Monday, March 19, 2012

Wring out the Old, Wring in the New


 For the past few years, a recurring theme in your thoughts is the running-on-empty meme.  As the theme did in fact recur, you began to associate it with the fear of running out of material, whatever that happened to mean, and the greater fear of becoming repetitious and, even worse, derivative, all in the interests of meeting self-imposed blog post deadlines.

Happy to say, these thoughts did not last long; there always seemed to be something you wished to investigate or consider or both, possibly there’d be things you found worthy of development after the investigation or consideration produced the next plateau.

As the time progressed, you began to see that you’d gained a vast appreciation for the feeling of running on empty because, with its own resident tingle, there was also the sense of adventure of what would come when you began the day finding yourself confronted with a blank screen or blank sheet on a note pad.

The goal for some time was being in the state of mid-project.  With something under way, how could there be any problem setting to work tomorrow or, for that matter, the next day.

The potential for knowing what you’d be working on often had you sitting to work with a word already in mind, and then the work after that, more or less with no end insight.  What comfortable prospects—except that they were not as comfortable in the actual moment as you’d supposed.  What if the words were there, and the sentences, too?  What good were they without the buzz of excitement or the tingle of anticipation?

Soon after you reached this apparent dead end street, it came to you how comfort was not the companion for whom you had much respect.  Too much comfort could lead to moments in which thought could work its way in, perhaps even to the point of awakening the critical functions, and you know what happens when they are awake and yammering for breakfast, yowling judgments at the top of their voices.

Thought equals judgment equals the derailment from the emotional track, which means enthusiasm and a favorite passenger of yours, mischief, have had a chance to escape—an opportunity they always take.

The fear of coming to work with no reserve tank topped off during a decent night’s sleep, is an energizing experience of high order, alerting such mind as you have to watch anything and everything about you for clues and associations with which to form connections.

True enough, you sometimes find yourself trying to hush the inner voice that warns you how dangerously low your resources are and, later, skimming over the sense of relief you felt when there were things to talk about, connections to be made, associations plucked from the cosmos, and sudden, sharp close-ups of cliché tropes to be crossed out.

True enough, the musician practices for manual dexterity and technical agility, but the musician also practices to send the sound of the practiced notes into muscle memory, where they reside beyond thought.  True enough, they maybe summoned by a thought, but those are formal in nature and if performed as the result of thought, they are likely to sound colder, more mechanical.

The same is as true of words, cached in the muscle memory equivalent of the writer.  No matter if English has more or less synonyms than other languages; all languages have synonym and antonym to some degree and not all story is written in English.

Practice makes words become a part of the inner vocabulary, the writer vocabulary, where in some cases the emotional payoff of a story rests on the difference between ergo and therefore, between I think not and I don’t think so.  The writer will have already thought through the fact of English being the only language to use “do” as a kind of shim to level out language.  I do think you are angry; as opposed to I think you’re angry.  Each has a particular tang to it; the writer must recognize when one is more appropriate than the other or, for that matter, any other.

There is something inherently formal-sounding in well-thought-out narrative.  This formal presence causes the words to sound as though being delivered in a valedictory speech at a graduation rather than conversation or interior monologue or daydreaming from a character.

Narrative issuing from the sense of a near-empty tank carries the vocabulary of risk, tension, gasping for air not found in ordinary speech and as such goes with more speed and deliberation to the readers’ viscera, where even in translation it is anything but formal.

You practice not for dexterity or to perfect the timing, but to run out the tank.

Some day, you may in fact be empty of a thing to say, but you will have the panting, gasping, sweating, hand wringing body language to convey it, and story will have survived within you for yet another day.


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