I am at a thing. It is not my thing, it is someone else’s thing.
Poets are there. People I love, people I trust. It is a good evening.
There is small talk (not our strong suit), then one asks me ‘Are you writing?’ I demur. I know this has been coming, yet I am floundering. I make a joke about the wine. Then I say what I always say (and immediately wish I hadn’t): ‘I think so, yes.’
I go into a riff about ‘finding’ my folder of poems and ‘discovering’ that poems have ‘appeared there’. ‘So it seems I have been,’ I say. I smile, weakly.
A few days later, I am at another thing. There are people there who I love and trust. Normal people.
Someone I have not seen in a long time comes up to me. ‘Are you still writing?’ she says. I demur. I know this has been coming, yet I flounder. I make a joke about the weather. ‘Yes I am,’ I say.
Later I meditate on the warmth of my friends’ questioning, their genuine care and concern. I think about the assumptions underpinning their queries. The poet’s assumes that I am in a state of wanting to be writing, that is matters to me, that it is the main thing. The friend’s question assumes that other factors may have come into the picture. They like that I write (they may even want me to write), but they also know that people sometimes stop doing what they love, or give up. For this reason I say to them ‘I will write until I die.’ Then we talk about something else.
The truth is, there is no honest answer to either of my friend’s questions. There is no ‘I am writing’. There is only ‘I want to be writing’ or ‘I have written’. The writing is so private, so unspeakable, it is like a dream. I have no memory of doing it, ever. Perhaps the place I was in, or the time of year, but never the actual thing, the act of it. This is why I tell the story of ‘discovering’ some poems: the evidence backs me up. They are a surprise (why else do them?) when they come and they are a surprise months later when I decide to kill them or do something with them.
In between I have no idea what happens. The process. We call it writing. I am not doing any. If I were I wouldn’t tell you.