The Writer’s Life: Some Thoughts About the Present Moment
This week life has invaded my writing. Too much happening, most of it good. As a writer, I am frequently torn between experiencing what is actually going on in my life and interrupting the experience to whip out my notebooks and write it all down.
On a recent overseas trip, one of my travel mates, who had observed my proclivity for note taking, asked somewhat facetiously, “Do you take notes after sex?”
“Sometimes during,” I responded with a smirk, but then realized to my own dismay that even in the most intimate moments, a part of my mind IS TAKING NOTES. Does this mean that I am often not present in my own life?
Can this be a good thing?
Most spiritual practices are aimed at bringing the mind into the present moment, and certainly actually living your life moment to moment is a worthy goal. My question to myself is since I am a writer do I get special privileges? Can I do and watch myself do at the same time, and somehow be present? Maybe it is that I am doubly present and living both moments simultaneously, which defies the basic concept of a “present”.
Albert Einstein opined, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” But what if there are things happening all the time in multiple universes and the concept of “time” is completely inaccurate? How can we strive to be present if the present doesn’t actually exist, but rather is a multiplicity?
So, If you are writing about what is going on in the so-called present, isn’t it over by the time you formulate the words to describe it?
Questions like this keep me awake at night. The answer, I think, is that it is possible to be experiencing the present, and in some way to be recording and commenting simultaneously. I imagine that I am like a court reporter, transcribing someone’s testimony as they give it, but of course, I can’t stop the proceedings when I can’t understand something.
And perhaps that’s why we rewrite – to make sense of that which was not clearly understood.
But, I digress. I am angry with myself for not getting more work done, but on the other hand, my life required my attention. I gave a seminar at SVA to the graduating class of screenwriters, dealt with taxes, repaired part of the electrical wiring in my home, worked with private students, danced and had romantic company for the weekend. And was I taking notes? Of course, I always take notes.
The more important question was: why was I choosing to take notes at intimately intrapersonal moments. Why separate myself from a delicious reality to make sure I would later remember some specific detail or memory? I had to ask myself whether or not I using note taking to avoid being too present? Again, I had to admit that this was true. So while I wasn’t writing my new book, I was writing – but using it to avoid the present moment by paradoxically writing about that same moment. So if I was taking notes to avoid the present moment, and writing about writing as an avoidance tactic, how many miles away was I from that actual present of being with someone really nice whose main desire is for your complete attention?
More importantly, why would anyone shy away from this kind of delightful interaction? Those moments that songs are written about?
The attempt to answer that question is probably what is at the core of most of my writing. If life is unpleasant, thinking of other things and imagining you are somewhere else makes sense, but why avoid the present moment when it is delightful?
Why avoid working on my new book? For better or worse, I put life first, and the writing second. But not truly second since I was constantly taking notes.
The questions I will leave you with, which I have not answered to my own satisfaction are:
- Does all of this note taking “count” as writing?
- Does an empirical understanding of time even matter?
- Why do we avoid experiencing life fully?
Professor Marilyn Horowitz
Copyright (c) 2015 by Marilyn Horowitz. All rights reserved.