It's weirdly fascinating watching the new Beatles documentary, all of the hours they spent fooling around, chatting and bickering, trying out new songs, drinking tea, mumbling potential lyrics, sometimes walking out on each other and then walking back in. The creative process, if you're not familiar with it,
is many parts blather and grinding out the work, with an occasional burst of a perfectly pre-formed melody, and who knows where that magic comes from. Who was it who said, "Invention is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation and 2% butterscotch ripple"?
Of course, when you're a writer, unlike, apparently, when you are a Beatle, you're entirely alone, and only the blank page or laptop screen in front of you. Willy Wonka, by the way, is the one who said the thing about perspiration and butterscotch ripple. He was so right about those percentages. The other day when I was working the desk at the library,
a woman circled around the Christmas tree we've set up. She'd just come from our weekly English as a Second Language Conversation Class and seemed curious about the gift tags hanging on the tree, pulling one off and holding it up to me. What is this? she said.
I explained that every year the library works with a social services agency in town to invite our patrons to purchase something from a child's wish list. A needy child? I said, wondering if I was making sense. For families who can't afford presents?
Oh, she said. She looked at the tag, and said, What is this?
Onesie for a 12 month old was written on the tag.
I started to describe what a onesie is and then did a quick search on the computer and showed the woman the examples on the screen, which immediately made me think of my own children when they were babies, those middle of the night cries on the baby monitor, the bleary-eyed unsnappings and snappings and fumbling for the clean diaper, and thank God
we could afford to buy baby clothes. But back to the woman, who was nodding seriously at the computer screen. I understand, she said. Thank you. I got teary-eyed watching the Beatles,
Paul McCartney strumming the guitar, muttering nonsense, the music of a familiar song slowly and then all at once taking shape, while the other Beatles yawn and look on and then just as suddenly begin to strum and clap, Get back to where you once belonged, as if they had been there with Paul all along, as if the song was there too and just waiting for all of them to find it. The next day, the woman marched up to the desk,
holding the onesie still on the store hanger. This? she said to me, and I said, Yes, that's great, perfect, exactly right, thank you so much. She nodded again, that same serious expression on her face that seemed to say I understand. And only later did I wonder what it was that she understood. Who was it who said, "So shines a good deed in a weary world"?
Oh right. That was Willy Wonka too. Which has nothing to do with the Beatles or bleary-eyed midnight diaper changes or even the creative process really, and look
my page is filled with words now and probably only a fraction of butterscotch ripple, but good enough, I think, for today.