I came across this quote last summer in an Oprah magazine while I waited for a mammagram (routine, no problems), and it struck me that in my desire to be a writer, I have this need to capture moments in time, whether it’s a beautiful sunset, a revealing conversation, a character’s quirks, the endurance of love. The beautiful (and sometimes ugly) details of this world. I want to capture it all, sort through it, make sense of it while I’m still alive.
It’s similar to some people’s need to photograph their children (or themselves) obsessively, to capture the fleeting moments of childhood before they’re grown and gone, to tie down a memory forever in digital format. We don’t want to forget, we don’t want to let go.
I think Natalie Goldberg said that writers live twice. Once in the living, and again when they write it all down. Sometimes I think I’ll never be able to get it all down, that I’ll never be able to encompass or understand it all. But then I remember this quote, and the panic subsides. The world, in itself, its enough. Goldberg is a practicing Zen Buddhist. As a writer, she understands the need to capture it all. But she also knows how to let it all go.
That doesn’t mean that I can sit here and stare out at the window at the lovely cloud formations all day. I can watch them for awhile, dream in them, write about them, if I want. But then let them go, and get to work.