Appetizers | Joy of Writing
One sweltering summer in New York City, a writing mentor of mine impressed upon me the importance of pre-writing. I spent many afternoons across from her, swaying in her mother’s rocking chair as she stretched out on the sofa. I see her there now—left leg dangling down the side, right arm resting on the top like a watchful cat, a shawl lightly draped around her neck, and hair wild as migrating geese.
I always felt like I was in the presence of a wizard. I asked her many questions under the moon, eager to learn her wise ways with words. But she spoke with mystery. “I am like one of those Everest climbers,” she said, her hands floating into the air, as if directed by a magical melody that only she and Heaven could hear, “and at a certain point, if I’m not careful, I’ll lose cognition.” And her hands floated back down like a lively autumn leaf, while a smile rippled across her face. “Do you understand?” she asked. I didn’t.
But during the course of these conversations, she revealed at random ingredients she considered key to a healthy writing diet, many of which I have tested and tinkered with. And so, here are a few recipes for writing side-dishes, or ways to wet the appetite to write. I hope they help will you savor and flavor the thoughts that are simmering on the stovetop, especially in these cold and heartless winter days when the weather traps our energy inside Tupperware containers. We must harvest and enjoy these seasonal, organic thoughts.
Suggestions: 1. All servings sizes are individual, so adjust as necessary. 2. Allow every arising thought to come forth without fear or favor. 3. As in all courses, the thoughts must be fresh, crisp, and beautiful. Discard any thoughts that come from others. 4. There is no thought too small to write about.
In this delicate atmosphere, music rules. Be sure to have good music. The method of listening is inferior to the music that is playing. This will become particularly important on those days when melted snow has turned the street just outside your apartment into a raging river of shit-slush. Yes, deadbolt the door, lock yourself inside, put on that full album, and settle into this lovely little pre-ramble for an uninterrupted session of winter-proof writing.
2 Muji Moma Pens, 0.7mm, black
1 Muji Kraft Paper Envelope, 105x225mm
1 Pad of Muji Cotton Letter Paper, A5 5.8 x 8.3”
1 Pot of coffee, or 6 cans of beer (see, “Coffee or Beer?”)
1 Street address of a real person
1 Forever United States postal stamp
1 Symbolic object (see, “Can Anything be a Symbolic Object?”)
1 Full album (see “Playlists Don’t Count”)
1 Cell phone, on airplane mode, stuffed inside the desk drawer
0 Distracting friends
Place both pens on the desk. Lightly rip five to six sheets of cotton pulp from the pad, equal to the thickness of a corn tortilla. Place your symbolic object at the head of your desk, and scan the area for invoices, broken toothpicks, and to-do lists. Discard any discoveries quickly.
With the desk clean, select music for today’s session. The Pandora Station Top Hit’s and Songza’s Introspective Mood do not count as a full album. Neither do playlists. If you don’t have a full album, quickly download “Rubinstein Collection, Vol. 12: Beethoven: Piano Trio, Op. 97 “Archduke” – Schubert: Piano Trio No. 1, Op. 99.”
Once the music has settled over the room like a giant sheet of illuminated fog, settle back into your seat and address the letter to a friend who knows the majority of your deep storage (see “What is Deep Storage?”). Before starting the letter, imagine what they are doing, forgetting the last time you spoke to them. Then, begin telling them exactly what you are doing, or, the strangest thing that happened to you that morning. When you take your first breath and look up, you’ll see many thoughts waiting in line. In single file, work your way through each one, welcoming them all for showing up to today’s letter.
After you run out of paper or finished the full album, sign and seal the envelope, place it inside your coat pocket that is hanging by the door, and get to everything else you want to write in the world.
Brett Rawson is a writer and runner based in Brooklyn, New York. He is co-editor of The Seventh Wave and founder of Handwritten. His writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Narratively, Nowhere Magazine, and drDOCTOR.
feature image via The Inspired Office.