Wednesday, December 26, 2012


We do not choose our friends the way we choose our characters.  This factor of difference holds as well for the characters of other writers we choose to remember, to like, to envy, even to detest and revile.  In comparison to the way we treat characters, our friends have an easier go of it, a fact that is often borne home to us when we stop to consider that we have been chosen by our friends, some of whom may be writers.

When our writer friends publish, we read their work with some apprehension, wondering at first if we have been co-opted by them, made into characters in their stories.  Reading all the way through a friend's story without seeing scant trace or yourself can seem a relief at first, but only at first--then comes the affront for not being there.

We do not choose characters in terms of like or dislike, rather because of our curiosity to see what we will do to them, what the Fates will do to them or, depending on our vocabulary, what God will do.

This is a pretty reliable indication of why we read fiction, having grown away from the fable- and religious-based stories with morals into the more capacious and genuine curiosity about what will happen to these individuals we have come to believe could be real.  This is also a good index of why many of us write fiction:  To see who and what we are, to wish to invite our so-called dark sides to the table to break bread with the brighter more collegial us.

You sometimes suspect yourself of having secrets from your explored and surveyed areas, thus you use this triangulation or inferential way of forcing issues with enough pressure to cause these secret areas to reveal their secrets.  You are not looking for excuses to chastise or reproach yourself any more than you are looking for ways to hold banquets in honor of your long service to something or other even if that something or other is you.

You want to be where you are for the recognition of how difficult it was to have won any sense of ability and your awareness of how easy it is for those neural pathways to fill with leaves and gunk in a manner similar to the roof draining systems when they become clogged with leaves.

More and more, as you look about you, there are individuals who are approaching retirement age in something else, wanting to come to the writer's sand box, where there seems to be no retirement age.  At this thought, you take severe issue; the process of keeping the interest alive,of searching for more appropriate details, reminds you more than ever of an archaeologist, in careful, measured scouring of a site for the most minute clues and particles.

Some authors you have come to respect have reached an age where they talk openly of their most recent work being their last.  You want not to believe this.  You want to believe Philip Roth will write yet another and again another.  You want Alice Munro to become overwhelmed by at least one more story and then another and yet another.

As for you, your hope is that you always have another project in the works, one in fact you are racing against the most unforgiving of all deadlines to get done.  In a real sense, you are hoping to go out with the sense of disappointment at not having finished the one in the works when you are edited out of existence.  Stories, essays, novels, reviews--they are all splendid things to have done even with the knowledge that were you to look at them farther down the line, you'd find things to cringe at.  You are fond of product, perhaps too fond of it, but you are also fond of the process, which you have made your process, and, alas, perhaps not fond enough of it.

The late mystery/suspense writer, William Campbell Gault, once told you, "I'd rather be the world's worst writer than a good anything else."  He's been gone since 1995.  The last time you saw him, he was in a favored restaurant on lower State Street, a happy man.

The message you took from him and from your own ongoing affair with Process is that happiness is best served by pushing and shoving Process in the face of impending Disappointment.  The Disappointment means only one project will not be finished.  The happiness means disappointment is transitory, that the Process is the unpaved road you follow across the vast desert of your imagination.

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