Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Freedom to fail better

With all the editorial suggestions for adds and cuts plus the copyeditor's suggestions and occasional reformatting, the manuscript for The fiction Lovers' Companion closed out at 518 pages.  With Chris Moore's lavish Introduction, the backmatter reading list and conventional front matter such as blurb pages, half title, title, copyright, and Contents, you're thinking a 530-page manuscript and a bound book at about 120,000 words of actual text.

You've just pressed the send button on it.  Unless there is some unforeseen issue or glitch, the next time you see the work, it will be in print and on-line, meaning that in at least one sense, you will have begun already to grow away from it.

It is not as though you haven't seen your work in print before nor had similar feelings before to the ones you have.  This is the moment you imagine it would be like, had you children, where they went off to school.  The growing apart process begins.  You can no longer cosset nor comb nor suggest other dress combinations; "it" is out there on its own.

Yes, you do write many things with the thought of publication, and yes, you do relish the notion of earning a living from things you write, but over the years, the process has become so personal and focused on craft and ways of discovering and expressing opinion that the publication part seems almost an afterthought.

The years of being involved in publishing are conflated with the years of being involved with writing. Chatting with David Starkey this morning, shortly before being recorded for his local TV program discussing the arts, you were not surprised to discover the source of his being prolific is his practice of writing a poem a day as a warm-up for the day, which among other things involves directing the creative writing program at Santa Barbara City College.  You would have been surprised to hear his personal approach was anything other than having such a muscle-memory approach to work.  You are, in fact, somewhat surprised to discover that some individuals who say they wish to write do not write much or not often.

It is easy not to write, but in the long run the easiness of not writing becomes painful, impinging on such things as fun, connectivity of ideas, and awareness of the exquisite linkage between things that at first blush appear dissimilar.  Not writing makes one ordinary.  The moment you are ordinary, you begin to feel, then act ordinary.  The you discovered through writing is off on some vacation, watching terrible films or reading dreadful books.  You are attracted to ordinary persons and they to you.  Soon, you are attending ordinary films with them, listening to ordinary music; you are eating ordinary meals, being bitten by ordinary mosquitoes.  Your responses are ordinary.  Interesting persons seem beyond your reach.

The saving grace is the enormous surge from reading one poem or short story, listening to one beyond-ordinary musical work, falling in love with one out-of-the-ordinary person.  You are saved again; you can get back to work, essaying the risky business of getting something down on the page or the screen.  You are no longer ordinary,and there is the comforting sense of things you had never dreamed of as being in a relationship, having at it before your very eyes.

Post a Comment