Who am I?
I wrote those words last night before bed after seeing an e-mail from Booksurge, or whatever it’s now called. There was nothing unusual about it as the messages come on an annoyingly regular basis, once or twice a week without fail, but something about it struck a nerve that’s been throbbing ever since.
I am no longer an author, I thought. I can barely write a column and often don’t. I can barely scratch through a half-hearted entry in my diary.
Once I was incapable of going a morning without writing something. Anything, it didn’t matter. My life, the dreams that had kept me on edge, checklists, the weather. That drive, that irresistible force, has apparently abandoned me. I am now like the old homes and barns I photograph: empty husks staring hollowly out at the world through broken windows.
“For the last two weeks I have written scarcely anything,” Katherine Mansfield wrote in her diary on Nov. 13, 1921. “I have been idle. I have failed.”
Failed is a good word. A good description for what happens when a writer no longer heeds the call or, in my case, has no call to heed.
Several days ago I wrote a short 414-word entry in my own diary. At the end I added one final phrase to summarize everything that happened before and continues to happen unabated: “What was once so simple has become dreadfully difficult.”
I can write, I am planning a trip to the West, but it’s merely an excuse, coupled with a host of other demands that seem to have flourished in the past month, demands I called upon myself, exigencies of the paying kind which are after all a validation.
Or, as I did a few days ago, I can write, “The orioles have returned.” Though inevitably the sentence remains unfulfilled, awaiting something else, a denouement, justification, explanation. And it does not come, remaining merely a string of useless words. An accusation.
The silence announces itself with a cavernous yawn.
However, it’s true: I am going away for a while. A week, no more, Perhaps it will be enough.
The thought of just staring out the window of a moving vehicle after crossing the Hundredth Meridian, of walking through cliff palaces and box canyons, might well be enough to flood me with sensations and memories that demand enumeration. I hope so.
Until then, it might be quiet around here. I will not forget you. Please, do not forget me.