Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Your Inner Pie Chart

The large clump of books along your southwest wall grows larger every day.  Your attempts to systematize it, give it some kind of order or coherence, so that it will not become as chaotic as the stacks along the stairway to the kitchen.  

Given the size of your studio, the days of past glory are long past.  These were years wherein you arranged your books in accord with the Dewey Decimal System, or, more recently, when you had the two-car garage at Hot Springs Road converted to bookshelves, the Library of congress system.

This background is prologue to your recent discovery that the books along the southwest wall, arranged at first with a few writing projects in mind, has become difficult if not impossible to systematize, a discovery that causes you to confront face to face--book to book, in reality--a negligence you've been perpetrating.

Ask you at any given moment what your ruling state of being is, and expect you to say enthusiasm more than any others.  True enough, you are not always revved up with enthusiasm, but your moments suggestive of the opposite, say depression or even frustration, are rare.  If you are not enthusiastic, chances are you're not working at something or reading something, or planning to work on something.  

If you're not enthusiastic, you might well be cynical, which is the possible mood when discussing or considering politics.  You could add other potential frames of mind in some kind of pie chart, much the way your bank depicts such finances as you have to show you the proportions of spending.

Like your favorite writer, Mr. Mark Twain, you are not above playing mischief games with figures or statistics.  For instance, your inner pie chart, were it depicted before today, would be missing an important frame of mind.  That sounds like a fallacy in logic, but the observation is accurate.  The missing element in your pie chart, indeed, the driving force behind that clutter of books along the southwest wall, is curiosity.

The more you think about it, the more you see curiosity, working behind the scenes, as it were, even to the point where at times you find yourself saying things you might not have uttered, only written in a notebook or index card.  But curiosity won; you said the thing you said because you were curious to see the effect it would have.  

This discovery is made even more emphatic because of your familiarity with things you've said out of curiosity having no effect at all, rather that long moment of silence wherein those who've heard your statement don't have a ready response.  They seem, at such times, to be a Greek Chorus, saying "Huh?"  or the more sophisticated, "How's that?" or "What?"

Your approach to composition uses curiosity as its fulcrum.  A connection of seemingly unrelated elements of events comes popping into mind to the point of intriguing you.  You set forth then on a journey to see where the connection or concept will take itself and, of course, you, with it.

There is noting essentially wrong or even mysterious about the growing clutter of books.  Many of them are nonfiction, true, but many of these have some relation to fiction or some aspect of story in their editorial intention, a splendid example being Michael Schmidt's 1100-plus page The Novel:  A Biography.  This remarkable book is exactly what the title says it is, a history of the novel from about 1350 until the present day, intriguingly arranged so that specific authors appear to be talking about their works and the effects their works have had on subsequent writers, and the effects other writers have had on them.

You first heard of this book, which was published by a university press, in a review, which means you were so curious to see for yourself what you would find in it that you dealt with your curiosity on the spot; you ordered the book with your iPhone, while sitting in a coffee shop, reading a review publication.  It has made you realize your own Fiction Writer's Handbook was no accident, rather a format you'd been admiring ever since you came across an American version of a book called Fowler's Modern English Usage.

Of course, writers are fond of saying or asking "What if," or "What if?" because these are the sorts of things writers say or ask to get what some critics and academics call speculative fiction.  Interesting to note these critics and academics did not used to call it speculative fiction.  Instead, they called it things that could be said within the parameters of a sneer.  

The most positive things these critics and academics said about speculative stories was to call them science fiction or fantasy, but even those were said with a sneer until such stories simply radiated too much energy, artistry, and truth to be ignored.  You've been saying "What if" and asking "What if?" for some time, as in, What if you did with a book about storytelling terms and concepts what Fowler did with his encyclopedic work.

You have no idea what will become of the books along the southwest wall.  There is a possibility of them leading you down that "What if" path to a book project, but even then, that collection of books and any projects from you will have to take their chances, the same way your curiosity does.


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