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Ringing affirmative. I'm a writer.

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by

Elissa Salamy

on 10 December 2014

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Transcript of Ringing affirmative. I'm a writer.

When I write with nearly any media, it’s out of
urgency.
In the middle of the night I awaken from a dream, a haiku on my fingertips. I wish I could kiss the poems into my pillow when sleep weighs too heavily on me to write them. I whisper them into the air and hope that they’ll still be there in the morning.
They never are.
I grab the closest media and medium: an errant magenta crayon and a grocery receipt to write down as much as I can before dreams pull me back. In the morning, I am struck by the childish whimsy of the crayon and the adult necessity of the grocery receipt and how they coincided for me to scribble down illegible thoughts at two in the morning.
Sitting in class later that day, pen in hand, poised to take notes on media ethics or The Tempest, I unconsciously split the paper in half:
left side for academia,
right side for doodles,
to-do lists,
revelations,
poetry.
The black ink flows in a continuous scribble of harried cursive, trying to keep up with the speed of my thoughts.
Alone on the train in the evening, I mimic the other passengers and sit with my phone in my hand, inches from my face. A steady stream of consciousness opens up in Comic Sans on the yellow lines of my Notes app.
I get the prompt.
On a piece of paper or in an email or on a website. And I do not read it. I glance at it. I understand when it is due and I understand that I should probably do it and I understand that there are words there that I should read. Eventually I do read them. Once. And then I put the paper away and open tumblr or watch netflix or discuss literature I read in high school. I wait until the day before it is due. I read the prompt again, and wonder “What is this even asking? There are so many words and it is such a vague and confusing question…what?” This is always a thought, without fail. I silently curse myself for not starting sooner or not reading the book as in-depth as I should have or not taking notes or not reading the book at all. I rip out a piece of paper and try to write an outline. Thesis? What is a thesis? I’m trying to prove something right? I’m trying to prove that I know more than what I actually do know, honestly. I know nothing. I don’t have a thesis. I don’t have a point to make. I continue writing the outline as if I have one anyway.
Introduction,
write a few short phrases in this box.
Body,
try to find a few good quotes that you think you might understand and kind of go together and you can pretend prove some sort of distant point that is slowly forming in your mind.
Don’t even bother outlining the conclusion, everyone knows it’s just a rephrasing of the introduction with a pretty little bow on it.
Open facebook. Open tumblr. Eat a snack. Organize a drawer. Stare at the blank page in Microsoft Word for a little while. Switch over to Notebook layout to see if that sparks anything. It doesn’t. Switch back. Type a word. Type two words. Type a sentence. Type a paragraph. Forget the exact word I’m trying to think of, it’s right there at the edge of my tongue, I know it… use a word that’s close but not quite and make a note to come back to it later. (Do not go back to it later.) Write another paragraph. Write five, or six, or twenty. Check the word count a few times. Single space, double space, and then back to single space again so I don’t get too cocky. Fall asleep. Wake up. Rearrange a few paragraphs and decide it is good enough, or it’s going to have to be. Do not format it. Save that for five minutes before class as I am running to the printer, laptop in hand.
Sitting around a large circular table in the back of my first grade classroom, I complained to a classmate about how absolutely boring the book we were reading was. I remember as a child sitting in front of the TV with my legs crossed, staring jealously at the kids reading in commercials for Hooked on Phonics. Reading sounded awesome. I wanted to read. I wanted to read...
Now.
I just found it so unbearably boring to learn how to do so. In the back of that classroom, slowly working through letters and sounds and graying pictures of toads and frogs, I was restless. I felt like the story was for babies, it was dull and lifeless and I hated it. I wish I could recall any plot or point to that book, but there was none. Frog and Toad are Friends, but they are not my friends. They are not my friends at all. I sat in my blue plastic chair and looked forward to a time when I could read real books, fun books, grown up books. I wanted something exciting, something more than slowly stuttering over kite flying and cleaning houses, my tongue tripping over the words and losing interest halfway through.
“I can no longer tell you whether Milton put the sun or the earth at the center of his universe in Paradise Lost, the central question of at least one century and a topic about which I wrote 10,000 words that summer,
but I can still recall the exact rancidity of the butter in the City of San Francisco’s dining car, and the way the tinted windows on the Greyhound bus cast the oil refineries around Carquinez Straits into a grayed and obscurely sinister light.”
Didion’s attention was always on the “periphery.” Likewise, I tend to focus on the periphery. Didion provides me with a nice way to explain why I can not remember important facts and details after a month. I can’t tell you what happens at the end of The Scarlet Letter, but I can tell you which way the wind was blowing on the beach as I was reading it.
Things like that, the rancid butter and dirty windows of the world, that is what sticks with me and what I focus on in my writing.
I spend a lot of time online, most of it blogging on tumblr, where I have access to amateur and professional poetry and prose. One of my favorite poems that I’ve ever found is called "I once dated a writer."
I once dated a writer, and
Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything.
They forget appointments and anniversaries,
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled,
on your first date…
They remember every story you’ve ever told them -
like ever,
but forget what you’ve just said.
They don’t remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don’t forget how
to make you laugh.

Writers are forgetful
because
they’re busy
remembering
the important things.
I think that Didion would agree with the author, that writers remember the important things, the periphery.
Joan Didion states in her article, "Why I Write,"
Who has time for academics when there is a whole world outside full of important things worth remembering?
Who has time for essays?
"What do you do anyway?"
"I'm a writer, I guess."
"You guess? You don't know?"
"Okay, positive statement. Ringing affirmative.
"I'm a writer."
-Breakfast at Tiffany's
ofheightsandhollows.tumblr.com
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