Saturday, February 19, 2011

Process

Whatever it was in the way of a literary squeeze or problem--deadline, length, setting, information, point-of-view, et alia--you believed yourself able to write yourself out of it, using a brash combination of technique, fancy footwork, and the occasional, but not entirely unanticipated, epiphany.  With the naivete of the young and brash, you believed you could. Often, you did so, enough times, in fact, to the point where you more or less took the successes and, in particular, the epiphanies, for granted.

Beginner's luck.  You see that now, grateful for it because it kept you writing, got you in the habit of writing for the epiphanies rather than the strengthening discipline of writing.  The luck was that somewhere in the middle, the two forces, writing for epiphany and writing to feed the habit, met, became friends, wary perhaps, maybe even outright suspicious.  Why, for instance, would you not write to learn some connecting link you had never before imagined?  Much better a goal than the mere act of practicing, getting in your sentences, watching them become paragraphs, not liking something here and there,Xing it out,going back over it, waiting for the movement, the flow to pick back up, watching the paragraphs become pages.  The men and women you admire still do that--produce the pages; they do not appear from nowhere.  They have to have some moment of beginning, some equivalent of big bang that sets them off, responding to the explosion of which they are a constituent part.

Last night, the power off in your apartment, the two flash lights pretty well charged,but the computers both red-lining it, your cell phone warning you its battery is at fifteen percent and waning, you switch onto the wi-fi hot spot feature on your phone, haul up your blog template, then by flashlight, begin texting, but instead of pushing Publish, your thumb hits X and the brief paragraph is gone.  It is cold, blustery, raining; you have no taste for plodding out to your car, where you could plug the cell phone into the car charger, turn the wi-fi connection on, and begin anew, which it appears you will have to do.  In that moment, you recognize the impact a daily blog entry has on you.  It is the red wheelbarrow of the William Carlos Williams poem.  So much depends.  As if in recognition of your epiphany, the lights return, the utilities are up and running again.  You are relieved because you are now able to use a full-sized keyboard, are neither cramped nor constrained.  You are able to write by lamps and overhead lights rather than the mere, flickering beam of a flashlight.  You are able to tell more than you had thought to be able to tell,

There was something delicious about being reduced to your available equipment and your ingenuity.  The epiphany it gave you this time is that you have evolved from writing yourself out of a problem  and into an interior pathway leading closer to the heart of the subject at hand, whatever and however it might be--even, for that matter, if it were you.  The difference becomes an understanding of how living things feel as opposed to the earlier version of how to fix a broken, working system.

Nice to think you have some choice now; you can do both if you need to.  It is no small privilege to be able to approach a broken working system, even less small a triumph to gain some understanding of how a living thing feels, and to empathize with it for some moments before your cultural and generational and geographical differences draw you apart.  Perhaps even long enough to get some of it down on the page, where you may be stunned by the beauty of it.

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