Last night I had trouble sleeping, eventually rising to read, filling a glass of ice water before settling into the green striped wingback chair in my small second floor home office.
Taking a short break from novels and memoirs, I am working through some magazines that have accumulated in a pile behind the chair: Writers Digest, Photolife, American Poet, Tricycle Buddhist Review, and on the recommendation of a writing teacher, my most recent subscription, Poets and Writers. The March/April 2007 issue is the first that I have cracked open. About 1/3 of the way into the magazine I am being reminded how much more I need to read. The magazine provides in depth profiles of authors. On Page 52, a profile by Frank Bures on writer Tom Bissell quotes another author Philip Caputo: “anyone who wants to become a writer will not become a writer. The only people who become writers, are those who have to. You almost cannot do anything else”
While the sentiment in this quote is not completely original – what is important is how it resonated. In the 24 hours since I read that line, the question it raises has never been far from me. Do I need to write, or am I caught up in the perception of wanting to write?
Sitting an outdoor café this morning, I commented to a friend that I had not slept well the night before. She probed if there was something on my mind and I answered truthfully that I didn’t think that was it. I continued to say that perhaps it was just that I was supposed to be up at that hour. In the silence after midnight, beneath a single floor lamp, with only the muted bumps of the dogs shifting outside my closed door, I was meant to read those words, to be pushed by them to pick up the pen with a new level of intensity.
In Buddhism we speak of Karma, and the ripening of Karmic seeds. Karma is action, we are the result the choices we make. At the exact moment that I read that passage, there was a convergence of a receptive mind, the cocoon of a silent house, and an active need to make a commitment. Had I read the profile any other time, I am unsure if the quote would have challenged me?
In a similar way, the choice to go out this morning put me at that sidewalk café, at that little wobbly round table, still thinking about the quote. I wanted to ask my friend if there was something that she felt a deep seeded need to do. A segue to vocalizing my own answer.
Instead I enjoyed the silence as we finished our oatmeal dusted bagel, comfortable without the need to talk. All the while my internal monologue renewing a belief that it is not just our actions, but our thoughts as well that create our karma. Looking beyond our table, a young grill chef with a starched white apron placed pink carved slices of chicken and carefully formed beef patties onto a wire grill. Across from us an older man slid a paper grocery bag to the side of his table to make room for his newspaper. His care with the bag suggested anticipation of its contents. People with diverse agendas slid by, cars like pistons moved in and out of the their spaces, all here at this moment to bear witness to the unspoken energy of my commitment to keep writing.