Last Saturday, I had one of those jittery, jumping, monkey-mind mornings—the kind that sometimes happen when the machine is on and the shiny buttons beckon. Click on tweets, click on Facebook, click on tweets, click on Facebook, click on email, click on news, click on email, back to news—and even though I felt myself sinking in the slough of despond, I just kept clicking away.
Granted, the despond was partly due to Powell’s City of Books in Portland, who’d rejected my offer to do a reading there. I wasn’t famous enough, they wouldn’t sell enough copies of my book to make it worth their while. But all that clicking also meant ignoring what feeds me: Art. Creativity. Writing. Engagement with the world of weather and people and city streets. So I wrenched myself away from the desk, stuffed Patti Smith’s Just Kids in my bag and bolted.
Virginia Woolf once left her house for a winter walk across London on the pretext of needing a pencil. Even before I shut my front door behind me, I remembered her errand, which I often repeat. I, too, need a pencil. Scotch tape. Tea bags. Paper. A new pair of shoes. But mostly what I need is the world and the chance, from inside the bubble of urban anonymity, to listen, watch, observe. I need to rub up against stories and think quiet thoughts. To let ideas rise up while my body moves through three-dimensional scenes—the kind you don’t need special glasses to see.
Patti Smith once left her parents’ house in New Jersey with a stolen copy of Rimbaud in her bag, and headed for New York. Knowing she needed to be there, she lived on the streets, slept in Central Park, went hungry, and then one day by accident, ran into another kid her age whose name was Robert Mapplethorpe. And the two of them—just kids—with no way of seeing who they would both become, devoted themselves to the only things that mattered: one another, and art. (more…)