When I sit at my desk to write, I’m never sure of where the post or essay or what have you will take me. Sometimes I have a general outline to work from, but mostly I’m transcribing a phrase or paragraph that’s been playing in my head. My ultimate destination is generally unknown.
I have various endings and middles, mixed-matched fabrics of some unknown whole stored on hardrives and in word files labelled “meanderings.” Sometimes I call them conversation starters. I came across such a starter of conversations today:
I picked up The Help (by Kathryn Stockett) at a bookstore in Johannesburg, its yellow cover catching my eye. I made it through the first 2 pages before flipping to the back cover and frantically searching for a picture of the author. There’s no way a black person wrote this, I thought.
The dialect was supposed to be a black woman speaking African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) aka “Ebonics” except it was off. Way off. As I read, it was as if the narrator in my head was singing completely off-key. I kept stopping to ponder the dialect because it sounded exactly like when your white co-worker says “ain’t nobody got time for that” in their (always off) approximation of a “blaccent”.
I never got past Stockett’s equally horrible blaccent to read the rest of the book, but I’m certain that I didn’t miss anything other than stereotyping African-Americans. (Nope, I didn’t watch the movie either).
How does this vignette end? I have no idea, which is why it’s still in my meanderings folder. It seems to be a beginning to something that has nothing and, yet everything, to do with The Help.
Life is much like writing in this sense. Beginnings rarely have clearly defined ends — or middles, for that matter. I embarked on such an uncertain beginning exactly one year ago when I left my deeply hated old job, Crazylandia, packed up my stuff and headed West in search of something far better.
I’ve definitely found something better, though exactly what it is, I cannot say. My life has changed, not by degrees, but by entire revolutions and though I am grateful, I can’t seem to figure out the shape that my days are sketching.
I’ve spent much of the last year alone. At times, lonely. Thinking and writing and reading non-stop, grappling with the question that seems to define my life. Right now I spend three hours in Spanish class each day and then, a routine completely of my own making. I have the free time to read a book-a-day or workout, or whatever it is that I desire. Less this sound like a complaint, I enjoy this roaming — meandering even — freedom immensely. But there is a tiny part of me, no more than a fraction of an ounce, that wonders about the middle of this story, or even what happens on the next page.
This year of self-reflection and growth is like the slowest burning (though most relaxing) plot device to ever happen. Like being 365 pages into a book and still waiting on the action to start. The way that life tends to work, I am certain that I will look back on this anxiousness and laugh at myself one day in the future: ha. if only you had known what would come next. Except, I don’t have the gift of hindsight into this situation. At least not yet.
And so I follow the same path that I take when I can not get to the ending of my writing, I grab onto the steady rope of routine and I continue to walk. Each day I sit at my desk flooded by light from the old cotton factory windows, my muse Bob Dylan looking on at my side, and I write until the story resolves. One lonely word after the other until I can just make out the next sentence over the hedge –laying down one sentence after another to shore up the crumbly path that leads to the middle. I find both point and purpose to my writing, and in turn, my life, when I inhabit the daily rhythms of practice and custom.