Pretty Sounds & Procrastination

© 2010 David Parker

Lately my hands and my brain have been very busy making What-I’m-Going-To-Do-With-My-Life out of interdisciplinary arts, education, wooden dreams, ideals that turned out to be not so far gone as I’d imagined, and other people’s money. I’m still only just on the brink, but I’m beginning to fall in love with the sound of pieces coming together and stars aligning. (It’s like this deep, celestial ripping sound—like when a torrent of rain peels itself from the sky.)

And when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been trying to convince Ruthie that she’s not afraid of the dark, a task almost as difficult as trying to convince myself that I’m not afraid of failure. And I’ve been wondering if maybe it’s not so much about pretending not to be afraid as it is about accepting the darkness and the failure that makes the fear piece go away. And I’ve been noticing how all-of-a-sudden Ruthie grew so tall and so smart, which is painful in the hurt-so-good way of falling in love. And I’ve been promising myself to write, but I generally tend to put that off until tomorrow, which always seems to be the most convenient time to accomplish most tasks.

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Where I’ve Been

I’ve been madly, furiously, scurriously writing myself into a frenzy. What have I been writing about? It’s a super-secret, sacred, sacrilegious piece about a sanctuary sanctified by the light (as in Lucille Clifton’s light that insists upon itself in the world). The piece and the light and the praise-Jesus-praisin’ will grace this Internet space in a few more days. I’ve just got to get it all dressed up in its Sunday Best.

And now, a disclaimer: While I set out to post something everyday, I have learned that writing I’m proud of generally can’t be finished in a day. And sometimes I get sick of writing something (ANYTHING!!) just to put something up. It was a good exercise for a month, and it trained me well, but I can’t keep up that kind of pace. Not with a four-year-old and a full-time job. Let’s just say I’ll be here mostdays. But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I am. Everyday. Girl Scout promise.

Against Transience

© 2010 David Parker

I’m sitting in a coffee shop around the corner and I’m the only one unplugged. I have no computer, no ear phones, just pen and paper and I’m fascinated by my ability to grab onto an idea and shape it into something tangible, something real. (I think I saw it breathe.) And I’m struck by how my computer is so like a doorway in the fall with leaves blowing in, and how information is so like the leaves, and how I am, constantly, gathering and scooping up the leaves but they all slip out of my hands. Transient is the word that comes to mind. But not today. Today, I can hang onto the ideas and study them and lay them down, one next to each other, and measure them against themselves. And I have the time and the space and the permanence of pen and paper to make decisions about which are the prettiest, the most golden, and I throw the rest out. These are the ones that remained.

High School English Afternoons

© 2010 David Parker

This afternoon is turning out to be a tease. From the looks of it, I should be able to open my window, but it’s too hot and the pitiful puffs breeze are just enough to blow my papers around. And there are so many papers. So. Many. Papers. The moment I catch up is the very same in which I fall behind. By the time my planning period rolls around, I’m over it. I’m already thinking about walking with my face turned up to the sun so bright, so blindingly bright I shut my eyes and wind up running into something. But I grade papers instead with my feet propped up on the windowsill. Somedays I can’t even stand music. Today, with my tests for tomorrow made up already, and a fresh stack of classwork that I can grade at home, I chose to write.

No one ever tells you about working inside all day and what an underwhelming bummer it can be. How you could lose your stomach from the force, the fall of a sugar crash. How you can read so much that the text begins to lift itself off the page, meeting you halfway.  Newly acquired job skill: I can actually read aloud and think about something entirely different, which is kind of like taking a vacation in the midst of the most boring piece of your day (imagine reading the same piece of text three times a day for 30-minutes to students who feel like they’re really out-doing themselves by halfway listening). The problem with work is that I don’t have time to get so totally absorbed inside of myself that nothing exists but the words I’m generating on the page. 70 teenagers come and go from my classroom throughout the day. And I love them. I do. But I can see why so many people put off writing their whole lives: because it’s demanding. Almost as demanding as 70 teenagers in five hours.

Whenever I pick up Ruthie from school, I always say, “I missed you all day!” Sometimes I feel that way about myself.

Analog Writing Goes Digital, or How I Learned to Write

© 2010 David Parker

My Internet has been down this week, so for the past two days I’ve been writing the old-fashioned way: with pen and paper. This practice has given way to lots of doodling and lists of words that don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another aside from the fact that they’re all in my notebook and they’re next to one another. So this first post (handwritten on September 13) is an ode to my handwriting, which is one of my favorite things about myself.

I used to write with my whole hand. All of my fingers squeezed around the tip of the pencil. Control. Concentration. Precision. My tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth the way my grandaddy’s did when he was working on someone’s teeth. (He used to be able to work on patients with no anesthetic. He hypnotised them. No lie.) I remember distinctly the night when my parents insisted that I hold my writing instruments properly, correctly, the right way. I cried and practiced and cried and, gradually, unlearned.

Since then, I’ve had lots of handwriting mentors, such as Mrs. Jackson, my third grade teacher who taught me cursive. Whose handwriting was ugly and stiff and sterile—too perfect. Whose capital cursive Z mesmerized me. My dad, who spent Sunday mornings writing out his Sunday school lessons on a legal pad. Whose signature I copied. Whose R-e-e was one line. Whose lower-case D was a capital one only smaller. Then there was my real-life writing inspiration whom I met five years ago. Whose handwriting (a mess of loopy, swirly, swoopy madness) looks like poetry. Whose words are layered and not in lines. Whose words turn into pictures, images, shapes, hatchworks.

The practice of writing, the physical act of writing is something I have come to enjoy immensely. In grad school, I used to hand-write all of my papers before typing them. There have been articles published about me and my mad, mad love of hand-writing what most people type. While a blank screen taunts me, dares me to write, a blank page feels like a warm invitation to try to say something. I’m a sucker for the feel of my pen on the page, the look of my words unruly, messy, raw.And I love a paper trail—I like to be able to witness the unravelling of my ideas and the shaping of them.  The act of sweeping those stray words up and depositing them into a stricter form is intoxicating. The imposition of order on chaos: the moment of insight.

Haiku Haywire

© 2010 David Parker

You may have noticed that I’ve missed a few days over the course of the last six weeks. Four of them, to be exact. Today, I reclaimed those days in haiku, which, inspired by The Yawp, I tweeted. Six haikus to make up for today plus four with one to grow on.

You’ll have to catch my writing in my Twitter feed (@public_frog) as I left my computer charger at work and have had to resort to awkwardly posting from my iPhone. More tomorrow!

We Make Dressing

Ruthie helped me make salad dressing tonight—nothing fancy, just your basic vinaigrette—and over and over, every time we poured the next thing in, she kept saying, It’s just so beautiful, Mama. And, really, it was. But I was struck more by how original my child’s thinking is and how I was totally going to rip her off and write about it tonight. Why? Because I’ve had a wonderful week, and I always find it much more difficult to write when things are going well.

The good life never fails to water down my writing: It’s a beautiful day, I love my coffee, coffee is so good, and don’t you just lovelovelovelove days like this?! I can think only in generalizations and Facebook status updates. Plain. Unoriginal. Boring.

And I think the issue has mostly to do with the fact that I take myself too seriously. When I’m frustrated or sad or enraged, I don’t have the presence of mind to censor what I’m writing, and my senses are magnified, so my writing comes out raw and crisp and biting. Tomorrow’s assignment: Learn how to bite on a good day.