Thursday, June 14, 2012

Surprise Party


You find yourself colliding with an idea for a project, say a story or a book.  In that collision, you get a brief vision of what the finished project will be, perhaps even the ending.  You may even believe the project was given to you ending first instead of beginning first.

Energized by your enthusiasm for the vision, you set forth with it, working to give it the sufficient amount of presence you know it will require for you to see it through to completion.

Now comes the important part.  Because you have done this before, because you know how the process works, you are aware that the project will not be complete to any degree of your satisfaction until it undergoes some transformation, opens itself to something completely unexpected.  This “something” is resident somewhere within you, but you’re unable to identify where because you do not know.

The important part is that you see the project, then you understand something you’ve learned sometime in the past:  the project must collide with an association, a metaphor, an accidental discovery.

The important part is that you rely, as much on what you cannot see or know as the technique you believe you possess in sufficient degree to feel comfortable about it.

An additional note of importance is the awareness that you frequently use the words “fun” and “comfort” when you are writing, even when you are writing something that was nudged into being by anger or resentment.  Thus the questions:  Is comfort good for you?  Do you need to redefine comfort and confidence for yourself?  You believe you do.

Where does this leave you?

At the moment, you believe the implications are that when you write something you know with no hint of doubt or uncertainty, you are likely to be recreating and rearranging material you already know to the point where you do not question it.  In similar fashion, when you write something you are trying to use as a springboard to discovery, you are inviting conclusions and diversions you have not yet assimilated in full.

In hopes of being clear about this matter, you offer this observation:  There is more fun involved in writing for discovery.  This is an activity fraught with tension and hyperawareness bordering on excitement.  Dare you say thrill?  You dare.

Writing about something where the end result is certainty becomes an act of transcription, of copying, of rearranging the furniture for the sake of busywork. 

There is one way in which fiction is congruent with reality:  Each is focused on outcome, which is more often than not unknowable, subject to last-minute adjustments of reversals.  Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction is predicated on outcomes prized by and hoped for segments of society, but by no means all of society.  Twentieth-century and later fiction is predicated on the notion that outcomes are uncertain, ambiguous.  Further, this later fiction reflects the growing understanding that outcomes—all outcomes—are capricious, sometimes divisive, reflective of multiple points of view, each insisting on its own integrity.

Toward the end of her life, your mother began making presents of things she treasured.  Some of your souvenirs of that nature include porcelain and china teacups, silverware, a secretary, and two chests of drawers, the sight of any one of which, at any time, remind you of her.

Even in a time of great uncertainty, you scarcely feel you’ve reached any point close to that state and yet, reminded of her actions and intent, it comes to you to think of giving things away, not in any sense as passing along treasures—that will require more deliberation and reflection—rather of getting rid of possessions you’ve been carting about with you from place to place over the years.

You think sometimes with a pang of things you were moved to abandon when you had to move from Hot Springs Road and considerably more storage space than you have here on Sola Street.  You wish you’d abandoned hubris and stubbornness, a sense of knowing what you were doing.  These are not things you can set out on the street with signs reading “Free” and “Gratis.”  Nor can you invest in a provocative description of them for Craig’s List, which you would post online. 

Ridding yourself of these and other related things is going to be difficult.  The only certainty attached to this divestiture is that somewhere, a clock is ticking.

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