What do you write about on dark and stormy nights?
I was out with my boys tonight. We went for ice cream. It was the end of a long, rainy day. We sat out on the sidewalk in front of my usual café. The remnants of the rain pattering on the awning above, and I found myself in a mood to write something scandalous and beautiful. Something sordid yet irresistible…
This isn’t that something.
When I was much younger, I wanted to be a poet. I think, that like most young men who want to be poets I was drawn to poetry because it was “easier”. I could express deep feelings in abstract ways and be confident that my lack of precision was not only acceptable but artistic. And if not, I could just call people who deigned to question the value of my work Philistines and go on with my life.
Of course, as I got older, I learned that poetry was all about precision and that it only appeared to be abstract and vague to the untrained eye (unless it is bad poetry, and then all bets are off). We love fine verse because it seems to be free but in fact good poetry is a well-designed machine. This was something of a double shot to the heart since it became apparent I wasn’t much of a poet. I wasn’t really sure what sort of writer I happened to be but I knew I wasn’t a poet.
As writers, whatever sort we may be, these moods are the things that often drive us to our keyboards late at night. To be up and tap-tap-tapping when the rest of the house is asleep and the windows all reflect a glassy, onyx-coated version of our rooms is to connect with the deep silence of the world (except for the humming of the refrigerator). This is something we all seek to touch but rarely do we find the right words to express the feeling, just as I am failing here before you to do the same.
I think I should like to sleep tonight with the window open so that I might wake up with a chill in the middle of the night and perhaps listen to it rain as wriggle beneath the covers. Or maybe I will feel as if I need to have a pen in my hand and scribble notes I’ll never decipher. Bits of dream or manic belief (which are really almost the same thing). A sense of something just beyond my grasp that I might touch the coattails of if I just keep writing for just a little while longer.
I’ll never reach it of course, that whatever it is that floats about when you wake up in such a mood. This is that thing that drives us after all. If we caught those moments perfectly, why would we bother to keep writing? We’d simply scribble it down and be done with it. No, I don’t suppose it is something that is meant to be captured or understood. It is something we are forever meant to chase through the dark and stormy nights.