There are a few small but appreciable benefits from dealing with Circumstances, and all stem from the fact that Circumstances tend to make one re-evaluate and re-think — and Circumstances often give one the time one needs to re-evaluate and re-think.
That sentence was hella awkward.
In less vague and oddly formal third-person terms, I guess I could say that, every so often, it seems like I go through Circumstances that require me to sit back and think about what I’m doing with and in my life, about what really matters to me and on/with what I need to spend the precious-beyond-precious time I have. And for me, time and time again, the answer is always the same answer: words.
I think that most, if not all, writers come to write because they love words, which means they love to read. Most, if not all, of us have a moment tucked inside of us, a moment when words suddenly became more than words, when words unfurled inside the mind into something as enormous and wonderful and even slightly frightening as Jack’s beanstalk, and with its power to transport.
That’s the frightening part — the power — and also the tremendously beautiful part. It’s what every writer, I think, is, in the end, chasing: the power to transport herself and someone else, in the same was as she herself has been transported, through words. When I was a little girl, my father took me to the library every weekend, and I remember walking from shelf to shelf, pulling books off the shelves and opening them into Vs, reading random paragraphs to find which ones I wanted to take home. I always knew when I found the right one: the shelves vanished, the library vanished, the entire state of Alabama vanished, and I vanished with them. It was just the words, the world that they made.
The Circumstances through which I’m currently moving and living have given me, wondrously, the quiet time I needed to spend with words — both with my own and with others’. It’s the kind of quiet time I need, from time to time, to recharge. I think it’s very easy, especially if you’re a person who’s trying to get published or whose job related to words, to get discouraged, to let the rejections overtake you, to lose faith in your own language. Or, at least, that’s what happens to me, and it happens far more easily and frequently than I often admit. It’s also very easy to get so wrapped up in publishing and competition and ego (or lack thereof) to the point where your own words aren’t necessarily your own. It’s easy to forget the small miracle that happens every time a pen hits a page. It’s easy to forget that more often than not, the writer isn’t the one in control. The words are. A writer’s place isn’t in speaking. It’s in listening.
Reading — living, for a few hundred pages or so, in another’s world, living and listening and loving through and in their words — is the way I remember this. It’s the way I return, again and again, to the sense of awe that made me begin writing myself. I mean this in several senses of the word: amazement, yes, but also fear, and the sense of reverence that comes from wonder and terror. I mean this in the sense of respect of language itself, of how letters and words and sentences build upon themselves, seemingly of their own volition and power.
Though the Circumstances I’m dealing with this summer aren’t necessarily the most pleasant Circumstances, I’m very grateful for them. They’ve given me the space I need to sit and be quiet and read. They’ve given me the space I need to remember: I’m still the girl standing somewhere in the vacuum of vanished space and time, a book an open bird in my hand. I’m still there, in awe of the words, of the world they make.