Thursday, May 1, 2014


On a recent afternoon, when you sat to compose work on the new project, you experienced the feeling of impatience  similar to when you are forced to wait in line for anything.

The materials to work on were close at hand, the window of time fell in leisurely plenitude.  You had in fact arranged this time with a sense of cunning and mischief.  There were other things you needed to do, but you'd agreed to place the work at the top of the priority pyramid.

The beauty of your plan for work you'd thought to engage resided in the fact that at most, you'd get the wording for about one percent of the entire work.  There were other potential beauties, hovering about, waiting to pounce.  Such as, you might stumble upon a discovery, either in your writing or your reading.  Such as, you might make some connection between a portion of your project and another work, where you'd not been conscious of the relationship before.

The greatest beauty of all is the more idiosyncratic one yet; such working sessions have come to be the most enjoyable part of the process.  You are neither launching forth, uncertain of your destination, or paddling furiously because now the shore is in sight and you have been a sea, away from the shore line for a long time.  This was to have been another day in paradise, another day at work on a project.

Why, then, were you seeing reruns of your old nemesis, impatience?  Under most circumstances, you come to work with a phrase, a sentence, a vision in mind, ready to start your way in.  Why impatience?  Why the need to indulge those diversions many writers you know speak of in such unkindly terms as futzing around, sharpening pencils, cleaning imaginary spots from the screen of the computer, or, worse yet, checking emails against the possibility you'll have missed some life-changing opportunity from some publisher who has never contacted you before, but on this day in recent history, might have opted to break silence.

You cast about for clues.  Another time waster.  There are clues everywhere.  At a conservative estimate, you can see two hundred fifty clues on the desktop home of your computer screen.  At least three books, one an introduction to the philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, arguably one of the most profound philosophical influences on the last century and this one.  A splendid if stodgy investigation, The Historical Novel, by one of your favorite literary critics, Georg Lukacs, and a new favorite, the fire-brand Slavoj Zizeck.

At least twenty notebooks, only one of them completely blank, stacks of index cards with your own, funny scribblings on them, date books, wind-up toys, and the on-going challenge of a favored fountain pen whose cap you cannot manage to unscrew, providing you with hours of inventive frustration.  All these are clues to be weighted, balanced, assessed for answers.

Nice try.

How good of you to have worked your way to the habit of looking about for clues, of seeking and finding valuable information and the literary equivalent of such tape in small details which radiate or, as the need arises, betray useful traits.

The clue to your impatience was there, all the time, waiting for you to discover it.  You did not have beginning words for the material you'd hoped to engage.  You did not have them because you had no taste for the material.

Now answers present themselves.  (1) Go to a place where you do have the taste (2) ask probing questions about why you had no taste for the material for which you had no taste. (3) Material may, on subsequent rereading, seem lackluster, but you made the effort to get it down, where you could examine it in its unrefined state for clues.  (4) Material that is down in readable form is always more preferable to the material you write in your dreams. (5) Material in readable form can be revised, edited. (6) Good luck trying to revise or edit dreams.

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