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Standing in Thunderstorms 09/13/2009

Posted by jamie-m in Uncategorized.

Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work. -Mark Twain

I woke at 4:20am this morning to a deep, rumbling sound followed by large flashes of light. To emphasize how long it’s been since it has stormed in the North Bay, here is a chronological list of my thoughts as I work up:

1. Was that a gunshot? 2. Is that a bomb exploding? 3. Are meteors crashing into the earth’s surface? 4. The Apocalypse? 5. Oh, there’s rain. Lightning.

I’m not afraid to admit that I over think things. My family would probably call that an understament. I can be downright anxious about anything I’m not familiar with until I am forced to face it directly. This includes the way lightning still makes my knees weak, or how right before midterms my eyes burn constantly as if I’m chopping onions. When I get stuck while I’m writing, an endless spool of analytical thought spins through my mind- who is going to read this? What are they comparing it to? Why is this important? Who cares? What am I even trying to say? Self-torture is the lifestyle of the artist, right?

Aside from the Twain quote above, I also read that “a good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen or two dozen times and he is great” (Randall Jarrell). I guess in order to be struck by lightning, (in a writer’s case, to finally grasp that magical combination of words that says exactly what you mean to say),  one has to risk something of themself, to stand outside arms outstretched and prepare for the worse. It is that strike that propels the rest of the narrative, or as Twain puts it, “does the work.” I didn’t realize when I decided I wanted to write how much guts it takes. How it takes my anxiety to a whole new level; the mixture of fear and passion and excitement.

One of my professors decided to introduce a new activity to my class on Thursday. He told to get out a piece of paper, and without telling us where this would go or who would see it, asked us to anonymously write down something we were embarrassed about.  He collected the papers and read them aloud to us. At the end of the laughter and mumbled sounds of empathy, we felt a new sense of humanity with each other that I’m sure will extend through the semester. It was exactly what we needed in a writing class. It such a simple thing to realize that to have success as a writer, personally or beyond, it begins with honesty.



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