Banana Bread Vs Writing: Inside Intimations with Zadie Smith Part 3
Is writing just something to do?
“[Writing] is a psychological quirk developed in response to personal failings.” — Zadie Smith
Do I even have original ideas? Why do I write? Why do you?
Haven’t all the stories already been told? If there are 1,000 types of bananas can we make infinite kinds of banana bread?
In the essay, “Something To Do,” Zadie Smith explores the question: Why do we write? Her favorite answer: “It’s something to do.” Writing fills the time of the writer, like baking banana bread could be the whole morning for your mother (or father).
“Out of an expanse of time, you carve a little area— that nobody asked you to carve—and you do “something.” [You write.] – Zadie Smith.
Some believe consciousness is only a byproduct of the brain, like the peel of the banana, no different from sweat. Thinking: it’s just something the human-animal does, has adapted for its environment, to survive.
But what is writing then? The detritus of a certain brain? The peel wrapped around tools used for survival: belonging, sex, the family, power? Just another stick for us monkey-over-achievers to find food with? An opposable thumb? Or is it a disposable one? Will words and writing eventually be shed, (in favor of telepathy?) like an extra toe or excessive body hair?
Woah Chile… Telepathy? But if dinosaurs can grow from the earth, why not people who beam words? Isn’t the internet just that? We may one day write with hormonal smells. Would that be more efficient? How many hundreds of years will it take to get there?
Playing in/with Pens
[The realm of artists and writers is a] “charming, but basically useless playpen where adults get to behave like children—making up stories and drawing pictures.” — Zadie Smith
Gel pens, playpens, ballpoint pens, pig pens, there are writer jokes to be made here.
And again, we are back to the monkey doodling its cage — all pages/pens/sticky notes lead here.
In Smith’s cage she carved out meaning, but during the pandemic, her whole family was suddenly in the playpen (err cage) with her, and all at once, her artificially-imposed writing and reading schedule became ridiculous. Wasn’t there anything else to do? Will this too pass? And onto what?
“There are essential workers and there are those of us with time on our hands [artists and writers].”— Zadie Smith
Few at home demand books of a woman, almost everyone demands breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks…
Free time is free because we aren’t being paid.
Writing is a perfectly cheap thing to fill this time; it costs almost nothing — nothing but our free (available, wageless) time.
“Art stands in dubious relation to necessity—and to time itself.” — Zadie Smith.
When people are hungry, they would smell and taste and enjoy the banana bread, but what do they hunger for when they crave reading? Information? Education? Entertainment? Status? Do writers long to provide all three? Or are we just releasing something from inside us and hoping that someone else will eat it? Are we the bananas? Are writers like flowers looking for bees? We could also be termites and time is our tree.
An editor recently informed me that bananas do not grow on trees. Bananas are in fact, herbs because they lack woody stems.
I’d written: Dim outlines of green banana trees whizzed by.
And she highlighted this and wrote: “Technically, bananas are herbs rather than trees, given that they lack woody stems.”
However, when I researched this further, botanically, bananas are actually berries. There are more than 1,000 types. Bananas also emit a small amount of radiation, but their radiation doesn’t seem to harm humans.
Writing could be like radiation humans emit. Only sometimes it does cause harm, healing, lust, or anything. The stronger the writing, the further its rays emit. Maybe this is part of the appeal — we writers want to wield this radiation like Marvel comic heroes. We are Peter Parker, taking his power from a radioactive spider, becoming Spider-Man.
Shall I call myself Pen Woman? Letter Queen? The Incredible Word Captain?
Love and Time
Okay… back to time, the currency we use to grow our word radiation emitters.
The writer Ottessa Moshfegh said, “Love: without it, life is just ‘doing time’.”
Doing time. What are we doing with it?
Love is kind of like time; you can’t really do it, you can only pass through. And what is at the end? A child? Death? Nothing?
“Those of us from puritan cultures feel “work must be done,” so we make the cake, [bake the bread, or write.] We complete all the levels of Minecraft, we do something. Then we photograph that something, and not infrequently put it online.” — Zadie Smith
To these artist/writer habits— reactions are mixed (like the banana bread batter), even in our own hearts… Alas, was this just, another pointless act of self-realization?
Who will eat this bread I’ve written on time?
“The people sometimes demand change. They almost never demand art.” — Zadie Smith
I’m comforted by the fact that most people don’t know what to do with their life. Most people, including me, have no idea what life is for.
We could bake banana bread, make children, or write. We could do all three, and many, like myself and Zadie Smith, do.
“There is no great difference between novels and banana bread.” — Zadie Smith