Monday, April 20, 2009

Working Very Hard Not Writing

N. C. Wyeth: illustration for Rip Van WinkleImage by freeparking via Flickr

By which I mean writing in the head and not writing down.

Writing down is dangerous since who can resist the temptation to share the well-shaped sentence? Indeed, my succumbing to the temptation to share is responsible for this recent spate of "not writing."

Those for whom this blog is a sea anchor, a last hope of salvation -- a toothskin of hope, as it were -- when the storm of life is fierce and a safe port is far away will recall my post last week about being asked none too gently to quit forwarding emails to a certain person. I suppose the forwarding of non-essential emails (or that most elusive category, the *possibly useful* email) is a little bit like a dog raising its head for a nice ear scratch.

Sometimes you are ignored. Sometimes you get a kick.

Some people -- powerful people; purpose-driven people, whose lives are hectic with accomplishments -- don't like distant acquaintances forwarding them emails that are not of fierce and specific relevance to their lives *right that moment.* But it had never occurred to me that anyone of my acquaintance was that powerful, important and/or purpose-driven! I thought they were more in my category: plugging away: doing one's best, often ineffectually; always having time to stop and smell the flowers, possibly even to go to sleep among the flowers.

(But then you might wake up 20 years later, unmoored and adrift in time. There is a deep capitalistic truth in "Rip Van Winkle.")

Anyway, I have never asked anyone to stop sending me emails. (I am a great scratcher of the ears of companion animals, some of whom shrink from me.) Some forwarded emails I just ignore and then later on, using the "from" function on Outlook, I will take on a dozen at a time, glancing at some, discarding others without a look. (But those from my Sissy I dearly love. You keep them coming, dearest sister.)

I concede that I *do* rely on correspondents to use the "subject" line purposefully, so that emails, forwarded or otherwise, are not neglected beyond their shelf life. A student became quite distraught a couple of weeks ago when I kept ignoring his emails with "Hi, Dr. Robertson" in the subject line. No clarity and thus no urgency, little buckaroo.

Back to my point. I've gotten several "directive" emails of one kind or another in recent weeks, instructing me to quit sending emails or, almost schoolmarmishly, announcing some righteous action touching on some mistake I have committed. But none of these emails included the phrase, "asking for your thoughts."

These emails have not necessarily brightened my day. So I ignore them and write something in my head, starting it on the right side of my brain and then forwarding it to my left. And then I let it fall into the dead letter box of short-term memory (wherever that is located).

And then I guess the rats eat it or something. Because when I come looking for it a day later, I can recover neither the emotion nor the language. The world may thus be deprived of some wit and wisdom, but the world must grit its teeth and bear up.
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Peter Moore said...

The guy's still a dick

....J.Michael Robertson said...

What's the line from that BBC political serial from some years ago where whenever someone makes a barbed comment, the prime minister says:

You might well say that, but I couldn't possibly comment

Peter Moore said...

A house of cards indeed

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Ah the joys of having a cultivated reader. What's on your I-Pod?

Peter Moore said...

Not an Ipod per se, but an IPhone, so same difference.
Billy Bragg
Patti Smith
Talking Heads
Richard Thompson
Ricki Lee Jones
whole bunch of stuff actually

....J.Michael Robertson said...

At least I recognize the names, though when it comes to the notes...