At the end of the talk he took some questions from the audience, and when the conversation invariably wound around to the dreaded “writers block,” Collins replied that writers block was simply an excuse to do other things. (loved that) Writers block was bunk, he said ... a writer writes.
“But where do you get your ideas?” the audience member asked.
“I don't have ideas,” he offered. “The theory of relativity is an idea. I have notions ... opinions. I don't have ideas.” He said he simply explored notions and waited to see where they took him. Sometimes the exploration resulted in a poem, sometimes just a phrase he liked that that he might use down the road ... or another notion to follow. Sometimes the effort was only about the exercise.
This was probably the best encapsulation of what I've been saying for about the process of writing for years. You don't need to know where you're going before you start; you just need to follow a thought and see where it takes you. (... somehow it carries more weight when billy collins says it than when it comes from me ... )
Yesterday I did a workshop about developing a writing practice at a women's festival here in Joisey; I've offered workshops there for the last couple of years and it's always a delightful day. I got to visit with some old buds (got to hang a bit with maria who had a table of her beauteous jewelry in the craft marketplace), see some great performers, and share my "writing evangelism" with a bunch of receptive women. I mentioned the notion about notions in my workshop, and it was energizing how it seemd to lighten up/liberate many of the women in the room who had claimed they'd been so hung up about about "getting it right" that they didn't write at all, even though they longed to.
When I was driving home I was both energized and exhausted by the day (those sort of events always do that to me), and I wasn't looking forward to coming home to pack. (but i knew i had to, since moving day is less than a week away) With this growing desire to put down some deeper roots and seeing how my life is not reflecting that, I thought about the concept of following a train without attachment to outcome in relation to my life beyond writing. Have I been following notions without an eye on a long term idea (goal) lately? Have things just twisted and turned so much in the last few years that I've been in reactive mode? For someone who makes an effort to live deliberately and intentionally, how have I created this life that seems to be so damn fluid? Do I need to stop following the notions so much? Should I focus more on an idea/ideas? (and then if so, which ones?) (hello? it's that damn infinity again.) At the same time I wonder how I balance this growing desire for stability with my exuberance for new horizons and that natural tendency to listen to/trust my intuition?
And I KNOW I'm avoiding packing.
And then, related, but not: