“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.”
– Anthony Doerr
I read an incredible book this week that I can’t get off my mind: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The story is thought-provoking and a little heart-wrenching – as all literary fiction seems to be – but it’s the writing that got me. It’s beautifully done, a true pleasure to read. I recently read Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which was clunky and awkwardly written (in my opinion, at least) but the story quickly sucked me in so that I stopped noticing the writing. Not so with All the Light We Cannot See. On nearly every page there were lines that made me stop and admire. Some continue to resonate even days later, like the one above. Before I even finished the digital copy I checked out from the library I ordered my own from Amazon. I literally cannot wait to hold it in my hands. Why?
Because it’s the kind of book that reminds me why I love to write. The creative ability of language is fascinating. Entire worlds that have never existed in anyone’s imagination become real. Feelings and emotions, thoughts and inward conversations, are stirred to life. We can live our lives in a type of darkness, never imagining what might be beyond it – never even caring, really. But then a story. And all of the sudden our eyes are opened to a world outside. Lives and histories are experienced by people who never lived them, all through a few arbitrary markings filling the blank space of a page.
The idea of it takes my breath.
Then today I awoke with a song in my head, “I Go to the Barn Because I like the” by Band of Horses. As far as songs go, this one is more like poetry than most. Something about the lyrics, combined with the simple melody and poignant harmony, has haunted me since I first heard it. It creates in me a true and powerful longing to write. Like the physical craving for a cigarette I used to feel way back when I was a smoker; I don’t just want to write, I need to write. I need to write beautiful lines filled with beautiful words used in new and different ways that, like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, will open the eyes of the blind.
I’ve been listening to the song on repeat today. The feeling is not going away.
The last poem I wrote was nearly 2 years ago. It was “Mess,” which I shared a few days ago, and it was inspired by this song. Within the few months leading up to that poem I wrote several – more than I had in years, including a five poem series unlike anything I’ve ever written before.
Since then? Nothing.
Which brings me to today’s confession: sometimes I wish I had an empty, soundproof room, furnished with nothing but a comfortable chair, a laptop sans wi-fi, and a hundred empty notebooks with attached pens. In that room would never be heard the refrains of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or the Sesame Street “Letter of the Day” song. There would be no teenagers talking about video games or about the philosophical implications of the Harry Potter series (though I confess I enjoy those conversations very much). In my dream I can spend a few hours in that room without feeling guilty for wanting to be there. While there no part of my life is neglected. All of my responsibilities wait patiently for my return. The time I spend in that room doesn’t pass like normal time, in seconds and minutes and hours squandered away by lack of inspiration and distraction. It is creative time – productive, redemptive time – that passes in lines and literary devices and healing. It refreshes my soul, loosens my muscles, and clears my head so that what lies outside it receives my full attention when I return.
A writer’s dream.
So now I truly, sincerely want to know: what’s in the room of your dreams? What do you do there? How do you feel when you’re inside?
No, really. I want to know.