Monday, December 2, 2013

Dare to Send Your Internal Editor on a Vacation

Leaving California is like setting a completed draft of a story or essay aside to simmer for a time, away from you.

There is a built-in conviction you will return to both.  The former is a matter extending back to your childhood and the time when you began to have shattering dreams in which your fear of never returning to it seemed to play variations on the theme of being stranded.  There was no help when you discovered Robinson Crusoe, and you were not yet able to see how this type of separation could be helpful to you in terms of thematic material.

Setting a story aside, the literary equivalent of allowing wines and whiskies to age in oaken barrels, is another kind of wrench.  Prior to departure, you're a tingly concoction of vulnerability at all the feelings felt, revelations experienced, excitement at having got the draft down in some form, and a momentary sense of hope for the work.

When you return to California, you are a different person, a person who has had serious thoughts about his destination away from California, serious to the point of imagining what it would be like to live away from it, how being elsewhere would change you.

When you return to a completed draft, the patina has begun to dull.  Errors of omission and commission struggle to get to the front of the line.  The internal editor, which you'd kept at arm's length, has begun to question you.  If there are such holes and flecks of lint on this work you had such hopes for, how are you able to trust your real life impressions and judgments.

These would be reasonable questions if the process itself were rational.  Your return to California was rational on some levels--career, friends, potentials for employment, the noticeable ease of being able to connect with your process here--but the time had long passed when you stopped trying to judge your return here by rational standards.

Driving westward, over the Colorado River, into California, you had a feeling of relief.  A few miles further along I-40, you were admonished to stop at an inspection station, where there were several lines of waiting motorists, answering questions, in one case getting out of the car to open the rear deck lid for an inspector.

The inspector in your line took you in with a quick flash of his eyes over your face.  "You're home, buddy,"  he said, waving you on toward the highway.  Although not rational, you felt recognized as not only a resident but a native (as though anyone could be recognized as such).

When you pick up a piece that has been set aside to mature or to allow you the perspective of distance, you're already aware you've been away; you've been your composing self, relative to other ideas, other projects.  You might have snagged a fresh concept and begun riffling through the possibilities of living with it for a time.

Leaving California and embarking on a project are both adventures for you, beginnings of a venture that will take you somewhere you might not otherwise have chosen.  You must take care that these adventures are not guided tours or close adherence to some travel guide.

You've needed considerable discipline and practice becoming the writer who at some point finishes what he has begun, then returned to it for a fresh look, a different person, all the while remaining the same essential you-person you are at pains to discover.

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