When and where, after such forays, did I or could I write? Time meant nothing to me. I might be in the middle of some flu epidemic, the phone ringing day and night, madly, not a moment free. that made no difference. If the fit was on me–if something Stieglitz or Kenneth had said was burning inside me, having bred there overnight demanding outlet–I would be like a woman at term; no matter what else was up, that demand had to be met.
Five minutes, ten minutes, can always be found. I had my typewriter in my office desk. All I needed to do was to pull up the leaf to which it was fastened and I was ready to go. I worked at top speed. If a patient came in at the door while I was in the middle of a sentence, bang would go the machine—I was a physician. When the patient left, up would come the machine. My head developed a technique: something growing inside me demanded reaping. It had to be attended to. Finally, after eleven at night, when the last patient had been put to bed, I could always find the time to bang out ten or twelve pages. In fact, I couldn’t rest until I had freed my mind from the obsessions which had been tormenting me all day. Cleansed of that torment, having scribbled, I could rest.
William Carlos Willians, The Autobiography
As I record these thoughts during the midnight hour, I finally get down to something that has been on my mind since I awoke at 6:00 this morning. Only now have I had this moment at the computer. High school and college both needed many hours of attention from me today, as did an upcoming art festival. Having finished working on my inventory only a few moments ago, I nevertheless needed to address this strong connection I feel with William Carlos Williams and his compulsion to write even though he remained a very busy physician during all those years he wrote his poetry. He did his professional duty, yet he lived to write.
Last night I faced some serious deadlines and had to complete stacks of grading while I volunteered my time at the Trinity Arts Guild gallery. With only ten minutes to spare, I scratched out the erased charcoal rendering of the lantern above. I managed to find a spotlight on the premises, turned out all the house lights, and spent ten minutes focusing on part of the old lantern I had placed on the table before me. Today, as I moved through classes, completed educational chores and spent time on two campuses, all I could think of was this recent charcoal erasure experience and where it could lead, when only I could stop long enough to play with it.
Throughout my life, like William Carlos Williams, I have not known leisure, really. I have always worked more than one job, or worked a job while pursuing a degree in college and later graduate school. Even now, in my later years, I find myself continually on the move, continually meeting deadlines, yet what matters most are those sacred stolen moments for creating ideas, scribbling words on paper, or making a work of art. And those are indeed sacred moments, the real spice of my life. Though I now feel exhausted to the bone, I cannot look back on this busy day with negativity. In my mind I remained free to think on what I wanted to think, and I cannot wait until the moment when I can pick up the charcoal and experiment further. That time will come, and I will be ready.
Thank you, Dr. Williams, for writing a splendid autobiography, and encouraging one such as I to believe.
And thanks all of you for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.