A writer can’t be too negative. You have to have a little bit of innocence to be a good writer. Whatever you have to do to preserve that innocence-the “is that so?” element—you should do it. You can’t be someone who knows everything-“been there, done that.” If you know every thing you shouldn’t be a writer. You should be God.
– James McBride.
My day job is in IT. When I’m there, I have to have the opposite mindset. The job is generally about fixing. Like a plumber has to know how all the pipes work and how the toilet works and how his tools work, I have to know how the servers work and how the thin clients work and any number of other systems that people in the organization I work for may use during the course of a day. Or I have to know how to find out how things work. My coworkers come to my desk or call me needing help and I have to know how to.
It’s an ironic position to be in, in a world where most information is a few clicks or taps away. But still, it’s not a place for the sort of exploration I do in my non-work hours.
That’s been my writing life — being often in two mindsets.
I love exploring, discovering. As much as I’ve often enjoyed knowing, being right or accurate about things, arguing points, etc., discovering and learning are much more satisfying. It’s why I love the classic essay so much — meandering, running, ambling, getting to understanding (the lyric essay even more). Not just having the quick-witted comeback for the moment.
That latter sense manifests itself in my writing as a desire to write exactly what I think people would want to read. In being frustrated when I don’t know exactly what I want to say, or perhaps, what I should say. But when I ask myself what I truly think about a thing or an event or what does a thing or an event remind me of and still give myself the space to say at first that I don’t know and go from there (and be okay with not immediately finding a destination), things usually flow better.
When I get home from work, the issue is turning off the mind that has to know in favor of the mind that wants to find out. Sometimes … perhaps often, it’s a struggle, but I’m learning and keeping my hands moving as much as I can.