I have been out of love with writing for awhile, for reasons which have partly to do with having been sick (that last episode of depression last winter was a killer, folks), partly having to do with the inevitable letdown of having finished a book, and partly having to do with....I dunno. Midlife crisis, I guess. It's been at least a year since I've really wanted to write anything but the briefest of dispatches; producing an essay I agreed to write for an upcoming anthology, The Maternal Is Political, to be edited by Shari MacDonald Strong, was like pulling teeth (and yes, Shari, I know I'll probably have to do a rewrite, so I'm not done yet). All writers get writer's block, but this wasn't writer's block, it was pure-D writing aversion. Which, in the great scheme of things, doesn't matter a damn; the world is full of people who can write, and even fuller of people who think they can write and, to paraphrase Abe Lincoln, my absence would be little noted nor long remembered.
I note this only because this morning, it came back. The joy, I mean. Which is really the only reason for creative endeavor of any kind. Smokin' sales numbers are nice, don't get me wrong, but ultimately the only reason for any creative endeavor is the joy you get from doing it, and if there is no joy in the doing (and yeah, sometimes anguish and hair-pulling too), it's called W-O-R-K, and if that's what you're doing there are usually lots of ways to get better pay. But if you create something and it's yours and you took pleasure in creating it, then it's worth it. Perhaps you have made the Sistine Chapel and perhaps you have made a lopsided clay pot, and I'm not saying the ultimate worth of these two things is equal or that either one will pay the rent. But in terms of nourishment they gave to the soul of their respective creators, they might well both be priceless.
Anyway, this morning I had to get in my study to prepare for a talk I'm doing next week at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and my 10-year-old was whistling, which she likes to do but which drives me nuts. So for the first time in a long time, I went through my CD stack and found some headphones and did what I used to do a lot, which is plug in some music to listen to while I am writing. By chance I happened to come upon my copy of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Variations on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" and so I hit "play."
Now, there is some history here. The only reason I know this piece of music is that when I was in high school, a cultured friend of my father's (my dad's own taste in music ran to the likes of "The Cowboy Isn't Speaking to His Horse") gave me instructions to look it up. My dad was taking us on a trip to London that year, and my dad's friend said, "Go to Harrod's, ask them for this recording and tell them you want to hear it in the listening room." Back then, and I'm not even going to tell you how long ago this was except that the Beatles had just broken up and we listened to music on big black vinyl things called "records," Harrod's had a special listening room where customers could sample their proposed purchase in big soft easy chairs equipped with huge, state-of-the-art headphones. (Yes, I know. They actually had salespeople, too, and they actually waited on customers!) Anyway, I did as instructed. This particular summer's day was gorgeous and sunny and warm; the windows in this room were on the second floor, open to the outdoors. Some slight street noise came in, but it was muted, and a light breeze occasionally lifted the curtains. So my first impression of this music is indelibly mixed with that sensual pleasure--the light, the feeling of the warm summer air on my skin, the wonder of being in a strange and exciting new place, combined with the lush violin score of a signature work of a very, very English composer. There is a violin solo in the middle of this work which one critic, and I wish I knew who so I could give proper credit, described as being like "the sound of the wind running underneath the house," and if you have ever been in a poor shanty of a house built up off the ground where the winter wind does indeed blow, maybe that description, not to mention the music which inspired it, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, too.
Anyway. I sat down this morning in front of the computer and plugged myself in and--KABOOM! It was back. I looked out my window over the grass in the back yard, and with that gorgeous music filling every space in my head thought with a kind of anticipation I have not felt in many months: I have several hours of writing ahead of me. And it was joy.