Thursday, May 31, 2018

Like riding a bicycle

Thursday seemed as good a time to set aside as any other.  One of the keys to my life right now is making a plan and mechanically sticking to it, even when I don’t know what I’m doing.  Set a date.  Take the first step, and the next will surely be obvious after that.  

Once upon a time I wrote, a lot.  It felt natural, and it felt important.  Even at home with an infant, then even after I went back to work, I found time to write.  Then a second child came along, and the quiet time I had with my own thoughts was harder to find, and then when the time finally came back the words didn’t.  I’d fallen terribly out of practice.

There’s a place along my drive home from work, four traffic lights from the turn into our parking garage, where I often have great ideas.  I estimate that at least twice a week I have a brilliant start for a blog entry, or an essay, or maybe even a short story.  Maybe it’s because there I’m on the crest of a hill over a highway overpass, and when the Paris rain or pollution doesn’t obscure it I can see all the way to the chateau, so I’m caught up in the grandeur or something. I convince myself I have one good paragraph, at least, while sitting behind the wheel of my Citroen waiting for the light to turn green.

When I get home, maybe it’s the task of maneuvering into my parking spot, or the overwhelming noise which greets me when I open the door, or the effort of thinking about making dinner (the thinking being far worse than the doing), and poof! Inspiration and motivation is gone.

Way, way back, in the distant pre-child past, I took a drawing class at the Levallois municipal art school.  It was in a converted warehouse next to the train tracks, and I felt very young, hip, and creative going there with my portfolio under my arm.  At first I felt pretty accomplished, too — I could sketch a decent still life in pastel, my charcoal nude sketches actually looked like human forms, and so on.  But at some point I got hung up on perfection, which I was far from achieving, and comparing myself to the other people in the class, which was far from validating.  So I quit.

Two years ago, on a rainy Spring day, I was trying to keep the children quietly occupied indoors when I got out a set of school-quality watercolors. The kids painted clouds and buildings and trees.  I painted a quick still life of a vase of tulips that happened to be on the kitchen counter and was amazed at how it turned out.  It looked… worthy of going back to. I’d learned the basics of watercolor in high school… and if I tried again?  I bought paper, a nice set of paints and brushes, and eventually enrolled in a weekly class near my house. 

It turned out it was still there, this ability to see things and record them on paper, and by age 40 I’d managed to learn that I didn’t need to be perfect.  In fact, it was doing something imperfectly yet mindfully, repeatedly, which would make me improve. (That’s probably why the other folks in my class all those years ago were so good in the first place, right?). 
It had been there all along.

So I’m hoping writing will be the same way.  

From now on, every Thursday.