and for a long time I see nothing but the snow, but then in the distance there’s something, a tree or a figure or smoke, I just don’t know. I always have the sensation that I’m straining to see what’s in front of me. The snow lessens for a minute and I catch a glimpse of an idea, but when I get closer the light starts to fade. I squint constantly. It goes on like this for a long time. If I were taking notes they would read: I see something. A shape? I have no idea. It’s not exactly the stuff that literary archives are made of.
and everything I interact with, every experience I’ve had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down, is digested and excreted by worms, and rots. It’s from that rich, dark humus, the combination of what I’ve encountered, what I know and what I’ve forgotten, that ideas start to grow. (I could make a case for the benefits of wide-ranging experience, both personal and literary, as enriching the compost, but the life of Emily Dickinson neatly dismantles that theory.)