Sunday, December 13, 2009

It seemed like a good idea at the time

There are times when writing a story is on the same level with falling in love.  There is a rush of extended awareness of the entire world about you.  Details, mere details such as the color of flowers or the presence of buds on the arms of plants or the territorial calls of birds transmogrify into "things," not just things but "things," and you are somehow as sensitive and aware of the phenomenology about you as you were back in your days of popping LSD tabs as though they were penny candy.  

As is often the case, it is difficult to define the qualities that caused the falling in love, making it easier to think of the process as some subliminal chemistry by which you are drawn into awareness.  You should also own up to the risk factor involved, because the person with whom you may feel this chemistry may in her turn feel no such thing.  Alas for unrequited love.
Nearly as much as possible, you see the word discovery in place of chemistry when the rush of awareness comes over you in relationship to writing.  

You were drawn into the writing by some enigma you wished to solve.  You may be well on your way to solving the enigma when, suddenly, shimmering before you, there is a phrase or a clause or a sentence, sometimes even as much as a paragraph in which an awareness is granted you that you had not previously recognized. 

Here, too, you own up to the risk factor.  The discovery you believe yourself to have discovered may not reciprocate, whereupon your revisits to it will not produce anything more than a tinge of regret on your part for what might have been.

For some time now, perhaps twenty years, you've been aware of what you call the unwritten law of revision, the one that urges you to keep revising, rewriting, continue to look from a different perspective or even a different point of view until the moment arises when you discover something you had not previously known or had not had the wit nor grace to articulate.  Even a book review.  Even those confounded, maddening shorts, where you have limited word length and can barely accommodate a skeleton outline of the plot.  Discovery in such cases still emerges, coming in Morse code or haiku or some smaller format.

Because of the enormous evolution taking place inside and outside of publishing, there are extensive opportunities to access stories and essays, places previously unthought of.  With all the material available for readers every bit as eager for transformation as you, it becomes unthinkable not to write as though a discovery were waiting for you in some unanticipated corridor.  The equation for you continues:  it is unthinkable not to write as though you might fall in love, your own calculus equating discovery with love.

You are no stranger to times when you have awakened in a strange bed, aware of another presence, whereupon you understand the literary equivalent of buyer's remorse in all its painful ramifications.  This person actually inspired you to visualize chemistry.  This individual caused you to think in terms of discovery of one sort when in fact you were discovering awareness within you of quite other sorts.  All of which leads you to then become aware from a metallic taste and a pounding head that yes, you may have been drinking, and so, quite possibly, was she, and that she saw in you some chemistry. 

 Moments of embarrassed politeness over burned toast, barely warm coffee,and Welch's goddamned grape jelly.  Not quite the same effect as returning to a story you thought you'd learned from, but close enough.  Your only escape hatch is the realization that in either case, you were with a person or a story, drawn by a need for connection that reminds you again that you are of a species that is often a predator but which has the capacity for compassion and understanding.

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