Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose...*

I really should listen to myself. Because it's a Rule of Sara that when I start giving other people sage advice, it's really what I need to hear, only in disguise. Take Robin, for instance. She mentioned trying to go vegan (again) and bemoaned her inability to stick with it. Somehow, in my comment to her, I brought up Lent. And emptying. And the cyclical nature of what we crave.

So guess what dawned on me as I drove to the library today? (I'm always driving when the light dawns. It's a wonder that in the blinding light I don't wreck my van.) Yes, I figured out that I'm in a cycle of emptiness in my writer life. I submitted my second book; I'm waiting to hear news about it; I'm not sure I want to start anything new. I know I'll be writing again, soon. I'm not worried. I'm not blocked. I'm not anything. I'm empty. Almost.

A few things were swirling as I browsed through the library shelves. I found a book on drumming. Maybe I want to get serious about learning how to pound out a mean rhythm. But maybe not, because I was already thinking that if I did take lessons, I would be taking notes on the experience for....well, somebody. WHO? An as-yet-unnamed character?

I also wanted to visit the math section. I didn't, because I already had an armload of books. But all that talk from a few days ago about random numbers had me thinking how I would be a math major if I went back to school. Really? I said to myself. You would? Not bloody likely. So WHO does?

There's also the strange fact that poetry has roared back into my life in a big way. I can't hide that I love it and it loves me. I'm going to be a judge for the Cybils Poetry panel. And I already have my Poetry Friday posts written for the next two weeks. Something is going on here.

I like being empty. I like having enough space in my life that drums, math and poetry can saunter about, checking out the premises. I don't know if they'll stay, but I'm trying not to drive them off by bugging them with lots of questions.

I read somewhere that if you want someone new to enter your life, you should clear out one whole drawer or shelf in your house and leave it empty for them. I think the same is true of writing. It's a little uncomfortable to have your writing project shelf be empty. To deliberately resist filling it with knick-knacks.

But if I don't start with an empty space, I'm pretty sure that my finished book won't have any space in it either. And then where would my readers squeeze in? (Not to mention their thoughts, fears, and those big, messy emotions they always seem to bring with them.)

*From Paul Simon's Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.


  1. Aha! I knew there was a reason I sat quietly on Robin's post and let you smart people do all the talking!

    I'm in a period of emptiness as well - waiting to hear back before the revisions on the second novel (inevitably) begin, waiting to ...find myself in a new place, sort of ...wandering the corridors of my soul picking things up, setting them down. I feel like I'm meant to 'posses my soul in patience,' and I think I am, but I am also not sure how.

    You're right -- you don't want to take up too many things, commit to much, make hard-edged boundaries on your time. It feels like anything can happen, which is both unnerving and exhilarating.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Sara, your post really spoke to me. I am constantly trying to find some emptiness, some space, in my life (with not much success!). It reminds me of what Vicky Austin must learn in Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle--not to be "replete with very me."

    Enjoy your emptiness! Wallow in it. Sounds like you have just the right attitude toward it.

  3. Great food for thought, Sara! Thanks for sharing so generously! (And keep those poems coming!)

  4. Idle minds create fiction - right? I try to remind myself all the time that living life gives me material for writing. These breaks are great for when you need to refill your heart and mind with anything fresh and new to inspire. Enjoy the break and learn something new!

  5. Thanks, guys. You sure know how to make a girl feel good about doing nothing. :)

    And I was reminded of that quote I tossed around awhile back: "The painter passes through states of fullness and of emptying. That is the whole secret of art." --Pablo Picasso

  6. I absolutely love this post. I found myself clearing off the dresser this weekend for no apparent reason. When I get home tonight I am clearing out a shelf or drawer or something else...

    And YAY for the POETRY panel!!! *huge grin*

  7. It's what is known in zen as Mu: a state of emptiness from which everything can be gained.

    That cliche about having the mind empty is all about reopening your receptors to new things and experiences.

    I had it explained to me this way: If you are a coffee mug that is being filled there comes a point where you reach the top and then spill over. At that point, what good is all that extra? Empty the cup and you can start all over.

    As for some serious pounding, you check out so Japanese Taiko drumming! Man! Those are some serious drums and beats!

  8. Crikey! It looks like I'm calling your experience cliche. No! No, no, no! I was referring to the zen cliche.

    And then at the end I seem to have forgotten how to write complete sentences. Sorry about that,

  9. I've always equated the "empty" state you refer to as a time of "receptiveness." The writer is a vessel, who must remain still and open so the well can fill up again. This is sometimes difficult in a society that is obsessed with living life full to the brim and beyond all the time.

  10. This is a beautiful post. I can really fret and fret when I'm in between things. I either get all spinny and overcommitted OR I feel slothlike and go to bed. It is rare that I sanely remind myself that I'm making myself ready for what's to come. Thanks for the reminder...

  11. I. love. this. post. Yes, please leave that room for us readers! We love being invited in. (My favorite musicians do this with their music, too).

  12. I love what you wrote here. It's beautiful.

    I'm also a little bit envious right now, because I think that emptiness is what I crave. Especially in the Back-to-School month that is September.


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