I’ve been jumping around through time in my writing this week, which makes it nearly impossible to stay in the moment. Actually, I’ve never been very good at this. As Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book, The Power of Now, states: “. . . the present moment is all you ever have. There is never a time when your life is not “this moment.”
Don’t project; one day at a time; bloom where you are planted: I’ve been given all this good advice and more over the years and sometimes, when life throws darts, it can be very useful.
A memoir piece I wrote earlier this year was published last week. It’s set in early fall of 1975. In making a few last-minute edits, my mind went backward, recalling the year when I moved from suburban New Jersey to a beautiful home on the beach in East Hampton. The essay is called “Truckin’,” and the Grateful Dead song for which it’s titled had me bopping around the house as I performed non-writerly chores.
A personal essay, set in late 1989 when my mother died, just went off to another publication. Working on this, I made a quick leap from 1975 to 1989, then went back again. The 1989 essay, which recalls a family possession left by my mother, brought up events from my childhood to recent years. For final edits, I re-researched the history of the object written about, as well as the year 1989. We can never do enough research.
Also, there on the computer screen: my memoir, Only You, set in my teenage years, the late 1950s and early 1960s. As many of you know, this will be published by Oak Tree Press in January. The manuscript is out of my hands now but not out of my mind. So it gets revisited, like a dear friend, and suddenly I’m rocking and rolling with Elvis, the Platters, Buddy Holly, and many of my teenage friends. Was that song really on the charts that month? Should I change that word – use a stronger verb or noun? Did that term get used in 1958, or was it later? Accuracy! Accuracy! Before you know it, I’m doing the Lindy solo around the living room. I’m not complaining; it’s great exercise after long stretches at the desk.
Yesterday, I drafted still another essay. The time? A few weeks ago. I wrote about a current event, but memories of my 20-year career as a teacher of creative writing had to be recalled.
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, poetry or plays, we’ve got to do a lot of time traveling. It’s part of the process. My advice: stay focused on the year you’re in right now, as you’re writing, even if that has to change hourly. And don’t read Tolle’s book for writing advice. His theories don’t relate to the interior lives of working writers. I know I would need a frontal lobotomy to be able to “leave (my) analytical mind and its false created self, the ego, behind.”
The Moment: Wild, Poignant, Life-Changing Stories from 125 Writers and Artists Famous and Obscure, edited by Larry Smith of SMITH Magazine, Harpers Perennial, 2012. No, it’s not about staying in the moment, although I chose to list it here because of its title. Contributors include Dave Eggers, Diane Ackerman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Judy Collins, Jennifer Egan, and so many more. I love to read these short, pithy life stories.
Quote for the day:
“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before
it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”
Until we meet next time…