Catherine Drinker Bowen: Writers Doing It Right #3

Because the only thing I like better than successfully developing a series of blog posts is to start a theme and then abandon it, I’ve decided to start a Writers Doing it Right series. Part #1 is here, Part 2 is here

Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.

Catherine Drinker Bowen courtesy of Advice to Writers

I totally identify with this dash of brilliance. Growing up and into adulthood I experienced the world from an arm’s length away. I rehearsed things in my head before I said them. Immediately after something happened, I’d mentally capsulize it into words so I could write it down. These days it is difficult to refrain from skipping past having a full experience in favor of immediately analyzing it for posterity. Or for the internet. Whichevs.

The Aged P is better about this than I am when it comes to the arts (sometimes). When we see a really good opera, play, show or movie, he wants to let it linger, sink all the way in, and then doesn’t want to disturb it for a while by layering another experience on top of it, or by revisiting it with the soundtrack.

Not only do I want to cram multiple experiences in on top of eachother, I want to keep them alive as long as possible by immersing myself in the soundtrack, or rewatching the movie over and over, or rushing out to buy the DVD of a particularly memorable show as soon as it’s available so I can play it again and put myself there instead of wherever I’m at.

So the challenge for me, I guess, is to make sure my double living doesn’t rob me of the current moment while it squirrels away material for future moments.

It’s funny this week’s author’s original last name was “Drinker” because when I was drinking? Life seemed very far away indeed – everything seemed like it was happening to someone else, like I was on the fringes of participation that came so easily to everyone else but felt to me like pulling my fingernails.

4 years later and sober, I am lucky enough to have whole days where I am present. A thought occurs to me and I articulate it almost immediately, with only a passing internal nod of approval – a quick “That’s not gibberish! Carry on!”

When I was drinking, my double life meant I was living entirely in the mirrors before and behind myself – always watching in fear and anxiety that I was about to say or do something horribly stupid and everyone would hate me.

Now I get to live in reality and write to add a little perspective after the fact. I’m driving a car with rearview mirrors instead of lost in a funhouse.

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4 Responses to Catherine Drinker Bowen: Writers Doing It Right #3

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Mistakes: Writers Doing It Right #4 | MKP-Hearts-NYC, Brooklyn Edition

  2. Pingback: Writers Doing It Right #5 – The Write Site Edition | MKP-Hearts-NYC, Brooklyn Edition

  3. Pingback: Writers Doing It Right #6: Ursula K. Le Guin | MKP-Hearts-NYC, Brooklyn Edition

  4. Pingback: Writers Doing It Right #7: Alex Kava and Maggie O’Dell | MKP-Hearts-NYC, Brooklyn Edition

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