It’s not like I’ve been idle. Quite the opposite really. I’ve been taking a drawing class this summer.
It is my first studio art class and I am very unnerved every time I have to turn my easel around for the dreaded class critique.
Oh yes. I am so expressive.
There I go again, expressing my damn self all over the place.
Lately I have been sitting at my piano for hours expressing myself by playing chord progressions with my left had and trying out different notes with my right. I have an attraction to diminished and other unresolved chords and recently I’ve become bold enough to add 9ths and even 11ths. And while my left hand repeats the chord patterns, my right hand experiments, switching keys, going minor and exploring melodic possibilities.
I can do this for days until I find myself repeating the same combination of notes and rhythms each time I sit down to play, and a true melody emerges. It is then I know that a new song song has found me.
I have written five songs in the past four months, more than I have written in my entire life until this point. Real ones too with key signatures and melodies and bridges and refrains and some of them even have words.
I am always groping.
There is always a space between what I am expressing in charcoal, or notes or words and what I envision.
My grasp has always been exceeded by my reach.
Except in my writing.
It’s not that there aren’t spaces between what I envision and what becomes manifest. But unlike music and drawing, where I am a novice, I have spent my entire adult life honing the skills that I need to be my best expressive self in writing.
Still, at home, I wander from easel to piano - anywhere but my desk.
What is it that I am afraid of? What spaces do I fear to enter?
Last week, I read Neil Gaimon’s new novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and from the moment I finished the prologue, I knew.
I want to write like that.
I want to go where Neil Gaimon goes – to the land of dreams in the fantastical world of childhood, where there is no line between what adults call real and children call magic.
I want to go to that place where time is a fabric that can be cut and stitched and stretched and wrapped around stories, with characters that live forever in lands that are populated with dragons who sing arias and monsters who knit sweaters and kings who decree that all children in their kingdoms must learn to fly.
I want to go inside the pink bedrooms of teen-age girls who wake one morning to find that feathers have erupted from bloody slits that appeared in their shoulder blades overnight and I want to stay there and bear witness to the moment they first take flight.
I want to stand outside the stone cottage of a lonely old woman whose house is enveloped by honeysuckle and strangled by ivy and listen to the children tell each other tales of how she is a witch who ate her children over two hundred years ago when they were small and how she is doomed to live out their lifespans, the ones she swallowed, the ones she devoured.
I want to be among those children as they dare each other to knock on her door on a warm still summer night and I want to see her gnarled hand reach out from behind the crack in the door and yank a boy who seconds ago was filled with bravado as he danced on the witch’s doorstep, but whose eyes now pop in terror as he vanishes inside the house.
I want to come back to Shayna Mandel, Tiger Mendlebaum and Bobby “Oh Say Can You See?” Olansky and walk with them to that liminal space between childhood and the end of innocence; between consensus reality and the shimmering world of their own dreams, between the conscious and the unconscious.
Between faith and fear.
I want to enter those spaces and when I write, I want to share with others what I have found there.