Sunday, June 3, 2012

You Had to Have Been Here


In all your discussions of blogging with other bloggers, with writers who have been induced to blog because of a new title, and with students whom you have urged to start blogging, you’ve never had or even thought of this one until now:

By writing every day—and blogging is a reasonable way to keep you doing so through those occasional dry spells between projects—You of course build a discipline where working every day becomes so painful when you do not do it that you do not wish to experience that pain, however much it is present in some abstracted form.  But you also loose any sense of keeping score, measuring the good writing days against the days where you’re less than pleased with the output, or in fact measuring anything at all, even not being concerned by the number of words or the pages.

By writing every day, you do what you have set out to do—you write.  By writing every day, you create a wad of words, a continuous spin of it, some good, some quite good, some of it bad, some extraordinary in its mediocrity, some of it so difficult to look at that you’re transported into knowing that here is the time for closer inspection because you’re about to learn something.

In short, you are not writing to keep yourself on the roll of yesterday’s good day or downward spiral of bad writing but rather of keeping yourself on the wave of writing, confident in the knowledge that getting it down in any form is better than merely thinking about the project.  In fact, merely thinking about the project barely keeps it alive in the sense of keeping you in it as an involved participant.

You have to be writing at it to be involved.  Once you’ve got that covered, you’ll have something to revisit, to revise, to recast.  Some days, on this platform, you write about questions you have regarding a work in the works, either before you go to work that day or immediately after you’ve been at work.

Worrying about whether the material is any good is a process that comes after the first draft is done and the mindset is shifted to go through the drill of revision to see what goes where, what stays and in what manner it is allowed to remain.

Buildings have weight-bearing walls.  Stories have weight-bearing lines of dialogue and narrative.  Everything has a function or it must be discarded as a distraction or worse, an indulgence.

If there are Zen aspects to this kind of storytelling, they reside in this aspect of getting the control freak aspects of you out of the story if the work is fiction or the research Eco freak not wanting to waste anything if the work is nonfiction.  Whatever the work is, it is also in some way story, which means it must be told through a dramatic filter rather than being recited as though coming from a schoolboy showing off how much he’s memorized.  There are sources where you can access material in such conditions, but when you wish to express your chemistry of attraction between the facts and you or the characters and you, then you must find ways to relate the information as story.

The resolution about working every day is quite clear.  You do so to remove the daily sense of being graded for the day’s work or of being hounded by it or goaded by it, instead you do it because of your sense of connection with it.

You have come to this place because it is after all the place where you can rethink, reshape, and revise.  You have come to this place because it is a way station to the next place, which you cannot hope to reach without stopping here for a time.


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