Saturday, December 26, 2009

Writer's Block and the Pedestrian

This evening on the way home from our Christmas busyness, I heard a songwriter say that writer's block is a bourgeois luxury. He said if you have nothing to write about it's because you aren't paying attention. Every object in the world is singular and important and a worthy source of inspiration, he said. I'm pretty sure I'm mangling what he so eloquently said, but I took it as a reasonable challenge. The next object I looked at was one of those wordless yellow diamond signs, the one with a generic human being walking, that lets you know that pedestrians might be about. That guy is leaning into it, walking with purpose, maybe about to break into a run. And I realize I've been thinking about walking a lot in the past 24 hours.

This is mostly because of the Christmas Day ER trip we made last night, when my mom fell down on my sister's front walk after merely going out to the sidewalk to look the lit-up Christmas house. Walking outdoors is for my mom, beginning her 9th decade, a challenge, a risk, and although I obviously wouldn't want her to give it up, potentially life-threatening. I've been thinking about why it has become so, how to make it less so, what are the elements in walking that seem automatic but that have to be taken down and analyzed and fixed when they get broken. I want to figure out how to see her walk again with some of the boldness and dynamism that guy on the Pedestrian Xing sign displays.

Then there was the comment my son made when I (sounding pompous, surely) described a certain novelist's writing as "what critics might call 'pedestrian'". He wondered if that was fair to pedestrians. He's right. Pedestrians are good guys, responsible planet-savers, in touch with the air around them. Walking is good, at all times, except when the situation calls for running, or stopping still to listen or look. It is the opposite of what tired writing is. It is a huge piece of what makes humans human. I'm not going to use that term for lousy writing anymore.

I say it again: Walking is good. It is immense among our blessings, not to be taken for granted, an aid to thought, prayer, and friendship. And probably to writing.

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