So I finally lost my mind Diana George. Just like you said I would. I went too long without writing and I went bananas. No one remembers that day in your classroom like I do. The lights down low, all those young writers gathered around you. One of them asked, has anyone ever lost their mind from writing? He was worried about that. And you just laughed and said I don’t think so. But some probably lost their minds from not writing. Now that’s me.
Diana Hume George. Your name suited you, rhythmic and strong. The 80s were nearly over but you hadn’t left the 60s yet, with your Stevie Nicks scarves and your peacock feather earrings. You with your olive skin and those tinted glasses that made your face look small. Hanging around campus with that philosophy professor with the eye patch who never smiled. He wore it to force his brain to think with the creative side. What planet were you from? You wrote that on one of my papers. We were all trying to be different, to find our voice. You helped us find ourselves.
So here I sit at my screen the way we did back then. It still starts with a blank page. Some of us had word processors and others had to go to the library, to find a computer and write under fluorescent light. We sent it to the printer and tore the edges off; the paper came in reams and opened like an accordion. We made copies and handed them out. We were expected to write comments on each other’s work, to be respectful. It mattered a lot to me what you said and I saved the notes you wrote on my drafts, I put them in boxes with my letters and pictures, and they followed me around the country wherever I moved. I imagined I could hear your voice like there was magic in your handwriting. What you said was an incantation, a prayer or a wish. It only takes a little to believe, and we all start as pretenders.
It’s been more than thirty years now and I’m still at it. I go to the woods to drum up ideas, to lose myself. But there’s only so much actual writing you can do when you’re not writing, when you’re “thinking about writing.” And it’s toxic, it will drive you nuts. There must be some energy or alchemy to it like what happens with storms. Guitarists don’t get any better at playing the guitar by thinking about it. Why would it work that way for writers?
I hit the trail in the early mornings and walk towards the sun. You only get an inch or two of light on the horizon but I like the way it looks. All the leaves are down so you can see clear across the forest. I’ve been out there picking around thinking of you, how much I can remember. Why I shouldn’t joke about losing my mind when it’s not true. How some things you can lose and find again (like your car keys) and other things (like your virginity) you only lose once. People lose their minds from time to time and sometimes, for real. Why was that kid so worried about losing his, from writing? Was he so controlled he couldn’t look inside himself? Or is that my problem: I’ve been looking in places I shouldn’t, realizing it’s what I have to do. Like you said, “You’ve exposed the raw, human nerve…now what will you do with it?” That was your challenge, what will you do?
All this is a ruse. I could look you up but I’m afraid of what I’d find. I did that with Archie Loss and he died several years ago. They whittle you down to 500 words with a few quotes from the family. You meant so much more to me than that. I’d love to talk with you about writing but I know what you’d say, I’d rather you just wrote.