Thursday, July 13, 2006

make it world

Once in San Francisco, on my way to Nervous Dog, I passed the elementary school and saw all the children were coloring on the walls. Teachers milled around. It was supervised. It was early afternoon. And there they were with pastels and pastel palms and arms and cheeks, drawing flowers and trees and hummingbirds and dogs on the outside of their school, kids coated in chalk.

What today. The laptop stares back and blinks and overheats.

Writing a novel was like watching marathon episodes of a favorite television show—I couldn’t turn away. The world folded back; I fell off the edge. Forgot dinner. Forgot it was snowing.

You are the purest kind of artist, my friend Brad, who is an actual artist, said once. I was showing him collages, paper from French film magazines torn into strips and woven and pasted on canister lids. I hung them up in the kitchen. You make art for art’s sake.

I make things, lots of things, because it is so much easier, better, fun, rewarding, than what comes next, which is selling things, at which I am confused, awkward, and slow. I want to make art for art’s sake. I want to be lost in it.

But also, I want someone to hear my stories. I want my mother and my mother’s friends and mothers I don’t even know to buy my books at a bookstore. In Ohio. I want to offer security and safety: dinner every night and a country house with a lab. In my heart, I believe in both: in being lost in world of one’s own creation, and in bringing that world to others, and in living. I did the first. I am working on the second. This is more hard.

What do you love more than anything? my friend Kara asked. Outside it was England. It was raining. We sat at the breakfast table over oatmeal, sweaters and unwashed hair. I told her. Find a way to do that, she said. Make it real, make it work, make it world.

I assumed of course the children were experimenting with charcoal, something washable, something the rain would take away. They couldn’t be drawing with markers or paints or permanents, not on the outside of the school building, not where anyone could see, not where the pictures would stay forever.

And then I thought, why the hell not?