“Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.” Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Sometimes, the people closest to me ask me, jokingly, why they are glaringly absent from my essays. And, then, they also jokingly – I hope – proceed by offering specific episodes and topics on which I can write. On these rare but funny occasions, I tell them that writing is not the same as baking pies or getting a soda from a vending machine: one cannot put in coins and get a product in return. Actually, baking pies might be more similar to writing than the vending machine as their successful realization requires the right ingredients, temperature, and conditions, from the quality of the ingredients to the baker’s mood.
The more truthful but earnest and thus, uncomfortable, explanation favors the apparently neglected. I tell them, seriously this time, that certain experiences have not quite reached the maturation stage in which they can be understood, used, and presented, differently from the selected episodes which have been expressed through words. The failure to be born represents the melancholic aspect of the unwritten episodes while for the written ones, the opposite is true. Expression, which is possible in their case, certainly implies a dose of inspiration bursting forth from these episodes but also a kind of closure through specific definition, the permanent shape which the author gives them, equally influenced and limited by the moment and mood.
The ideas and occurrences comprising our days and, consequently, our lives, which can be transformed into a piece of writing, are infinite; indeed, the effort to discern every interesting nuance and episode during the day can overwhelm and unsettle the mind through an excess rather than a dearth of material. These slippery moments represent another case of necessary but also willful neglect, namely the failure to catch the right moment to set them in paper – once the moment has passed, the mood and setting have changed and it seems impossible to reproduce the same sensations. This effort of capturing the moment, later, reminds me of an Impressionist painter trying to represent the accurate light of a sunset while painting in the blinding midday sun. These bygone instances are similar to the photos mentioned by Paolo Roversi, a famous photographer, in an answer to an interview question, in which he states that his life is “full of pictures I didn’t take, or that I just took with my mind because I wasn’t fast enough with the camera. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about the pictures I didn’t take.” (Paolo Roversi, The Talks).
These negatives of our lives, the undeveloped portion, can be undoubtedly inspiring. Yet, here I mainly refer to the very close relationships or concrete episodes which have not been expressed just yet, despite their substantial weight. Really, their effect touches everything else that is expressible and, in their best manifestation, these people or events are the very origin of EXPRESSION. But, until a certain point of interpretation is reached, these relationships, events, conversations, lie hidden like air itself in between our innermost layers, unknown even to ourselves, without a definite shape, not yet penetrable by the realm words.