people you’ve never met.” This is the odd compact with strangers who will lose themselves in your words and the partial recompense for the solitude that makes writers and writing. You have an intimacy with the faraway and distance from the near at hand. Like digging a hole to China and actually coming out the other side, the depth of that solitude of reading and then writing took me all the way through to connect with people again in an unexpected way. It was astonishing wealth for one who had once been so poor.
– from The Faraway Nearby, by Rebecca Solnit
I like this video better than the first one because it shows the process. It shows the heart.