Friday, July 9, 2010

Letter to a Young, Middle-Aged, or Geezer Writer vii

At some point in your pursuit of recognition as a teller of tales, relator of stories, revealer of invented gossip, you will become aware of consequences.  You have probably become aware of them already when family, friends, and strangers, on hearing the path you have chosen, will ask you the question, "What have you published? as though that were the defining moment as opposed to the activities you perform, somewhat like asking a musician, "Ah, what notes have you played?"

The consequences of having work out in circulation, however humble the venue, regardless of whether the medium is paper or some electronics-supporting screen, will cause the work to become a target for a response or, alas, no response whatsoever.  Your own responses to these consequences will provide you with the opportunity for untold hours of philosophizing about the human condition and quite possibly motivating factors which in their turn will invigorate subsequent behavior from you.

One of the consequences--unseen at the time--of Herman Melville having written Moby-Dick was the direct push it gave to being a customs inspector, a career he had considerably less interest in than being a story teller.  You might say Melville was pushed into inspecting customs by the excruciating consequences of which all writers are in dread.  When I mentioned philosophizing a while back, did you think I'd forget to return to that important matter?  Would you, for instance, rationalize having had to spend large chunks of your life as a customs inspector a worthwhile trade for having written a book which would not become popular in your lifetime?  Could you, in effect, take the long view? The point here is that the mere act of writing will set into consequential result a series of behavior patterns over which, however much you control and revise your work, you have no control over.

The further point is to wonder if the characters you create come far enough off the page to have some of your readers join you in wondering if they have set enough consequences in motion, within and without their own boundaries.

What makes us care?  We care if the risk is significant enough, the consequences extensive enough, the reward something we can get our teeth into.

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