Saturday, February 19, 2011

"But I haven't got anything to say!"

I am thinking of the Peterkin Papers, a children's book from the late nineteenth century. I read it to my kids when they were younger. An evidently well-to-do family seems quite befuddled and their friend, the lady from Philadelphia, shows a bit more sense than the rest. For instance, the Peterkins have a piano delivered, and it is placed with the keyboard facing the wall. So the daughter sits outside on the porch in all kinds of weather and plays the piano through the window. Then the lady from Philadelphia suggests the family turn the piano around. Most of the stories are like that and some are more interesting than others. My thinking and acting, throughout my life, has been much like the Peterkins. Find the most complicated, convoluted way to do or say something. My ex-wife once said, regarding this behavioral pattern, "it must be difficult to be you?"

The one incident from this book that sticks with me today is when John John, one of the sons, decides he's going to be a writer, and goes out and buys a fine writing table, fine paper, a handsome pen and other accoutrements (probably a comfortable elegant chair, too.) Then he's seated at his desk with all his new things, pen freshly inked and raised, with a sad look on his face, and he says, desparingly, "but I haven't got anything to say!!!"

I often feel like that when I log on to this blog, or even meeting an acquaintance on the street, I fall into a strange blank space and don't know what to say. However, upon further review of the play, there is something to say (and sometimes it's OK to say nothing.) I read a fine blog post by Victoria relating her experiences teaching writing to students at a community college, and one of the guidelines she mentions hit me between the eyes: "A writer is someone who writes." Everyone has a story to tell and not everyone has to listen to everyone else's story. "Listen to all sides and filter them from yourself," Whitman wrote. Or as Ornette Coleman wrote in his notes to Body Meta, "if you can read or write, but don't write or read, why?" The thing is to make a beginning. Now. As Tony's quote of Goethe urges me: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."


  1. Oh, I love this, Garrett! I'm totally the Peterkins:)

  2. Thank you, Liz. Appreciate your kind words.