“Mom, do you think in my life span we’ll ever meet an alien?” It’s early morning, the time when I write and then meditate, which probably brings to mind cream-colored honeycomb candles, a certain hushed peace. This is not always, or even often, or really ever, the case. I’ve got a dog curled solid on my lap, serving as a sort of lap desk except when he scratches and unfurls to go stand by the back door. Sometimes my youngest, Charlie, will tell me his dreams, complicated, imagistic narratives that can wend right through the wordless ideal peace of the morning.
“Mom? What’s an entestasia?”
“I don’t know. How do you spell it?”
“It’s just ent–eee, ess, and then asia.”
“Isn’t there a ‘t’?”
“I don’t know. Where did you hear it?”
“I just thought of it.”
The ideal is from Robert Olen Butler: write before you’re out of the dream state, before useful, functional language breaks the bubble of the magical, floaty word power you step out of bed wielding. In the early mornings, I read only poetry, and it slices into the dreamstate like pure meaning.
“Mom, this book is now officially mine.” My other kid, Leo, holds it up. He’s joined us now, on a couch across the room.
“No, it’s not,” Charlie enjoins. He’s beside me but facing backwards, looking out the window. “Leo, you’ve got to see these clouds. Leo, they’re fading. They look like clumping cheese puffs.” Leo does not respond. I return to writing. “Bandit,” Charlie says to the dog whose chin hairs he begins counting, “I will leave this house to you when I die.”
Leo is deep in the book that is now officially his. Charlie collapses kneeling against the couch, his hands holding Bandit’s paws. Quiet descends. I’m just taking dictation, a form of meditation, of showing up non-judgmentally in the present and watching it go by. I fill up three pages. Turns out I’ve done this for years. Have boxes of notebooks filled with my scrawl.
“Mom? My stomach hurts.”
Friends, do not wait for ideal conditions. Do not require peace or silence or external serenity.
“It helps your bones and your teeth.”
“Teeth are bones. You can just say bones.”
Do not wait for inspiration. Life is pouring over you, unstoppable. Take dictation. Surrender to it. Do not let your ideal become an obstacle or a precondition to your creative impulse. Write your way into the fray. Take your children or your dog or your notebook onto your lap, close your eyes, intone the harmonizing note of the universe: Ohmmmmm . . ..
It’s still your morning. There are still some words scored onto the page. This is what it means to be a writer. One way or another, you write.