Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Gratitudes

I feel the same way about leap day as I feel about the extra hour we get in the Fall if we live in places where we change the clocks.  I feel a mix of optimism and guilt.

Here's a whole extra day, not just an extra hour!  And I shall likely do what I do on any other day:  spend most of it at work.

But even with work to do, there will be spots of time that are more free than others.  I need to look at my submission notebook and get back on track there.  I can do that in the office.

I have some writing projects that pay actual money that are due soon.  I can start thinking about those today.

I want to write a poem tomorrow.  I'll start thinking about what I plan to write--that way, I'll have a better chance at actually writing tomorrow.

I tend not to write poetry or fiction in the office.  I tend to write only e-mails, reports, those kinds of things.  I used to gnash my teeth at the ways that my writing talents were wasted when I wrote e-mails and reports, but now I try to see those writing tasks as opportunities too.  Writing lyrical assessment reports--yes, that's me!

I don't have any special leap day traditions, no special foods, no music that I only listen to every 4 years, no traditions.  But continuing to make oases in my day where writing can sprout--that's a good way to celebrate not just leap day but every day.

As I write this post, I'm listening to Monday's episode of the Diane Rehm Show, an interview with Timothy Snyder.  He helped the historian and scholar Tony Judt write his last book Thinking the Twentieth Century.  Judt recently died of ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.  When the disease took away Judt's ability to write, Timothy offered a remarkable gift:  he would help Judt write a book.  They had a series of conversations and arguments, and then Snyder wrote.  He says it's a book in an Eastern Europe intellectual tradition, a culture which values rhetoric more than we do, and he cites some authors who have co-written books in just this way.

It's an interesting interview on all sorts of levels.  The writing process fascinates me in so many ways.  My brain thinks differently when I'm talking than when I'm writing--or does it?  The idea of fleshing out ideas verbally before writing is one that intrigues me.  The revision process also intrigues me:  the editing by e-mail, the reading of the chapters out loud.

I'm also fascinated by the friendship between the two men.  What an amazing gift, to do this writing for a friend who couldn't write anymore.

And the interview makes me feel gratitude on all sorts of levels.  I'm grateful that people are still doing this kind of intellectual work and that it's still being published.  I'm grateful that there are radio interviews that let me know about this work, so that even if I can't find time to tackle the work soon, my intellect feels alive in ways that it wouldn't if I didn't have these kind of interviews.

And I'm grateful for my own good health.  I may have many obstacles, but thankfully, none as serious as a disease like ALS.  And it's a cautionary tale, too.  We don't know how long we have.  Writers are luckier than some artists, like ballerinas, in that we're likely to be able to practice our art for many decades.  But eventually, our bodies will give out. 

So, yes, on this gift of an extra day, I'll think about my own writing, about what I hope that people will value when I'm gone.  I'll think about the work I would lose if I could no longer write.  I'll make some space to do the work.  I'll try to keep this infusion of gratitude glowing in me throughout the day.

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