Fashion magazines’ September issues always boast a heft and level of coverage unparalleled through the rest of the year: twice the number of $3,000 handbags, three times the runway spreads featuring clothes (or an approximation of clothing) real people don’t actually wear, list after list of the year’s best hair, eye, neck, elbow, knee and big toe serums. This density probably has something to do with seasonal fashion, introducing new designers from Big Shows and cold-weather couture. But just maybe it has something to do with our universal craving for knowledge in September, instilled from kindergarten on and brought on by the first touch of chill in August night air. I unconsciously begin buying books in August, conditioned like a bear prepping for hibernation to seek literature to get through winter months.
Yesterday, Stephen King’s On Writing arrived in the mail, smelling absolutely delicious in that way books have and absolutely dripping with inspiration from a patron saint of wordsmiths. Also new to my shelf, Bird by Bird, another writing guide from Anne Lamott, and the unapproachable David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (if King is a saint, DFW is higher yet — some kind of holy and damned archangel of this writing hobby/obsession).
So I’ve been gorging myself on inspiration before a long Iowa winter (see also: Liz Gilbert’s TED talk on creativity), and the method is producing typically mixed results. Writing for me, and I assume for most people, is: mania, desperation, apathy, fever, dance, headache, flight, distraction, melancholy, work. In Gilbert’s talk, she describes the hunt for genius as catching hold of passing ideas by the tail and pulling them, inch by inch, back into your mind and onto a page. It’s the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night, never knowing when the metaphorical field of fireflies — bright, random thoughts and associations fluttering around my brain — will coalesce, caught together in a jar and burning so bright I’m forced out of bed and half-dreams to the nearest keyboard or scrap of paper to record whatever it is I’ve managed to capture. It’s sometimes a story or vignette, more often a simple paragraph or amputated sentence begging for context. Writing is the worst kind of tease that way, and so inconvenient and so unavoidable.
And it’s not even like I’m great at forcing myself to sit down and write everyday, which every writer worth the ink she’s printed on will tell you to do. And it’s not even like the writing I manage has resonance — much less coherence. But it’s something, and it’s almost September, so I’m approaching the gargantuan task again and wondering where it will take me. All those fashion magazines took me to a dark-brown vegan leather jacket purchase.
Saint Stephen King, Pray for us. Amen.