Feb 4, 2007

NEEDLEPOINT
SEATTLE, Washington – "A writer is someone who spends years patiently trying to discover the second being inside him and the world that makes him who he is," Orhan Pamuk wrote in My Father's Suitcase (New Yorker, January 1, 2007).

The first step is sitting down, he stresses.

Oh dear.

As an infant, I crawled until I crumpled into sleep. On and off were my speeds. And so I frog-hopped towards adulthood, alternating extreme industry and sloth.

Sitting had no place in the scheme. The static fold of knee and hip, the backwaters of blood I hated.

Now my body hacks into right angles, a Tetris piece misplaced. But my mind rebels: skittering from subject to subject until exhausted.

"Sit," Pamuk urges. "Turn inward... with patience, obstinacy and joy...

"The writer's secret is not inspiration – for it is never clear where that comes from – but stubbornness, endurance. The lovely Turkish expression 'to dig a well with a needle' seems to me to have been invented with writers in mind."

Coffee in hand, I peck at dirt and stone that stretch to the core.

I earn a living by these words – and through teaching others to dowse for water. After 13 years at the keyboard, I am no wiser at how to get there.

Sit down, shut up and listen?

Surely the formula couldn't be so simple – and yet so difficult?

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