Later she tells me that the cante laments the life of a miner in nineteenth century southern Spain. “The feeling is old, heavy, deep, torturous and I was connecting into it.”
“I saw that,” I say, “and I wanted to ask you, ‘where do you go when you dance?’ Because you went somewhere.”
“I don't know,” she says smiling, “but it was intense.”
I think she goes where I go when I write. It’s like falling asleep. You don't realize you’ve been asleep till you wake up. It’s the waking that alerts you to the sleep.
For me, it starts with a kind of premonition that something is emerging. Maybe I’ve had a conversation, seen a certain slant of light, had a dream. All of these triggers have an incomplete feeling to them –something unfinished, something withheld – I have to supply the words to complete them. When the words come, I am conscious for a good long while – there is pain, there is procrastination, there is frustration – but then there is that moment when I don't realize how intensely I’ve been writing till I look up from the page. And I look at some of the sentences astonished and wonder how they came and where I went to get them.
Some time ago, I read a poem by Alice Meynell that explores this theme. It’s called A Song of Derivations and it starts “I come from nothing; but from where/Come the undying thoughts I bear?”
She links her undying thoughts to many things: the legacy of writers who came before her, the unknown possessing the known, other stories mingling with her own. What I appreciate is that she gives credit to the mystery of wherefore and how we create - that as much as it’s personal and particular to our lives, it’s universal.
On days when I get good writing done, when those disappearing moments happen a lot, I imagine I’ve wandered into a field of clouds or tendrils of smoke and clouds. Each tendril is a sentence or sentiment or image – something that draws from generations of lived and unlived human experience. I just happen to have fallen into that cloud field or walked into it. I wander through in a haze, tendrils attach themselves to me, and I emerge with something that is of me but also,
Where do you go when you write?