Thursday, November 24, 2011


You have had a boarder for as long as you can recall, certainly since the times you took up writing as your go-to point of interest.  You’re not sure when the boarder moved in or, indeed where the boarder passes the days and nights.  Much less are you sure what gender to assign to your boarder, thus the pronoun varies when you take the time to consider a profile, something amusing you might jot down in your notes for possible expansion into a story, or on occasion part of a resolution to serve the boarder with an eviction notice.

Your boarder is an anarchist.  If not a bomb-throwing anarchist, certainly a snit-throwing one, capable of tantrums, going out on strike, taking up the devil’s advocacy at the least convenient times for you, seeming to want more than anything else that you change your writing style and voice from amused witness to pissed-off provocateur.  You are a frequent witness, which is a good thing and you are often amused, which is another good thing, but to say you are an amused witness is not accurate.  Some of the writers you admired as a younger person were amused witnesses, Robert Benchley, say.  But you neither have his suave aplomb or his pencil-thin moustache.

A major step you have noticed in those among your students who have listened to you and gone on to some significant beyond-writing-student plateau.  This step represents forming a coalition if not alliance with the inner anarchist, a shift from politeness, restraint, and control into the worlds of schadenfreude, revenge, and telling the truth, this last surely a euphemism for telling some one or some thing to get stuffed.  This, you note, is precisely what an inner anarchist should do

You have, time and again, noticed beginning writers stepping up to the metaphoric plate, waving the bat of irritation or exasperation, then proceeding to hit the next story out of the park, find an immediate home for it, then wonder what the hell happened as they try to replicate the story rather than express in some new way the emotion they have discovered. The better actors are said to have “found” a character, by which the intention is that the actor has transcended the limits of self to inhabit the character.  An artist is said to have found a period or momentary subject of vital focus.  Writers discover their voices, their discoveries being anything but the nice, polite young person they were raised to be, mannered and polite to a fault.

Politeness works, it really does, in social situations, but the writing situation is something other, entirely beyond the constraints of civility.  Of course you appreciate your coffee strong, your music bluesy, your narratives noir, but around these armatures you attempt to wrap strands of civilization and culture as you see them, a fact you were a long time recognizing and a technique you were even longer in learning.  Many of your characters are pissed without knowing it.  Others are well aware of being pissed and mortified that it will emerge in their behavior during unguarded moments.

You were thinking it would be nice if you could send the occasional sandwich to your anarchist or perhaps some clean linen on occasion, scoop up some of the dust bunnies; you want it to feel at home.  You particularly do not want it to consult Craig’s List or some other information network, looking for a new place to hang out; you want it unhappy, right where it is.

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