Saturday, April 13, 2013

Missing the Point

If you think a day of working at composition causes you to feel like a writer, you're missing the entire point.  Even if the day of composition felt energizing, causing tingling inner sensations in places you'd thought too ordinary to feel tingles, even if your mind seemed to blaze with moments of understanding and being connected to something sensate and splendid outside yourself, even then, with all those benefits, you're missing the point.

And if the day of working at composition made you feel like a poser at the game of writing because of so many digital equivalents of crumpling the page and tossing it aside,or false starts or, worse, of what you've come to think of as mind freeze, where moments, sometimes hours pass with no words at all going up on the page, you missed the point.  Even if you hear from within a comforting voice, recognizably one of your own, telling you such days are merely days on the job, such days are in their way the same as the dazzling and special days where paragraphs seem to flow from you fingers the way three-pointers come from a Michael Jordan, the point of efforts you've put in are not connecting.

What about times when you've done your work, then walked off some of the tension and mood, returning to pick up a book which you are now able to read without the focus of close reading, following the text because you know the author or know of her or him?  You find yourself turning the pages, the words themselves a blur, the characters now alive within you, their aches and yearnings crying out for some kind of recognition or release.  You understand you are caught in someone else's story, the vision of another writer, imparting to you the sense you get when you look out the window of an airplane and see the ground streaming past you and the unmistakable sense of being aloft, the ground receding.

You are free of that day-to-day world and are gaining altitude and involvement in story.  For a few moments, you are too thrilled to be envious of the abilities of the writer you are reading.  Her story is paramount in your own senses, and you get the second lift-off of knowledge that you'd never have appreciated this work so much as you now do if you had not become a writer.  When you are actually flying, you close your eyes at this moment, press your head back into your seat for that surrender to the flight and the static electric anticipation of what awaits you at the other end of the flight.  That could almost have you at the cusp of getting the point.  Almost.

If you think that writing every day, even days when you are perhaps overcome with physical illness or tiredness from life events or from the cat-wants-out, cat-wants-in turbulence of everyday life, helps you to feel more like a writer than some wannabe or poseur, you are back to missing the point.  This is true even if you feel the suppleness and strength of habit and the quickness with which associations and ideas seem to hurl themselves at you once you've begun to work.  This is true even if you feel a momentary sense of confidence that the project you're working on, however daunting it may have been when it came to you and you said to it, yes, I'll take you on, is within your grasp, you are still missing the point, which by now has begun to nag at you, wanting recognition, your admission that it exists.

You think to give this missing point, this nagging awareness a brief nod.  Sure, you say, you get the message, which is that the thing that could possibly put you over the top is to admit the Big Admission, which is that you do not know what it is like to feel like a writer until you've missed a day of writing, a day of reading, a day of thinking, a day of scribbling notes with occasional speeds so demanding that you know you'll have trouble reading them later on.  Surely, you say, that's the missing link.  The addict going cold turkey for an entire day.

Close but, as the saying on the Midway goes, no cigar.  You gave the trigger a good pound with the hammer.  The marker was scant inches from ringing the bell that would have won you the cigar.  But not quite.

Nearly ten years ago, in fact December 7, 2003, you were in a surgeon's office, where the surgeon told you what he'd do the following morning to your unconscious body, wanting you to understand the one-in-a-hundred probability that when you awoke from the anesthesia, you'd be aware of having apparatus for a colostomy.  This apparatus, by a probability of ninety percent, would be with you for a month or six weeks.  The remaining ten percent probability was that you'd have it for the balance of your life.

He gave you another set of probabilities:  that when you awoke, there would no longer be cancer-bearing tissue in your body, or that some "floaters" might still be in orbit which would have to be pursued with radiation or chemical intervention.

At about six thirty the following morning, the matter was out of your hands.  Perhaps if you'd not relaxed and given into the rush of anaesthesia being directed into your bloodstream free rein, you'd have remained awake a moment or two longer, but when the anesthesiologist said, Here comes your cocktail, you scarcely had time to say Olives, not cherries.  Or perhaps you only had time to think of the response.

You knew nothing until well after three that afternoon.  You of course checked immediately to see if the colostomy apparatus was in place.  Not.  One more obstacle out of the way.  A nurse saw you've come awake, greeted you, fluffed your pillow.  You were ravenously thirsty, had been advised you'd have to wait some twelve to sixteen hours before you could have any liquid, but would be able to accept moistened swabs to run over your gums.

Two of those swabs out of the way and your cursory check of body parts over, your question, more to yourself than any audience.  What had you missed?  In work and social situations, you've encountered numerous pink telephone message slips, While You Were Out...

What had you missed?

The seeming jump from writely things to surgical things was no lapse of thematic continuity.  The thing that causes you to feel yourself arrived at any chance whatsoever of being a writer is the wonderment of what you'll have missed by not doing it.  You "get" all the lead-up and potentials you mentioned, including the diagnosis of your cancer.  What will you have missed is the matter.

Good days or bad, plentiful or scant, the reading of other's works a haunting reminder of how far you have to go.

Being a writer is the constant awareness of what you've missed and what you need to do to pursue it and attempt to catch up.

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