Sunday, May 16, 2010

Be Kind

A woman once cleaned out her attic. Once? A woman? What way is that to start writing and thinking, anyway?

While it's true that a woman once did clean out her attic, it's more likely that many women have cleaned out attics, although I don't myself recall ever having cleaned out an attic while I have been married. Oh, and incidentally, I'm not a woman, but a man. And I suppose just as many men have cleaned out attics as women, although I'm not sure anyone has gather statistics on the notion.

We --- my family and I --- cleaned out an attic once when I was a kid. When I was twelve, my parents bought this older house that was next door to my grandparents' house. The house had been owned by a couple, the Dunns, who had a couple of boys. Don't ask me the boys' names. The Dunns were both alcoholics and as a consequence of their debauchery had been threatened I guess by the bank with losing their house. Therefore they had had to sell it at a bargain. My parents had found out about it and purchased it.

Consequently, there was a lot of work to be done to make this house suitable for our family of five to live in.

At the time we moved to the house next to my grandparents' I was twelve years old.

I can remember that it had an attic in it that we never really ended up using. However, the former owners had stored a bunch of stuff in the attic --- for all I know my parents had also stored stuff up there, but if they did I was unaware of it --- and we had hauled it out and burned it.

So, I guess I have been involved in cleaning an attic.

Anyway, the person who wrote the introduction to Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones, talks about cleaning out her grandmother's attic and finding a motto encased in a picture frame that said to do your work as well as you could and to be kind, or something to that effect. She laughed over the motto, thinking the two messages incongruous, but then later the motto made perfect sense to her.

So much of writing is self-discovery and the exploration of what a person wants to know more intricately. However, the exercise can be daunting and can cause you not to want to write anything at all. Let's face it, it's easier to be fed thoughts by others, to be spoonfed and entertained. We grow fatter because we are lazy and we have grown accustomed to not have to think or exercise our brain as well as our body.

According to the introduction of said book, to be valuable writing needs to be sane, clear-hearted, solid, practical, vital, and honest so that it makes you want to cry. According to it, that is what writing has when it is good.

I'm not sure I agree. Sane? I'm not sure good writing has to be sane. Maybe over all it has to be sane, but can't it have snippets of insanity? It seems to me it can. And then some of the other descriptors just seem a little vague. Clear-hearted. What does that even mean. It's too cardiac for me to really understand. Isn't a clear heart something we want to avoid? You know, it's just better to have your heart pumping blood than to be clear, and blood is anything but clear. Solid. Well, sometimes solid writing is good. But I've also seen loose writing that's good. A nice haiku. I don't know, I guess I'm just too picky.

Well, be kind. I agree with that sentiment. I aspire to that sentiment. Some might say it is even a flaw for me. I'm too kind, they say, but they have only instances in mind. You see, many think I'm an enabler. Truth be known, somebody probably thinks you are an enabler also.

No comments: