To My New Love
“Oh, who cares,” we sometimes think at our most blue moments. “I am boring and it is boring and writing about it all is boring too.” At times like these we need to imagine that we are writing to someone who listens to us with the rapt attention of a new lover. Someone who wants to discover all there is to know about us, all we think, all we have thought, even all we might soon think. I believe that there is such a lover with an ear cocked to all of us. That lover, that loving attention, is the Great Creator, who do not find us dull but endlessly interesting.
– The Sound of Paper, Julia Cameron
To my new love,
Dearest, I must thank you. You couldn’t know this, but the past few weeks, you’ve done me a great service. It’s not what you’re thinking – though you do provide delights there, too. You know that my writing is my life, and since I’ve known you, it’s been you whom I’ve told all my stories to.
I can write without you. I have always written. But with you, with the assurance of your attention, the way you listen to everything I say with rapture, I and my writing, we blossom in ways I’d never thought possible. Someone said that a writer fails when she tries to write for a group of people. Instead, she must write for one. You’ve been that one for whom I write for since we met.
I’m new to this, inexperienced at creating, and I’m young. My sentences, though agonized over at length, are more often than not inefficient and sloppy. I imagine to most people, even my dearest friends whom I force my writing upon, my stories are a bore, obligations to be put up with. But with you, whether when your face is inches from mine, listening with that slight, concentrating frown, or when we speak on the phone and you make appreciative sounds, or even when I am simply telling a story to the imaginative you, it is always with so much adoration and happiness that you listened. You selflessly let me believe that I am a fascinating creature, an exquisite thing, and more importantly, a good writer.
When I stumble over some hard sequence, clumsily describing what had seemed so clear in my mind, it is you I picture. I think of you, on the bed, head propped up on my arm, silently willing me to go on and try once more. When I become morose, wanting to give up, you say, “Just tell the story to me.” And when I do, somehow the words flow out of me. My sentences shine just a bit brighter, more vivid and brilliant. Is this what the ancients asked for, when they appealed to the muses? If the process of writing is an unwise hike into dark and unknown woods, woods that hardly yield enough light for me to see five feet in front of me, at least I know you are there behind me, supporting me as explore sentence upon sentence, some right but mostly wrong. You enable me to create with courage, even bravado.
Yet I fear – I know – even when I am inches away from your open, genuine face, that this rapture couldn’t last forever. I know one day, if you consent to listen to me at all, to be as close to me as possible, it’ll be with a distracted look that you listen to me. I’ll see boredom that is the carcass of closeness and familiarity on your face and I’ll know that I’d lost my muse once more. There will come a day when you’d rather listen to NPR in the morning, watch any old show for background noise in the evening, to read a book before bed, and then, who should I tell my stories to then? I will be hurt when that happens, my pride wounded, I will miss our intimacy. But more than anything, I will mourn the way I wrote when we were together. I could never write in the same way again.
The fear has always been there, the fear isn’t really even about you. It’s the intense longing I’ve accumulated over the years, for all the others I have written to and written for, all the other ways I have written before. But for now, what is there to do but dash away from that fear, but squeeze out every last word I can manage to, while I’ve still got you.
Thank you, my dearest. Even though we’d only just met a few weeks ago, I think I fell in love with you a little.
more by SOPHIE XIAOKE SONG
Photograph by Alejandra Quiroz