In a course of action that seems likely to be an occasional habit for me in Life is a Fountain, I am making the rounds of all the rooms in Life is a Fountain. And while I am in each room I am taking stock, and leaving a little something behind.
And early in this process (but not quite at the start of it) I come to this page, this room, called
And it is a pretty little room, with a strange light coming through the opalescent glass of the ceiling. And because it is The About Room I would think it would maybe have all the blue prints of Life is a Fountain, or it would explain all about how Clerkmanifesto became Life is a Fountain, or about the Fantastical House Metaphor. Maybe it would be like the Crossroads Room, and give me clear access to all the other rooms in Life is a Fountain. Maybe it would tell all about me.
All I found was a small blue flower under a dome of glass, in the center of the room.
What is Life is a Fountain?
I don’t know. Look around. It’s all about you.
8/12/21: Weird experiment day!
Today I am going through every page I have in Life is a Fountain and adding something hopefully relevant to it from the annals of Clerkmanifesto. It’s my desperate attempt to freshen up everything after being away for a couple weeks. So here you go:
Because writing is so privately done I am always interested in how other writers manage it. So are a lot of people. The Internet is full of articles and lists of famous writers’ schedules. But because the Internet can be a bit of a race to the top with whatever low-hanging fruit is available we find a great number of articles reiterating the schedules of the same 15 or 20 writers who managed at some point to set their routines down elegantly, or at least with elan, or, if famous enough, merely at all.
Kurt Vonnegut, Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, Haruki Murakami, and Toni Morrison are among the dominant contingent of dedicated early morning writers that get trotted out over and over. These industrious writers are up at 4:00 a.m., or whatever, and they’re writing away before the sun comes up. Maybe I read that this is what it takes to be a proper writer some 35 years ago and, confusedly, went into the visual arts. What a sad loss! I was not destined to become an unacclaimed painter, I was destined to become an unacclaimed writer! Who knows how many years of writing ignominy I lost to painting ignominy! But I shan’t blame these writers, many of whom I’ve read and like. They’re just doing what they need to get by. Rather I blame the irresponsible and preachy magazine writers who fawned over them and confused me, and I blame my English Teachers whose enthusiasm for me wasn’t quite enough, and the reading public in general, of course, and all Publishers, and God. But not Kurt Vonnegut and the like, who should feel free to rest easy in their graves.
Of course, if you dig deeper, it doesn’t end with the morning writers. There are the write all night types, Kafka (sounds more glamorous than it is) and Orwell, when he was on a roll. I’m writing at night right now, so that’s not so bad. But it’s only 11 and I’m probably almost finished with this as it is. How much more of this were you thinking there’d be?
Having become quite a cocktail drinker I was keen on Vonnegut’s (remember him from the pre dawn writers?) affection for Scotch, but it didn’t seem to figure into his writing, coming in the early evening. Hunter S. Thompson’s inclusion of gin and Chartreuse was faintly thrilling, assuming it’s Green Chartreuse, because of my fondness for same, but it has to be taken with a grain of salt as it was a writing schedule mostly taken up with snorting cocaine, and was way over the line into satire and his own personal mythology.
I’m particularly keen on comparing myself to James Joyce, mostly in the hopes that if I make no sense whatsoever people will only become more enthusiastic about my work. He woke up around ten. That’s it! That was his schedule. I like that one, but that level of discipline was widely derided. The commentators almost invariably followed up on his writing schedule by saying that it took him 15 years to write Finnegan’s Wake. This seems like it’s a good point until you ask how long it’s supposed to take to write Finnegan’s Wake. Did Hemingway, up at dawn, working away on a typewriter while standing up, write Finnegan’s Wake more quickly?
Of all people though it’s E.B. White and Jane Austen whose writing habits seem most close to my own. They both appeared to have worked in common areas, prone to much distraction and interruption. There’s even a story about Jane Austen and a creaky door to her room that she liked because it allowed her to quickly hide her writing at the approach of company. It may or may not be true, but it does seem clear they both worked out in the middle of things, with people coming through and all too many distractions. Tonight I may be down here in my basement studio, but tomorrow I’ll be writing illicitly, a sadly open secret, out in the middle of the library I work at, wishing desperately for a creaky door or squeaky shoes that will warn me someone is coming up behind me so I can hurriedly pretend I’m not a genius writer but just a regular, approachable guy it’s a pleasure to work with. Not for me the recommendations of Flannery O’connor or Stephen King that I work some regular hours every day. I have to grab desperately at inspiration any and every time I can. It’s the desperation itself that’s a key ingredient for me. I’ll write a sentence while on a walk, cram a paragraph in between two people who need help at the library, sweep my post-it notes under the keyboard if someone inquisitive comes around, or I won’t do it at all.
Keep in mind I’m not suggesting such an approach for anyone else; just me, and E. B. White, and Jane Austen. You know, that sort of writer.
Yesterday I wrote about some small flowers.
Did you see it?
It was beautiful.
It was extraordinary.
It was magical!
It was the best thing written on the whole of the vast Internet for the day, aye in the whole of letters, in anything written anywhere for that day.
You might have seen it.
Eleven or so people did. It swept across the Internet like a fire in a gas station run by people with Parkinson’s disease. First one person saw it. Then later another person saw it. Someone started to read it but got distracted or tired because it was dozens of words long. A third person read it! They liked it. They told no one because why would they? And the fourth person didn’t need to be told. It just showed up in their mailbox. So they read it. Then they thought… nothing.
And before you know it, eleven people had read it, so many I cannot even list all the incidents. Well I could, but it would take ten minutes I am opposed to wasting.
And then this tiny masterpiece of mine disappeared. Forever, almost.
Do you want to go champion this tiny literary wonder and sell it to an unenlightened world?
No, me neither. Let it go. Let it go forever. Let it never be thought of again if it must.
Do you know how many Snow Glory flowers bloomed three days ago in the Twin Cities? I don’t. Did I see them all? They were on the hillsides and in the scruffy scraps of meadows among the tiny forests between houses. They were sprawled in the oversized yards of the houses on Crocus Hill, which is the name of a real neighborhood just East of here. They scattered along abandoned train tracks. They were anywhere they could be in the first burst of Spring here.
There were millions of them. Who saw them?
In their finest moment some were seen and some were not. I saw some and some I didn’t. Did they care?
I don’t know if they cared. They didn’t write about it. They’re flowers.
I just know that the first burst of Spring here was blown away by the last burst of Winter. It snowed for a day or two in the middle of April. Then, still cold, the snow slowly melted away, leaving the bedraggled flowers.
I saw those flowers today again. They looked wet and heavy, like mosquitoes drowning in the rain. They tried to lift their heads up, but could not. Their very three-dimensional form seemed washed out until they looked like they were painted roughly in the mud.
I have never in my whole long life seen such tired flowers.
But they were still flowers. Flowers!
They knew what they had done.