Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sitting and waiting

Over the years I’ve learned to sit and wait in silence for the words to come, and to sit in silence if they don’t come, and to wait in patience for whatever will come—words or silence.

It's taken more than four decades, maybe five, to learn this, to sit with a pen poised in my hand, a blank page waiting beneath it, mute, and wait for thoughts to appear or, if nothing appears and the page remains blank, to sit and wait in patience for words to come or silence, whichever the moment might bring.

I learned to accept it wasn’t in my power to force words to come or to disarm the silence as if it was an enemy waiting to ensnare me, but to let go of the idea that I had any power at all, to let the pen lead me wherever it needed  to go, even if it meant entering the thicket of silence.

Sitting and waiting was just sitting and waiting, not failure, not frustration, just another form of seeing that allowed me to view the world from a different perspective, a different angle, and if the words remained frozen or stuck behind an invisible dam, I learned not to worry if they never appeared and listened to my breath and observed the changing color of the light and let my thoughts wander without the distraction of the scratch-scratch sound of pen on paper.

I learned that writing wasn’t always writing but listening and watching, that my pen didn’t have to move across the page, didn’t even have to be in my hand, for me to write, for the words to come and to appear on the screen of my inner eye—which required a different kind of awareness, a different way of seeing (and listening for) words.

Sitting and waiting for the moment when a thought glimmers, just out of reach, and leaps like a silver fish out of the water, that’s the moment that writing begins, and you can feel the desire to describe that moment, to catch that fish and reel it in so you can see its fins and scales and jewel-like eyes (quickly clouding) and feel its mystery and the way it links you to life before life fades.

You sit and wait and hope to make that connection with your pen, and with the words that flow through it, but if the day brings no sightings, no tug on your line, and you sit and wait in silence, listening to your breath, the page blank before you, as empty when you get up as when you sat down hours ago, it’s okay because it was all part of the writing process, all part of the mystery.