Monday, March 25, 2013

Process, Blue-veined Cheese, and the Writing Life

How many hours of thought, conscious effort, and wild probing for additional sources of information have gone into your search?  How many will The Process allow you to claim without demanding an audit?

Answers to those questions reside in the ashes of sad disaster.  At first, you thought The Process--your process--was magical in nature, with at least a common denominator of mysticism, of somehow tapping into some great, Jungian-in-nature, source.

 Then you allowed yourself to believe The Process had a rational basis, close to scientific in its implications.  Talent was a part of it, of course,  You went so far as to believe you had a good deal of that quality.  Perhaps.  But perhaps not.  No matter; you saw the future as a detente between the logic of human behavior and the extent of your talent.  In this perfect, rational world, you could see your work grow to the extent you were able to understand human behavior and have some ability to quantify your talent, perhaps even by exercise, to enhance that valuable quality.

That, as the saying goes, was then.  Now has brought you yet another vision, a vision that feels better, works better for you, feels as comfortable as your four-day-old vision in your left eye now  seems, which is to say sharper in image, color corrected, even coated with UV protection from direct sunlight.

In so many words from the advice and texts of The Process in its rational approach, Kill your darlings.  One of these very darlings was the belief that learning the rules and--to mix the metaphor--practicing your scales would grant you ability--no, Ability--of such a level as to insure regularity of publication and, thus, regular checks, royalty statements with black ink, more agreements to publish arriving in your mail.  This would be well and good if what you wished was the ability to produce a mechanically sound story, one able to pass the local building codes.

By no means were all your previous romances boring, unsatisfactory, even doomed.  You think back on some of them and are able to extrapolate potentials for growth into the truest kinds of partnership inherent in love.  Thus you are able to look back on The Rational Process with some degree of fondness.  This could have been a relationship from which you'd not have strayed, been content with the gradual reduction of output from one novel a month to two or three a year, then one a year or so, each of those interspersed with the occasional short story, each of those pondered with greater deliberation, time off for pursuit of interests such as The Old West, Anthropology, and Music as well as the more personalized music.

The Mystical Process had its moments too, jumping into your awareness when you first began, being set aside for a number of years, then rekindled on that epic picnic you had with Christopher Isherwood, when he told you of his collaboration on translating The Bhagavad-Gita with Swami Prabhavananda, and the arrival of the line that continues to haunt you, "To the work you are entitled, but not the fruits thereof."  Thus Krishna to the famed General Arjuna.  You liked the notion that the work, whatever the outcome, pleased you.  Suffice the work to be enough, in spite of the difficulties of doing it well, even better as you progressed.  Who could resist such a life?  You were already used to being broke much of the time.  Doing the work would somehow keep you afloat in the world, if not a successful man, a happy one, in particular relationship to a number of your friends who were successful but not happy.

Now, there is this, neither rational, mystical, nor in most ways mysterious.  The work comes from The Process, same as ever, but the Process comes from a blue-cheese metaphor for you, crumbly, blue-veined with mold, with a slight peppery tang.  Associations arrive within a paragraph or two of warm-up.  The mysteries are not of the universe, which of themselves are profound and amazing; the mysteries of you are very bit as exciting.  No one had to tell you how fruitful the arrival of these associations and chemical bonding can be, or how exciting the process of following them can be.

You do not work to explain the universe to itself or to serve apprenticeship to The Rational Process, or to learn the slight-of-hand equivalents of magic to supplement your narrative.  You work to lead yourself down paths you'd have avoided before, paths you do not dare to take in the daylight hours, perhaps only in your dreams.  You've come to accept another dramatic truth"  Don't tell the Reader what the Reader already knows.  This is of a piece with attempting to explain to the Universe how the Universe works.

Enough of that.  Your work is to expose yourself to all the things you do not know and in that process come to appreciate even more what the work is.

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