Monday, November 05, 2007

Where Do You Write?

I don't think it matters.

No special place, no rules, no limits.

You write wherever you are, whenever you have to. You write because you must, because the words come forward, demanding to be written down.

When the words come forth, demanding to be transcribed, my discipline has over the years become clear: to be always ready to receive them. I have no preference for location or medium. My practice is just to be ready; that means keeping materials on hand, but I have no strong preference for materials. I practice the warrior's discipline of maintaining constant readiness, to take action at a moment's notice. I do find that portability and lightness of writing materials matters, therefore.

There's lots of places I could list as places I have written, and liked to write in. But it's also true that I travel a lot, for my photography and music work, and can sit and write almost anywhere. A mug of tea at hand is almost more important than location, for setting the mood.

At the moment I'm sitting writing on my laptop, which is on my grandmother's secretary desk which I have inherited, looking out the big picture windows of my late father's house over a huge backyard surrounded by woods, the yard fronting a river with a wooded floodplain on the other bank. Geese and ducks are on the sandbar under the trees in the stream. A few mornings ago, a six point buck sauntered across the open space between wooded lots. Last spring there was a mother deer with two dappled fawns playing in the yard. There's a flock of wild turkeys that roost in my trees every evening, and a group of woodchucks who like to lie on the lawn and chew the grass on sunny days. I've seen redtail hawks and cardinals, and many more kinds of birds, just looking out the window while doing my email. All summer long, several kinds of hummingbirds hovered at my window, briefly looking in, before zooming over to investigate the hanging fuschia plant on the backyard deck. I'm indoors, but it's as if I'm in the woods. I spend a lot of time outdoors, for my photography work, and my camera cases all have notepads and pens in them, just in case.

So, I actually write here at this desk, on the laptop, regularly. But I also write in journals I take on camping trips. I've been known to write on the backs of gas station receipts, after pulling over when a poem came on, and nothing else was handy. One time I was driving, and a storm front was right behind me, chasing me, and a great blue heron flew right in front of the truck, crossing the highway to take shelter in the marsh; I couldn't stop, so I grabbed a fast food receipt and wrote on the back of it, on the steering wheel while driving. (I really try to not do that sort of thing; but that poem was just demanding my attention, right then.) On one occasion, I wrote a poem in the dirt, and took a photo of it to record it. I've drawn ideograms in snow with a stick, brushed them into soil with a pine bough, picked pebbles on a beach to arrange into words.

Different media sometimes bring out different kinds of writing. My laptop is as good a way to write as is my journal, for most things. I do love fine pens, such as fountain pens, and I especially like Japanese calligraphy brush pens. With those brush pens, though, I almost always seem to do haiga or haiku; it seems natural and fitting. These days I always keep a little zippered case with pens, pencils and paper in the truck, and another in my laptop's backpack case. Lately I've been having the urge to draw with colored pencils, and have a set of those in the truck now, too.

Readiness is all. Materials and location are secondary. I almost never set out to write a poem; I just wait for them to come to me, and do my best to be attentive and alert to their arrival, in order to get them down. That means being prepared, at any time, to drop everything and write the poem down. You have to capture it while you can.

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Blogger John Ettorre said...

Art, this is simply beautiful, and even better yet, so very true. Thanks for sharing it. I look forward to linking to it soon to share with my readers.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


Hi, and thanks!

10:26 AM  

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