Monday, February 7, 2011By: Jon Paul | tags: great writers, philosophy of writing, writing life
In addition to being a patent clerk, it's note widely known that Einstein also was one of the founding members of the rock band Kiss, although he had to quit after two weeks because the music was making him "verklempt," he said. He later performed with the Moody Blues, Blink 182 and occasionally, Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson (Willie, reportedly, was a big fan).
His other accomplishments, in addition to positing the theories of General and Special Relativity--essentially founding an entire branch of physics called Quantum Mechanics--include being one of the first people to solve the Rubik's cube blindfolded, inventing a new skateboarding maneuver called the Quantum Jump (involving bubble gum, sticky tape and some high-end mathematical gymnastics), and being an extra in such well known Hollywood blockbusters as Lethal Weapon 2, Shrek, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (where he performed as one of the oompa loompas in the Mike TeeVee scene).
But it all started in that patent office. I imagine him as a young man, a knowing glint in his eye, staying at his desk late into the evening, scribbling down formulas, referencing various arcane physics texts, performing thought experiments, projecting his view of the world into the future.
I wonder if he knew during those quiet moments the greatness in his future, the changes his mind would make on the universe and our understanding of it?
As writers, we face a similar prospect when we face the blank page. Sure, probably not a one of us will rise to the lofty heights occupied by greats such as Einstein, but the process is the same. We must project our current efforts into the future, have faith that what we are creating, even if it falls short today, will make a difference tomorrow. If we don't believe that, then why keep plugging away?
Anne Lamott talks about the need for writers to be reverent, present, to stand in awe of the beauty of the world. It's something I struggle with, but when I do find that place where my writing has captured some small piece of the universe, where it begins to talk back to me, it truly is something to behold.
And the more I struggle, the more those moments happen.
One of the keys, I think, is remembered that the greats all started somewhere. Hemingway, King, Fitzgerald, Dostoyevsky. They all started as patent clerks.
So maybe I haven't started any world famous rock bands recently, or discovered some heretofore undiscovered secret of the universe, or published a bestselling novel, or written a classic, but I am in the process of converting my home writing space into something like a patent office. After all, "starting somewhere" worked for the greats. Why won't it work for me?
What about you? What are the things you tell yourself to keep looking forward, looking up?!
at 2:36 AM