Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Crap Shoot


You are midway through breakfast this morning with Jim Alexander, a chum and a writing chum, when the conversation turns beyond mere politics to the political and economical effects on the current job market.  Within that framework, you both agree how evolving changes in the wider aspects of publishing make it even more of a risk for the writer who brings to the table hopes not only of finding a sensible publisher but of making some semblance of a living out of any single publishing project.

“A crap shoot,” Alexander observed.  You were quick to agree.  All one has going in, unless one is an established market platform, is the enthusiasm for the project at hand.  This enthusiasm reminds you of a word used to define one of the capacities of copper, explaining at once the wide popularity of copper wire.

Not only is copper an excellent conduit for the passage of electricity, it as well is ductile, meaning it has the capacity to be drawn into wire, sometimes of a remarkably small diameter.  Enthusiasm is, or should be ductile; it is drawn out as the project progresses from the first insanity of early draft to the more nuanced iterations of its layered meanings.

At some point, the wire may be drawn beyond the point where the atoms can hold themselves together.  Sometimes the energy for a project is drawn so thin that the project snaps, having lost its ductility while the writer has lost enthusiasm.

These capacities—to be drawn out and to snap—haunt writers.  There is the potential in the writer’s mind for each project to be the last.  You’ve noted it and link it with one of the laws governing matter you learned of in high school physics.  The law of conservation of matter, in this case, refers to the potential for a writer to run out of the process of connectivity.

Said writer will suddenly appear to be on a sustained vacation from connecting sufficient concepts and awareness of the behavior of matter and individuals to allow for the creation of new material.  A potential remedy is often seen when some writers appear to be repeating previous work or philosophical bent.

Your approach to this writer’s dilemma is to embrace it head on.  You’ve noted the unparalleled tingle accompanying the sense of running on empty.  By this, you’d meant running with no thesis or theme or target for your inquisitiveness or your ire or your sense of injustice or your sense of impatience.  All these qualities, when present, can be mined for ideas and the energy to mine and smelt them into something tangible and useful.  The tingle of fear the absence of these qualities produce is often enough to set you back on the horse of narrative that has unceremoniously thrown you.

You count on the enthusiasm for a project.  At first blush, when the project presents itself and you can feel the tingles of excitement from the way all those lines are drawn to illustrate the connections between things you had not previously seen connected, you are as ecstatic as you have been from falling in love.

This is indeed the same thing; you are in fact falling in love and about to enter a relationship of some unparalleled intimacy where your secrets will be revealed and where secrets will be revealed to you.

Also worthy of note, your sense of enthusiasm is better served as a cocktail, equal parts of enthusiasm and curiosity and attraction and bloody, heart-tingling fear that this might be your last chance, that you might not be the equal of this challenge.

Splendid cocktail, fueled with your sense of running vulnerable, with all your jokes used, all your memorized facts used or somehow forgotten.  Then it becomes the most romantic of all, when you are alone with the project, naked, original, defenseless against the fears that you might not be able to bring this one off.

Of course it matters to you, but only after the project is engaged and you have the sense of being in it, as honest and fearful and hopeful as you believe yourself capable.

But there is more.

There is always more.

And you go rushing after the tail of this passing comet.


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