“Everyman Needs A Companion”

Today I read:

I am not yet in the world, and there is a certain risk involved in talking: the night spins a fine membrane, like the film inside an eggshell. It seals you off from the world, but it’s fragile, easily pierced.

— Roxana Robinson, “How I Get To Write

As is probably evident from the timestamps on my blog posts, I am not a morning writer (unless you count late-night as early-morning), but Robinson articulates an observation I’ve often made, which is how tenuous the connection is between what you get up intended to do and what happens next.  I have trouble writing in the mornings precisely because I’m not very good at keeping that connection, because I have trouble shutting off all the other concerns that want to pull me out of the quiet space of my thoughts.  I find that writing at night, when most of those other concerns have been more or less addressed, is more productive for me.  In a perfect world (and let’s not kid ourselves — it sounds like Robinson, with her own private study and her uninterrupted mornings, is living in something pretty close to a perfect world), I’d like to allow myself to shut out all the other demands of life and write all morning long, but presently it doesn’t seem to be a workable arrangement for me.

The other thing Robinson’s essay highlights is the importance of routine.   She relies on a series of almost rote activities to get her to the moment where she can begin to write.  For her, it’s silence and coffee and sometimes rereading passages of other writers’ work.  We all have some activities like that.  For me, it’s tying my hair back, and putting on a particular playlist.  I know I’ve said before that I can’t work if my hair isn’t tied back properly.  Sometimes I genuinely think the reason I wrote so little for the two years I was in Indiana was because my hair was too short to pull back.  It’s mostly nonsense, but it’s something I believe, a ritual that must be observed, just like Robinson and her coffee.  Whatever our rituals are, no matter how crazy they seem, they have to be acknowledged and respected in order for the work to get done.

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