Doug Bruns

I have a done a few things well…

In Creativity, Family, Life, Memoir, Writers, Writing on June 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm
The Writer's Web.

The Writer’s Web.

I had a college literature professor, Colin Campbell, who likened writers to spiders. Colin would sit behind his desk, his eyes dancing behind his thick glasses, his face expressive and smiling, while with his fingers he would make itsy-bitsy spider motions, like one does for young children, and declare, “The spider makes its web from nothing more than what’s in its gut. It yanks the silk from its spinnerets and weaves it into spokes and spirals, making a design only it can envision. It’s the same for the writer. He works from what’s in his gut.” Colin’s hands would rotate as the spider climbed up the downspout. The image has stayed with me for years and the appeal, romance even, of making something from nothing other than raw being has a powerful hold on me. Anne Dillard says that the writer simply needs life to work, not experience necessarily.

I have done a few things well. I have raised good kids. I have successfully nurtured my marriage. I have had a good run at business; a good run at the arts; a good run at sports, at travel, at friendship. I have tried to not measure my successes by quantifying productivity or building bank accounts or accumulating land or cars. Indeed, I have no viable measure for success. I am not even sure of the notion of success and find this itself to be troubling. Ironically, I am full circle. I am in high school and wondering what exactly to do with this life. I have realized Csíkszentmihályi’s flow on a few hard-earned occasions and remember them vividly. But as the zen master also told me, one cannot seek yet must still find.

We are fond of saying, If I knew then what I know now. The odd thing is, I don’t think I have much to bring to that adage. I know more now than I knew in high school. That much is obvious. But there is no intrinsic value to that experience such that I would render things different given an opportunity to rewind the last forty years. To the contrary, I am certain I would take the same paths, read the same books, travel to the same places, marry the same wonderful woman and so on. Is experience completely lost on me? Is it all inert? Does wisdom completely escape me? Sometimes it appears that way–but, again, I don’t think I’m alone on this.

I have spun out of my gut a life-web. It has been a life not necessarily purpose driven which puts me at odds with conventional wisdom. I like being at odds with conventional wisdom. As a general course I disdain the conventional and go out of my way to avoid it. This makes me either an iconoclast or a curmudgeon, perhaps both, I don’t know. They are not mutually exclusive and both can be worn as a badge of honor, but that in and of itself negates each.

Thanks for reading,


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