One of my favorite sounds in the world is the barely-there sound you can sometimes hear when you pull a very firm orange section from its neighbor. That is what these days sound like in my head—windows open for cool breezes, brown fields grassing over, birds singing all day long. I write stories on paper lately, squiggly-scribbling over old sentences but never making them vanish. It’s an old feeling made new.
I take notebooks with me most days out of habit, but more often than not when I come home I haven’t written a thing. It’s rare that I will sit down with my notebooks and use them, and this is bad news, because I know it’s not conducive to creativity. Last week, inspired by Tracy, I thought about my most creative times, my most prolific times, and I was writing on paper then, in stolen moments, wedged in between classes and social obligations and a full-time courseload and a full-time job. I wrote in the hallway on the third floor of Raub Hall outside of my classrooms. I wrote in my car. I wrote in the back room at work on Sundays when I should have been selling shoes. I wrote on my porch and sprawled out on my stomach on my bed.
So doing it now for these stories, no matter how odd and random and bad and mudstuck they are, feels good. It feels like orange sections coming apart. Time slows down. The process and the inevitable end are before me all at once. I pay a new and drastic kind of attention. Writing is fun again. And though I know I don’t have to do anything with these stories, especially not the hard work of revising them, I am grateful for their existence even in their dinkiest first-draft forms. My brain wants to know where they’ve been all my life. Duh, we were right here all along.
Yesterday was a long, packed day out in the sun eavesdropping and shopping and making plans for a very busy next few weeks. When I came home I cooked onions, grape tomatoes, and garlic in a skillet. I pushed aside the sauce, making room for some snapper. I let it go a little while, then scattered the zest of three limes on top, added a little water, and steamed it until the fish was done. It was gorgeous. But here’s the important thing: In my pocket there was a receipt. While I chopped and seasoned and gauged sizzle levels, keeping a weather eye on the rice simmering on another burner, I was thinking about the story for last night. I wrote the pertinent bits on that receipt. I got a smear of grape tomato juice on it. I almost threw it in the compost by mistake. But I saved it; I created some orange-section moments in the middle of the whirl and I wrote that thing with only a cooking pan full of fish to witness me doing it.
Not the kind of inspiration I was expecting, but you take what you can get.