Archives for posts with tag: Paris

This Brain Pickings article reminds me how much I love Rainer Maria Rilke. Not only for his formal works, with their distinct rhythms and striking imagery, but also his deep and still timely thoughts on creativity. I read Letters To A Young Poet when I was first learning the ways of my own creative life. It’s different for everyone, but Rilke’s wisdom is timeless and universal.

I struggled to make my way through a maze of combined exhilaration and self doubt, and found the passage quoted here about patience and “ripening like the tree which does not force its sap” more helpful, comforting, and reassuring than anything I’d encountered in the modern world. I have to think. Written words rarely come, until I’ve thought long enough. Sometimes it’s a conscious thinking process, but often it’s spontaneous and lives in the back of my head until it’s ready to become fiction. Poems are different. They tend to burst forth and free, before I even know I’ll be writing a poem. Fiction stays inside my brain, quietly building and forming, and then when it’s ready it commences to be written. This is my way, but when it first started to develop it felt weird and wrong. As if there was a way the words were supposed to come out and I had never been given the key to that way. 

It took me a long time to understand that writers I’d read about had their process and it was perfectly alright that mine was different. As I read Rilke’s letters to that enviable young poet, I felt a calm settle over me. I began to understand that finding and accepting my own, individual creative path would be the start of something wonderful. And it was. Once I became one with Rilke’s concept of the nature and exquisite timing of a tree, its indelible patience and unknowing wisdom, writing became a joy that has sustained me ever since.

Through those letters to Franz Xaver Kappus, Rainer Maria Rilke became my mentor across time. In answer to the ubiquitous question about what one would wish to do if time travel were possible, I always think traveling to sun dappled, long ago Paris to sit beside Rilke in Rodin’s garden, absorbing the glorious light of his thoughtful words, would be a glimmering treasure captured by time itself. If only….

Until time travel becomes reality, his letters will suffice.

This story of a Paris apartment left untouched for 68 years is the kind of thing read about in novels.  At times remarkable events do happen in real life, especially when aided by the urgency of history in progress. A woman hurriedly fled her home to escape the Nazis. In her haste she left behind a tangible snapshot of turn of the century life.  A beautiful apartment filled with beautiful things. There are layers of awe frozen in time here. Awe in the lavish furnishings and accessories with which she was able to surround herself, awe in the history held captive so perfectly by time, and awe in the almost palpable fear that drove her to abandon such a gorgeous and well loved home with little time to spare. The pictures of the abandoned rooms made me feel each of these things in progression, even as I was both envious of the life she must have led and horrified by the ill tides of the war that drove her from it.

As probably deduced from the above title, I am sick. I just entered week two of misery, so it’s either the flu or a stray common cold virus vacationed too close to a certain beleaguered Japanese nuclear facility and mutated its way to my door. I haven’t been this sick in years and had almost forgotten just how awful it can be. The only bright spot is that if I can get enough rest, I have hope of avoiding the dreaded relapse. Until sufficient time passes to know how much time will have to pass before I feel at least semi-human again, I’ve been struggling with the question that has no real answer: When should I go back to writing?

Here are 5 reasons I’m having trouble knowing the right answer.

1. I get scatterbrained when I’m too tired. When I’m really, really Oh, when will this torture end? sick the scatterbrainedness evolves into a state where I cannot absolutely trust myself to spell my own name. Correctly, anyway. It’s as if my actual thought process turns into an organic computer version of autocorrect. For all I know I could type in a file name that would lose my WIP in the bowels of my computer’s filing system. And it’s not all that trustworthy to begin with.

2. My WIP happens to be set in Paris. The France one, not the Texas one. I have enough trouble making sure I’m using French words properly. Double that for spelling. If I go fooling around with someone else’s language while I’m so sick, I could inadvertently invent an entirely new one. Or insult the good people of France, who would have no way of knowing the obnoxious American author was fighting off a mutated uncommon cold, when committing linguistic faux pas. I could switch off to my inprog screenplay…no…I can’t. I’m not tackling the highly motivated serial killer who’s taken up residence in my head flu addled!

3. When I’m writing it’s as if I ride a flying carpet made of words. They dip, they flow, they soar. This sick they could very likely wobble, and crash, and burn.

4. I write in the moment. The way I’ve been feeling, the moment lags like the sands in a clogged up hourglass. I don’t trust the right words not to be clogged up as well. I had a perfect micro scene pop into my head a couple of days ago. I want to be at my best when I write it, so it will be the best I can make it. I just can’t trust my coughing, sniffling, laryngitis plagued self to do its best of anything right now.

5. A sick person is incapable of truly enjoying chocolate. No chocolate…no writey.

What it comes down to is the simple fear of messing up something I’ve invested time and brain power in. Something I love creating. I need all my powers of concentration and creative juicery to do it justice. If that means letting this writing thwarter run its course, so be it. Rather that than risk sending my characters on a cruise along the Nile, instead of the Seine.

Oooh, look! The Mona Lisa looks so cool riding that camel….

Back to bed. The flu wins another day.