Thursday, October 9, 2014

Catch-22 meets Pay It Forward

Your ultimate reason for taking on much of the nonfiction you read has some relationship to the acquisition of information.  You read to understand how a system works, what a word or phrase means in comparison to what you may have thought it meant, to arrive at an attitude toward the information, so that the information gained will not be a mere assembly of facts.  


You read nonfiction in order to be able to pound the lectern or table or desk in front of you with a semblance of passion, with an outright reflection of cynicism, or with the sincere and plausible sense of romanticism you sometimes feel uncoiling in your innards and starting to work its way up, into your voice.

Fiction and drama are other matters; you read them or attend their performances with the full intention of becoming a control freak.  You've not experienced any more disappointments or been on the receiving end of bad news any more than most persons.  In fairness and fact, you've doubtless reached the point of writing this with a tad fewer disappointments, rejection slips, deserved and undeserved traffic citations than many.

In equal fairness, you can recall a time in your life where you were in effect faking hangovers because some of your mates of the carouse were beginning to complain about your recovery times.

Whatever the accuracy and aptness of these observations, they did not stop you from being impatient for the things you wished for to happen sooner, with greater regularity, and with more intensity.  Although you'd published quite a few things at age twenty-three, you were nowhere near the level of performance you saw in either your de facto role model, Mark Twain, or your modern role model, F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

Repeating the history of an idol is no guarantee the repetition will bring you the results, much less the ability of an idol.  Fitzgerald was broke, living in his parents' basement in St. Paul, having not accomplished what he'd wished in New York.  His novel had been rejected twice, but he'd rewritten it, resubmitted it, and had had it accepted.  

Your own novel, the one that was going to get you out of your parents' hair, had been rejected, rejected, and rejected, the agent you'd hoped would be telephoning you with grand news could only send you notes regretting her failure to get an editor interested.

Even so, a number of things were coming your way, along with them the growing sense that the relative ease you'd experienced was going to require more effort, more devotion, more yearning.  And yearning is, after all, the point of this essay.

Characters in novels, plays, short stories, and the better-written motion picture and television dramas all wanted things, which was clear enough to you, but that clarity still needed to grow yet more lucid to the point of being pellucid.  Your characters wanted but did not yearn.  They wanted, but not soon enough.

Although you yearned, you did not yearn enough.  Although you wanted, you did not want right now.  Make no mistake, you'd have accepted such things as you'd earned and such other things you may have encountered by happy accident.  Let us say then of those years that under the guise of letting you think you were learning narrative technique, you were in fact learning the technique of concentration and focus.

You may have been a reflection of feeling entitled, but that was only because you associated yourself with being someone who wrote.  You did not for any considerable period of time believe you would do what you do now whether you ever published another word or not.

And now?  Now, there are these things you wish to get done.  The list is considerable.  You have no doubt the list will somehow extend.  You have no doubt that as you take on these as yet unwritten projects, each will be the occasion of a minor crisis, which is the embarkation on a journey stage of any project.  You will wonder what about the project ever caused you to think it had the stature and foundation to be the completed project you were so confident you could complete.

You have taught yourself to yearn, taught yourself to become a control freak, taught yourself the need to remove the randomness and occasional passages of mindless time in the Real World.  Books and stories do not get written in the real world.  Books and stories get written with that fine balance of yearning and fun that overcomes the beginning flutters and dithering.

Books and stories get written in the world you have to create in order to be able to do the work necessary to have the necessary fun that makes the work seem not at all like the work it is but the work you do.  Lapsing into the log-line tropes of Hollywood and story conference, the world you have to create is Catch-22 meets Pay It Forward.

You can do it, but you have to be a control freak to get it started.

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