After all, we were young. We were fourteen and fifteen, scornful of childhood, remote from the world of stern and ludicrous adults. We were bored, we were restless, we longed to be seized by any whim or passion and follow it to the farthest reaches of our natures. We wanted to live – to die – to burst into flame – to be transformed into angels or explosions. Only the mundane offended us, as if we secretly feared it was our destiny. By late afternoon our muscles ached, our eyelids grew heavy with obscure desires. And so we dreamed and did nothing, for what was there to do, played ping-pong and went to the beach, loafed in backyards, slept late into the morning – and always we craved adventures so extreme we could never imagine them. In the long dusks of summer we walked the suburban streets through scents of maple and cut grass, waiting for something to happen.
― Steven Millhauser, Dangerous Laughter
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
― Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House
I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.
―E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
Image: Rest at Harvest by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1865
Bringing a novel to light – revealing the form and cadence, shadows and demeanor of a protagonist constructed from thin air – linking scenes and synchronicity across translucent time – holding up a glass brimming with chilled, never-tasted liquid, then sipping from it with intoxicated focus – allowing lovers to make a perilous mess of things, fall apart and nakedly come back together again – looking through conjured windows deep into someone else’s snow-bound solitude, feeling utterly alone yet being all-connected: this is not writing. It’s world-creating.
It’s raw, exposed dreaming. It’s humbling. At first too personal and intimate to share, it evolves like a child into a life of its own until I have no say in what comes next.
It’s what I wake at 4am to say Yes to, the spinning possibility of a new story relentlessly commanding me to write it down so it can whirl in your experience.
“…what I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had
wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re
going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher
Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.
“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.
“It means just going along, listening to all the things
you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
“Oh!” said Pooh.
The blizzard seemed to be dying down, and it was now possible to enjoy the sight of the buildings and embankments and bridges smothered in the diamond-dusted whiteness. There’s always something soothing in the snow, thought Gabriel, a promise of happiness and absolution, of a new start on a clean sheet. Snow redesigned the streets with hints of another architecture, even more magnificent, more fanciful than it already was, all spires and pinnacles on pale palaces of pearl and opal. All that New Venice should have been reappeared through its partial disappearance. It was as if the city were dreaming about itself and crystallizing both that dream and the ethereal unreality of it. He wallowed in the impression, badly needing it right now, knowing it would not last as he hobbled nearer to his destination.