Friday, January 4, 2008

If you're lucky, you're just taking dictation...

So I've been thinking a lot about something Henry Miller said and the other day I dug out the book Conversations With Henry Miller which is where I had read it and this is the passage:

"Who writes the great books? It isn't we who sign our names. What is an artist? He's a man who has antennae, who knows how to hook up to the currents which are in the atmosphere, in the cosmos; he merely has the facility for hooking on, as it were. Who is original? Everything that we are doing, everything that we think, exists already, and we are only intermediaries, that's all, who make use of what is in the air. Why do ideas, who do great scientific discoveries often occur in different parts of the world at the same time? The same is true of the elements that go to make up a poem or a great novel or any work of art. They are already in the air, they have not been given voice, that's all. They need the man, the interpreter, to bring them forth. "

I think that's why I was so interested in retelling fairy tales -- because they're stories that are so ingrained in our culture and our psyches, but I wanted to see what my take on them. Not because I'm so special, but because I thought it would be interesting to see what a soon-to-be 39-year-old woman who came of age under the shadow of the womens' liberation movement thought about all this stuff.

Anyway, enough Womens' Studies talk.

A few years ago, after finishing my first novel, I drove up to Big Sur and stopped at the Henry Miller Library which isn't really a library, but more of a...I don't know...a bookstore? Anyway, there was a guy working there named Ted Jauw and he had this fabulous story about having been married with kids and living in Michigan before everything fell apart and he left and ended up in Big Sur at Esalen with absolutely no money before he got a job at the Library. He also read tarot cards -- this beautiful old set of Mayan cards that were so worn you could barely see the pictures on them -- and I asked if he'd do a reading for me and he kindly said yes and told me to come back the next day because it was his day off. So the next morning I returned and we went to the little cabin where he lived which was next door to the Library and it turned out that it had been built for Anais Nin to stay in when she came to visit which was just too perfect because she's one of my idols. So I had this three-hour reading in this tiny little cabin and it was super bizarre and I still remember everything he said and remained shocked at the accuracy of it. The whole trip was full of these bizarre synchronicities that I like to think only happen in places like Big Sur -- or maybe they only happen when you're just so drained because you've just finished writing a novel.

That's the thing -- my experience has been that once you tire yourself out and stop trying to manage and control every situation, you clear the space for all sorts of happy accidents to occur. I guess some people call it grace. I don't know what I call it, but I know that it's rare and special and they're all moments to be cherished.

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