Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The space that I can call mine...is so small that my ideas have become small. I am like a caterpillar in a cocoon of paper; all around me are sketches for sculptures, small drawings that seem like moths fluttering against the windows, beating their wings to escape from the tiny space. I make maquettes, tiny sculptures that are rehearsals for huge sculptures. Every day the ideas come more reluctantly, as though they know I will starve them and stunt their growth. At night I dream about miniature gardens I can't set foot in because I am a giantess.
The compelling thing about making art---or making anything, I suppose---is the moment with the vaporous, insubstantial idea becomes a solid there, a thing, a substance in a world of substances. Circe, Nibue, Artemis, Athena, all the old sorceresses: they must have known the feeling as they transformed mere men into fabulous creatures, stole the secrets of the magicians, disposed armies: ah, look, there it is, the new thing. Call it a swine, a war, a laurel tree. Call it art. The magic I make is small magic now, deferred magic. Every day I work, but nothing ever materializes. I feel like Penelope, weaving and unweaving.
-Audrey Niffennegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
For a while I thought it was stress: a break from writing while I adjusted to the changes taking place around me. Chip was gone a lot: a slew of business trips five days at a time. And then deadlines: for work, for church, for home. Taxes and paperwork doctor's appointments and insurance applications before the end of the month. So I waited.
I cut fabric. I sewed. I made plans for Bean's summer wardrobe. I dreamed in pictures instead of words. And still I waited for the words that didn't come.
As time went on, I felt a shift inside - where once I could categorize and shift ideas in my head to translate here, in the last several weeks the ideas and stories I would have told once-upon-a-time seem to condense into nothingness inside my brain.
It was last night when I started to think about this passage from The Time Traveler's Wife. I understand that feeling, but it isn't physical walls that are closing in around me. I find myself in a metaphorical room that is forcing my mind to shrink inside of itself, the words disappearing into nothingness.
But there is something I know.
When your own words don't come, when they stick in your throat and gather there until you feel like you'll choke on them--- when the words can't come from you, use someone else's.
And so that's what I'm going to do this week: use beautiful words said by other writers. Until mine come back, until I can find my way out of this small space. Please be patient with me.