Are you a writer? I often stumble over my answer to that question. I write, I think to myself, but would people call what I do writing? Then there’s the thought that writing isn’t all I do. So if I say yes I’m a writer does that mean I’m not a bass player. Of course there is significant evidence that I’m not a real bass player regardless, so maybe that’s not a great example. For that matter how can I really call what I do writing? I spend most of my time looping lines, I roll words and phrases around in my head, yes even muttering to myself sometimes, making connections of meaning and sound, phrases become lines and lines spin out into verses, after sometimes minutes sometimes days something has come together enough for me to try playing it. Not just music though. Entire scenes of dialogue, essays, monologues, goofy thoughts, little performance bits. In the early stages of a piece I only sketch things out on paper as an aid to memory, mostly it stays in my head and I walk the world to the pace of the words I hear. Of course that means that by the time the thing is actually written down I’ve walked through some parts of it dozens and dozens of times. Mind you I’ll continue writing the piece well after its first performances, using live responses to inform a more finished shaping.
But there’s remarkably little staring at the page involved in all of that. It seems that when I’m writing there tends to be more chopping wood and carrying water going on than sitting and scribbling. Whether that’s a good thing is maybe a personal decision. Of course we’ve talked before about the various kinds of avoidance we can practice while we’re supposed to be writing, sure the house is never cleaner than when the writer’s on a deadline. So I try not to encourage ensconcing myself in chores that I be better able to stew on the fact that I’m not writing. Rather I do a few chores while I try to stay present in the words I’m working on. And by the time I’m done my chores I’m usually well on my way to shaping the piece. Showing up at the woodpile maybe, rather than the page. Although you’re right of course, they’re really the same thing.
But a writer? I dunno.
Okay, maybe if we accept that there’s only one song, there’s only one gig, and only one instrument it just takes different shapes, then I could probably wrap my brain around there being only one art. But if that’s so I’m just weird enough to point out that whether it’s expressed in dancing or singing or writing the one art is in fact love. At which point people’s brains start to melt, so I try not to go there without signalling the turn. You and I know I’m fairly serious, but there’s no sense causing distress.
Maybe I just need a new verb.