Fireflies and Shaken Sleeves

September 23, 2011

Kat Kiddles, a self-described “globetrotting bookworm with a tendency to overthink the scientifically unexplainable,” is one of a handful of reviewers at the site, The Uncustomary Book Review.

Kat (whose bio on the site observes that she believes in “unicorns; sales; and the health benefits of coffee”) asked me some months ago if I would submit to their Featured Author review procedure. I told her I would be glad to … um, soon. Real soon.

Kat waited. And waited. And after she had patiently waited for weeks and weeks … she waited some more.

Finally last week I sat down in a hastily snatched odd moment and wrote out answers to all her questions in a dash, without premeditation (or for that matter, any postmeditation, either).

One question, for example, was, “What are writers for?” I wrote:

When I set up my website some years back, I started the home page with this: “Jedi knights roam the universe helping to set things right. What I do is something like that—the difference being, I help set things write.”

Much like creating illumination in a darkened night by catching fireflies and putting them in a closed jar, writers capture the feelings, shapes and tastes of experiences that we all have and somehow, through the alchemy of words (those remarkable closed jars), make those experiences translucent, sometimes even transparent.

Joan Didion wrote, “I write to find out what I think.” Here’s what I think: we live to find out who we are—and writers help us gain insight into both the “live” and “are” sides of the equation.

Another of Kat’s questions: “Describe your imagination.” I started typing, having no idea what my fingers would do next:

Hmm. Sometimes it feels that my imagination, or at least my creative drive, is more in my fingers than my head. I get going, and letters pour out. Someone once made a marvelous statement about the prolific composer Arvo Pärt, that “when he shakes his sleeves, notes fall out.” [P.S. I often listen to Pärt when I’m writing.]

For me writing is a lot like the way Jack Niklaus described golf: 90 percent of it is lining up the shot; for there is a lot of preparation, getting material lined up, outlining, raw material, whatever the case may be (depending on the project)—and then, once it’s all lined up, my fingers kick in, and it feels for a brief moment the way it must feel for a hawk or gull to float on currents of air.

And in case you’re wondering about that crazy graphic up there with the cello, wine bottle and Sue Grafton books — that’s the graphic Kat put together to accompany my complete author profile. If you wonder why, you’ll have to go read it. (It’s short.)

Kat: thank you for your patient perseverance!


  1. Art manville

    What a great post. I find writing quite difficult. It might be that I lack patience. But when I open my mouth in a focused state some amazing things come out. So sorry I missed you both last weekend.

    • jdmann

      Great to hear from you, Art! I’m so sorry we missed you, too — look forward to seeing you and Terri soon!

      Hey, some people write, some speak. I’ve heard brilliant things flow from your lips. You have the gift of inspiring others, no doubt about it!

      Hope you enjoy the new book!

  2. Morris Cicconi

    Wow..Awesome. This is really inspiring.

  3. Kat Kiddles

    Art, try not to worry about it. When I talk, I often feel I’m spitting cotton balls. It’s almost as if the message converts in a clearer format when I write it out. That’s just how I am. That’s always been the case. The trick is to figure out a way for the writers and the speakers to communicate!


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