Thursday, January 5, 2012

Now That’s Satisfaction

Simple enjoyment. Why is it so difficult? I am sitting with a book, the whole stretching out before me. No job, the kids with the nanny. This should be the greatest of pleasures for me. But it’s not. I’m distracted. The people in this coffee shop talk among themselves. The music is not bad, but not really good either. Just loud enough to hear but not be truly distracting. Yet I cannot concentrate. It is even difficult to muster the attention to jot these meager notes. I cannot resist the urge to check my email. So I do, and feel bad. No new messages, but another break in my concentration. Maybe Facebook? No, I must stay focused.

The satisfaction I used to get from sitting around and reading a book all day seems harder to attain now that I’m an “adult.” It’s not that I don’t enjoy books as much—I do, I swear—it’s that I find it that much harder to get to a place of calm and quiet that is necessary to really lose myself in a book.

Of course, there is the kind of book that is just so great, it forces me into this place. Two recent example: An Episode in the Life of Landscape Painter, by César Aira, and a collection of poems tentatively titled You’re Going to Miss Me When You’re Bored, by moi. My book engrossed me, obviously, because it is mine, but also because I was on a flight and when I landed I would promptly head to an art space to give a reading, then do two more readings over the next two days. I needed to figure out what to read, and in so doing, wound up rereading the most recent draft of my book and making several changes. But that is a different type of reading. A pleasure, but also work. I digress.

What I want is for reading and writing to be like listening to a song, for it to be a different language I want to be drawn in, get maximum reward for minimum work. All I want to do is listen.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You Know You’re Right

There is this feeling I have, a desire or dream—though I would not call it a goal because I am doing next to nothing to pursue it—to just simply be. Perhaps that’s not it exactly. What I mean is to find a way to exist in life, a position or arrangement, in which I don’t have to worry about much. To feel some sense of security, yes, but also to be able to focus, to not be distracted by worry and doubt, to not lose so much thought and energy to trying to figure out what to do next, to have enough in my life that I can go from one thing to the next with comfort and certainty.

It is an impossibility, a mirage, but one that I, beyond all reasonable explanation, foolishly believe in. You may think that this would require, first and foremost, independent wealth. For how can one exist in this way and be dependent on having to make a living? It’s a fair question, one for which I do not have an answer except to say that I believe it to be so. It is my hope (though a futile one I am certain).

But there is some part of me that feels that if I could just get good enough at what I do for a living, if I could just get smart enough about finding work, and once having found it, be able to hang onto it, my dream could become reality. In this manner, however, I am not what you would call ambitious.

Or perhaps it is not about a career. Perhaps it is more about simplifying my life materially. I could spend less, certainly, though every time I have tried it seems more like I spend more. These problems are not easily solved.

You could argue that writing is one way to achieve some version of the existence I seek. Many have said it before, and it is true, but for the problem of being a writer. When you are a writer you inevitably worry about publication, success, a career. Once this has happened, whenever you sit down to write you will wonder, “what do I do with this that I am creating? Where can I send it? Who will like it and why? How can I make it part of my next book? If I can, is it worth the effort?”

These are valid questions, ones that any writer must ask his or herself. And yet it is antithetical to the spirit of writing. The purity of the urge to put pen to paper and get something just so simply for the sake of it, the satisfaction.

(composed 12/28/11)

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