outwait outrun outwit


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When I thought I was required to attend yet another funeral, I wrote in my diary, “The exceptional can demand something of the world. The earnest and arrogant will too. But what of me - vaguely defined, loosely present, poorly equipped - ? Flotsam and jetsam. A spray of surf dispersed on the wave of others.”

Later, when I did not have to go, and spent the hours as if they were my own, and not borrowed: “When you say yes to everyone else, your own yesses to your self get drowned out.”


Most mornings I follow a writing routine. After waking, I pull on whatever clothes smell okay. I go down to the kitchen and feed and let out the dog, and then I have a banana and some Polish sweet bread with coffee. Then I walk to the library, where I sit at a seat away from distractions (i.e. the knitting club) and open my document. All of these actions are usually easy, but some mornings are harder, the stormy ones, fraught with visitors and deliveries and funerals.

Sighing, I resist the temptation toward distraction—the need for instant gratification, the procrastinator’s affliction—and read the first sentence, striking and adding words, word by word, until I reach the last sentence, and then I try to add more words. Bird by bird. Sometimes I comb another document I fill every day with notes—observations on books and events, facts, bits of poetry, descriptions of videos or random things I saw on the street—with the idea that something will strike me as significant to the work at hand. I take heart from* this sentence from a book I haven’t read yet: “Her breakthroughs come as breakthroughs often do: by long and prepared accidents.”

*As if the heart is not a self-replenishing instrument, but something mobilised by exterior elements in one’s environment; perhaps it is.


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