Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dealing with Your Interior Edwin Booth

The second best thing is to come to the table feeling pretty much the way you did this morning, leaving the studio with neither hard cash nor your wallet and its supporting cast of credit cards.  True enough, you were well enough known at your venue of choice, and truer still, you could--and did--sign the tab for your breakfast.  But the feeling is a scary one, causing you to reflect on things before your coffee was prepared and your oatmeal put on the boil.

Suppose you sit to compose with nothing in the tank, no vision, no irritation at some human foible, only instead the sense you are not known here, the sense of wonder that you could have ever thought to have written a short story or essay much less a novel or a book length essay.

Being caught out that way makes you think of the close relative of sitting at your desk or chosen workplace to begin composition or, better still, to continue something you'd started yesterday or, best case scenario yet, something you'd been grappling with for some time, on occasion it getting the better of you, on other occasions, you managing a page or two of stature, pages that hold up under scrutiny and remind you of the inherent promise of the project in the works.

The process is not rational.  In one of your pocket-sized notebooks, you have a list of the next five books you'd hope to write.  This notebook is no surprise to you.  On frequent occasion, you consult it, looking for the same kinds of energy you get when listening to and absorbing music.  

The ideas all seem sound, placed with firmness against your vision of yourself as a writer.  But there are days when these five projects seem well beyond your reach or, worse still, beyond your interest.

You tell yourself at the outset that with these five books, undertaken, then completed, you will surely have found at least one more to add to the list.  Even if the answer is no, these five are it, there is some satisfaction in knowing you're not the loafer the sceptic of your worst dreams insists you are.

So you begin, cumbersome sentence on the screen or notepad, followed by a sentence of a bit less cumbersomeness, until there is a page in which one or two sentences, all but simple declarative sentences, have a jaunty resonance.  This is all it takes to urge you to risk another of the turgid, sclerotic sentences.  

If your luck holds and you don't put too much thought into the process, the cumbersomeness seems to be in retreat.  You can now risk reading an entire page, hopeful of finding the flutter of life within the paragraphs.

These are the daily equivalents of driving to work in a city with dense traffic.  You live there, the traffic is, yes, dense, and so you have to put up with it.  Worst case is that some days, you'll be a bit late arriving to work.  If you had to look back to recall a time where the go-to-work traffic of writing was so dense that you missed an entire day of work, you'd have to rely on guesswork.

Days when you are well launched into a continuing task are your first choices unless, as you noted earlier, some extreme aspect of you--with good reason, you call him your inner Edwin Booth--jumps up before you, shouting "Sic semper tyrannus," as Booth was said to have done before shooting President Lincoln.

The process devolves to a statement you gleaned from a textbook in Psychology 1.  "The organism thinks well of itself."  In your case, even if there is a momentary hiatus from the esteem and energy needed to undertake composition, reading a few pages will often cause you to wave Booth away with a dismissive, "Oh, come off it, man."

Even if the pages don't work, a more reliable person than booth will appear.  "You might want to rethink these pages in the following ways," he will suggest.

And you will see what he means.

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