Saturday, March 12, 2011


Which is worse, the fear of not having anything to say or the fear that what you had to say was somehow lacking either depth or significance, possibly even nuance?

It is not so much that a writer ought to at any given moment have an opinion or idea or even response that drives the fear as it is the fear that opinion and design and ideation and making connections are processes that must be exercised with regularity lest you fall out of the habit of using the appropriate muscles and they atrophy.

A resident fear in so many of these notations has you browsing them for hints and ideas that will inform your writing, take you off on a flight of ideation and invention that will energize and focus you, then discover the reading of them has the opposite feeling, the bald wondering how you could have sounded so ineffective, passive, unconvincing even to yourself.

During such times, the thing you often miss is the awareness some slapdash application has given you not to make that mistake again, where- and whenever you compose, but you the pleasure comes orbiting around when you find yourself composing something, a letter, a memo, a story, during which you find yourself making some mistake you decry or lapsing into some trope you've come to dislike.

It devolves into a sentence-by-sentence approach to your use of the language.  There is at this stage of your life a fifty percent probability that you will, when you re-consult something written earlier believe it to have held up, to at least maintain an acceptable level of interest.  Sentences and paragraphs are your version of the artist's sketches, the musician's running of scales or the play at harmonic inventions.  You are thus pleased to discover yourself having failed with such profundity at some description or advancement of what you supposed is logic so that you can adjust the gaffe, then use it again soon with panache.

In order to learn from your mistakes and misconstructions, you need to produce memorable mistakes and constructions in the first place.  Always willing to learn.  Always willing to fail.  Always willing to experiment.  After these years, it is still a tingle of fun and mischief: you are the young boy, his pockets filled with note pads, the stubs of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, and a half packet of licorice cigarettes, waiting, waiting for the time when you will begin setting things down on the page. much as the man you are waits for their arrival, lest you spend all your time staring at the blank page or the computer screen, which is not a sensible process for you at all.

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