How do we sustain a creative life? How do we turn it all into play? Some days work just like these scenes Barkat paints, and all a writer can do is take note of the swirl of moths, the flavor of small beans thrown together with the ingredients at hand. All we can do is to bear witness. These days are fleeting, watching fireflies and making flutes, spraying garden hoses into rainbows.
Between the days of feeling wildly creative, Barkat says, “there are weeks when I feel ground down and completely spent.” This is why I love reading this writer: she’s an editor, and a publisher, and a prolific writer, but she tells the truth. That is what my writing experience feels like, too.
Initially, L.L. Barkat’s Rumors of Water looks like a series of brief vignettes, shot through with thoughts on creativity. Within a few chapters, though, she layers recurring metaphors quietly, showing a moth can be fierce, destructive, or a sign of a holy visitation. A small bean can be a limitation or a penance, or a meal to share. With each small event, the world permanently changes. Girls get taller. Beloved landscapes close down and new ones open up. A child is shielded from the suffering of a firefly, but the same child must stop to think about an aging grandmother.
When I say these stories illuminate questions of inspiration, organization, and even the publication process, I want to be clear: this is not a how-to book. L.L.Barkat leads the reader with such gentleness, with the kind of writing that draws the reader along a storyline instead of telling or instructing. She uses small beans: delicate, unusual, beans that might be overlooked under normal circumstances. This is a how-to-explore book, a how-to-endure book. Each time I read her work, I feel more rested and settled in my calling, like I’ve spent an afternoon talking about writing with someone who knows how to write, and who knows how to live.