We like to think of private experiences as “interior”, but we know this can’t be true. There is no location for the soul, or even the mind. While it may be true that lack of evidence doesn’t necessarily mean a thing doesn’t exist, I personally believe that calling private experiences part of the “inner” life, is just as outdated a metaphor as saying that there’s a place above us that we go to when we die.
But maybe we’re just looking in the wrong place. It’s possible, that somehow, in some way we can’t understand, that the workings of the mind all take place somewhere “outside”. I bring all this up because sometimes, while writing this book, it’s sure seemed this way. Like the ideas and characters that give form to my book are all features of some external landscape that I stumble upon, that I only discover when mind and body are in the exact right place at the exact right time.
This happened recently. What with moving and now holidays, I haven’t had as much time as I might like for working on the book. Let me be honest with you: this sucks, and is a whole level of stress I can’t even begin to describe… but probably will at some point in this very blog (if I haven’t already). Not having time to write becomes indistinguishable from not making time to write, and pretty soon I have a whole other class of self-attacking failure demons to contend with on top of all the usual types. But then last week, I was out having dinner with E somewhere, and a half-glimpsed sliver of a headline entered my brain and exploded into a fully fledged idea that unstuck me from where I am in the story. I didn’t know I was stuck. I was just sitting there, paying rapt attention (as always) to E, when some words caught my eye, and ker-blam, I was struck full force with the next idea I needed to take the chapter I’m working on to its conclusion.
Which made me wonder lots of things. Was I ever really stuck? Or is there some animal writerly part of my brain that made me stop and wait til I had this idea? Are we ever stuck? What would have happened if I’d just forged ahead and not had the time to have this accidental collision? What is the noetic landscape I navigate, and how much of ideas come from inside, and what does inside mean and what and who and
I feel like I’m wandering amid an invisible tumult, an undetected riot, and sometimes I’m jostled and knocked and I bump into something and my vision is arrested and shifted. And we call these collisions ideas, and we say they come from somewhere inside, but who knows. Maybe we are surrounded by an unseeable world that shapes our lives and stories. Or maybe we are ourselves the shadows, half-perceived instances, thinking we live and know and feel, until something else comes along, and we accidentally touch the real.