Sunday, February 26, 2012

You Could Almost Say


There is the occasional fear that you have worked your way through the attic of notions and ideas to the point where there will be nothing coming for a time, which is of a piece with saying you fear you have no opinions for the time being, are simply sponging up impressions, waiting for some distillation process to complete itself.

This fear triggers the fear in general about not writing and the downstream consequences of that.  You are not so much aware of what you do when you are doing it as when you for some reason or other do not.  It is, then, not writing that makes you a writer, it is not writing that causes you to think about what being a writer means to you.

For much of your life, it was considered bad form to write about characters who were writers.  Artists barely made the cut and in order to do so, they had to be pretty much like Dorian Gray, where there was some transformative process going on.  James Joyce surely got away with writing about writers, so did Lawrence and Mrs. Woolf, all three of whom were born within the relatively same time span.  The form was of equal badness even to think of yourself in terms of these—that would be posturing or showing off.

The best you could do under those circumstances is write about individuals who were searching for something related to understanding, which is well along the way to what you think writers are trying to do, and do it to such a high degree of specificity that the descriptions, thought processes, and logic fall away to events and facts speaking for themselves to that important third party, the reader.

You do not think much about reading when you are in the act of reading one or more things.  As is the case with writing, you only think about being a reader when you have for some time stepped away from reading.  At such times, you are aware of yourself as a reader in the breach—your act of not reading reminds you with some pain that you have been away.

It is a gigantic leap of faith to attempt a syllogism here with breath, as in you only thinking about the act of breathing when you have been rendered breathless by some internal or external force.  You cannot go too long without breathing, an imperative that adds great weight to using it in any metaphor or simile.  You do become aware of yourself as a breather at times when you have stopped breathing, but also at times when your breathing becomes raspy or halting, or in great gulps that indicate some kind of pressure.

You become aware of yourself as a writer when you do not write but also when your narrative becomes mannered or stodgy or strained or stylized to the point of being less comprehensible and immediate as your accustomed state.

The place where these activities—writing, reading, and breathing—occupy the same plane is when they are brought to mind by events and conditions that take them degrees off the course of muscle memory and simple engagement, reaching the extreme of not engaging them at all.

Practice has a healthy effect on all three, helping you reach the point where you are absorbing a delightful state of being.  Not doing any of the three for a few moments now and again emphasize the fact to you of you being those steps beyond mere sensate that you so enjoy and strive to perfect.

As a breathing, reading writer, you stand some chance of reaching a plane of activity from time to time where your vision is useful, accurate, evocative, where you have some chance of getting at a story without too much stumbling over its inner rhythms and breathing patterns, and where, after you have set the work aside for a time to allow it to age, you are able to take a breath, then delve into reading it, your delight expanding as you find entire sentences, perhaps paragraphs where what you set down seems to fly off the page with meaning and some form of logic and some form of dramatic cohesion.


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