Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Andrea Palpant Dilley on Resistance

Writing as Resistance
Andrea Palpant Dilley

I have what most writers would kill for: a home office all my own, a work schedule that allows me to write for three hours every afternoon, and uninterrupted solitude. No kids. No commute. No complications. I wake up in the morning, yawn a few times, ruffle my hair, soak down some cereal, and then wander down a five-foot hallway into my office, one wall away from where I just woke up. After five hours of work as a long distance documentary producer, I wander back into the kitchen, make myself tea and mark the end of work and the start of, well, more work.

I have Virginia Woolf’s “Room of My Own” but my room lacks something: a place to depart from, a place to push against. Here’s what I mean. TS Eliot went to work in the morning, spent all day at the bank lifting and sifting slim bills of money and then went home to write. He departed from somewhere and arrived somewhere else. And maybe like the rest of us, on his way home he bitched and moaned and muttered about his boss before he sat down to write Prufrock with the indelible line, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” and my other favorite, “I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” I, on the other hand, inhabit the same space for work and writing which I have discovered is quite complicating mentally. I fight morale fatigue more often. I confuse writing with work and work with writing. I get lonely spending all day in solitude.

So if I had the chance, I might trade Eliot his writing life for mine. Writing is an act of resistance, not in the civil-political sense necessarily (although certainly it can be that), but in the most simple, psychological sense of pushing up against something. It puts a healthy sense of distance between you and everything around you. Now I will leave work behind and the boss with the grating voice and I will go home to my writing. This act of departing-and-arriving creates definition. Demarcation. A space to reflect. I imagine that it feels sort of like jumping off a derailing train—you leave behind the dirty locomotive of daily labor, and you land in the dirt on your own terms and your own feet. There is freedom to it. A sense of arriving at a certain kind of wilderness. It’s up to you, now, to mark the path home.

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