["United Nations" Scene from Rushmore]
I had my writing class tonight, so sleep is still a distant idea. It is now after 10:30pm, and I am usually sound asleep by now, but every Wednesday for the past eight Wednesdays this has been my routine. I come home from class wide awake and energized to the point of feeling like I could write my next book before dawn. This evening was made all the more tingling by the fact that I read one of my pieces in class, an intense piece that I've been working on obsessively since last week. I started on it less than a week ago and am already on my eighth draft, and after tonight's comments and questions it will continue to evolve, grow, and change course. It is as if I was given a gift last week when I wrote the first word of the piece, a gift wrapped in layer upon layer of colorful paper. With each draft, a new layer is peeled back, and I don't know what I will find underneath. I could uncover just one more layer and find the gift I have been searching for - the meaning and direction of the piece - or I might have to keep going and get to a point where I discover I have been unwrapping not one box but two or three. This piece has a ways to go, and that is fine. I feel this way about my writing in general. There is so much more I have to learn and understand about writing, about my own writing, about my weaknesses and strengths, tendencies and shortcuts. I am learning not only how to write but who I am as a writer.
My work as an artist has given me command of a number of tools I can use as a writer. The idea of spending time on one draft only to alter it beyond recognition in the second, third and fourth drafts does not bother me. I have spent hours and days on works of art that eventually got covered up by a new layer of paint, scraped off or otherwise completely covered over. On one of my current mannequin projects, I spent all morning gluing on the first layer of papers - covering the entire torso with tiny, hand torn pieces - only to have them all fall off the next day. (Note to self: make sure glue to water ratio is carefully measured). I also know when to walk away from a piece - artwork or writing - when I'm feeling stuck. In those instances I have to listen to my instincts when faced with the choice of trying to push through or letting it sit quietly while I work on something else.
I am still learning how to be more flexible as a writer, still trying to let myself write everything I need to write on a subject before I try to figure out what it means. This is my biggest challenge - an area where I am getting in my own way of digging as deep as I can into all the tiny details that make up a story. Searching for meaning is what I do pretty much all the time, so it will be interesting to see if I can let loose the reins on trying to decipher what every bloody experience in my life means as I learn how to write for longer stretches of time without needing to know what it is about.
I had a moment in class tonight where I almost burst out laughing - at myself. I was feeling a bit nervous right before I read, and suddenly imagined finishing my piece and having everyone in the class burst into applause, teary-eyed and touched by how perfectly I placed every word. It immediately reminded me of the opening scene in my favorite movie of all time. I knew my piece wasn't perfect, knew it needed more work, knew every word would never be "perfectly" placed, because what does that even mean? But it was a funny thought that calmed my nerves, made me think of my favorite movie and made me think of my favorite lines from that movie:
Herman Blume: What's the secret, Max?
Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don't know... I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then... do it for the rest of your life. For me, it's going to Rushmore.