Serpent Blog

The Serpent Box Letters - Light, Walking and Steinbeck 

January 11, 2002
South Park Café, San Francisco


I realize now that I misdated my previous letter. It was in fact the tenth and not the ninth of January yesterday…

Now, I must tell you, that I feel it is necessary for me to walk to my writing place, and if possible, to walk a significant distance in order to arrive there. I have made it my habit to come here, to this café, on Fridays, though it takes considerable time and effort to do so. South Park is a lovely and secret little place a quarter mile from the new baseball stadium and less than a hundred yards from the spot where Jack London was born. This is where I began my first story, and where I drew my early inspiration. I feel as though his wandering spirit bolsters my abilities here, and I am talking about Jack London, who resides in my heart and pantheon of influences and inspirations. But back to walking for a moment.

Movement, the pounding of one’s heart, the ever-changing scenery, exposure to people, regular people, working-class people, going about their daily routines, trains, buses, taxis, street-beggars, the sunlight dancing on the windows of the high-rises, the cold air and the steam seeping up from the sewer grates – all this frees the mind and prepares the conscious to greet the unconscious. There is also a sense of purpose when one journeys to one’s place of work. I have often felt the spark of inspiration for many of my writings on these walks. It seems that I must warm up like an old car in winter before I can drive….

I am excited now because I am developing my process, though it must remain a flexible process. I do not worry. I do not think very much. I trust it to come. I have faith, not so much in the end result, but in its inception. I know I can begin, and if I can begin, there is hope of an end.

Steinbeck said:

“Just remember that this book will go on forever. I do not ever intend to finish it. And only with this attitude will it progress as I wish it to.”

Andrew, nothing in my life or in my experience has prepared me for this kind of patience. I am most ill-prepared for the writing life - for the creation of the great and lasting novel. You may as well ask me to create one of those Navajo sand paintings that are crafted grain by grain over many years, only to be swept away upon the moment of completion. Did I get that right? Are they Navajo sand paintings? Or are they Indian, as in the yogis of India? Please correct me if I am mistaken. Andrew, it is my great wish to work side-by-side with you. I envy how you and Gina have your desks in one room the way you do, and I think you have a fine office and workplace. If we ever live in the same city, we must rent office space together.

I must get to the writing now. I know that my work today will be fine.



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