I had an idea a few days ago. Well, it wasn’t my idea it wasn’t my idea — it was something someone said. Doesn’t it always work that way for writers? We have had many conversations. In contrast, it is true that some writers are very quiet, in their own heads. The words come from signs, little looks across the room of the Amtrak. Ideas can come from thoughts but lately, it’s been about the things people say. Here are examples of some notes I’ve taken:
- Intellectual Anti Crus
- 8-12 hour absorption
- Baltimore Sets Me Free
- John Gregory Dunne
- A Free Agent of My Love (which should probably be the next entry of Braving the Days, who knows?)
- Ricochet of the Raindrops
Ricochet was different though. The others were saved digitally but ricochet? No. I wrote it down on a piece of paper and kept it in my shirt pockets for two days (I wear a lot of men’s shirts with front breast pockets these days), maybe three. I kept forgetting the piece of paper until I didn’t. I would feel something grazing my nipple and I would think “What the hell is this?” Then, I would dig out the piece of paper, read it, then return it to my pocket. I did this until it was burned into my memory. So, when a writer friend of mine and I sat down to trade ideas…something sparked.
She’d been working on an essay about quilting and had been laboring for days. I guess I had been laboring a little bit. The digging took some effort because I’m not a vain person. I don’t put things in my pockets. I’m moving away from trinkets (slowly), so to keep this piece of paper on my person for so long…it was a form of work. When she looked at me, waiting for my idea I blurted out “I’m going to write an essay called Ricochet of the Raindrops.”
If I can be very frank, it was only meant for you, the readers of TERSE.. I had decided this the day before, and I’ve been thinking about how I’ve become a very concise writer. That was labor too. I have a mentor who has whittled me down to an 800-word writer when I used to be a 3,000-word writer, announcing, meandering, pronouncing, explaining, just going on…which is fine. There are realms for this but one of my mentors slowly pushed me into an essay writer, a refined article writer.
When I boldly pronounced that both our essays, which we decided would become a duel novelette, should be 7 pages long, I thought to myself that I was a masochist. Always challenging myself.
You know, it’s never enough.
Nonetheless, I have digressed.
Ricochet was special. It was a note and it would say by a man I admired…a man with whom I had previously been intimate (there are many forms of intimacy so don’t assume, but also let your imagination run wild). I don’t know if he’s a muse yet, if ever, but it wasn’t just about who it came from, it was how I had committed to that note, and now I think in retrospect, the fact that he won’t commit to me. The irony.
Now paranoia is setting in. People can come back to this piece and align dates and times and my divorce certificate. I’m a nice woman. It is of no consequence, but it’s never enough, you know?
It’s just never enough.
Charities, volunteering, cooking for 10 people, treating myself to trips to other countries and all I can think about its a silly little note I wrote myself.
Maybe that was enough and I’m just thinking too much and too hard.
No, it’s never enough.
I’ll give more when I’m ready.
Jordannah Elizabeth’s writing, lectures and commentary has been featured in Hearst Magazines,on BBC 2, REELZ Channel, CBC syndicated radio, WYPR, Harvard University, Pratt Institute, Maryland Institute College of Art and Baltimore Book Festival. Jordannah’s writing has been featured in NPR Music, Village Voice, LA Weekly, MTV World, O Magazine, Cosmopolitan, DownBeat Magazine and other publications. She has been a regular entertainment journalist for New York Amsterdam News since 2013 and is the founder of the literary organization Publik / Private.