Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Here to Stay

The enormous excitement from the arrival of an idea you know you will work on until it is completed pushes you along in a strange transaction where, without your awareness of it at first, you have begun a negotiating session with internal and external forces you call The Cosmos.  You call those forces The Cosmos because you cannot think of anything more appropriate.

In your initial struggle to get down  as many notes and observations on the project as possible, you are in conscious awareness of trying to fend off or not think about the consequences awaiting you on the other side of the equals sign.

Those consequences are satellites orbiting about the planet of abject disappointment.  In direct proportion to the onset of that splendid amalgam of curiosity, desire to shake the universe up a bit, and the inevitable changes overcoming you, there waits for you the questioning of the project in the first place, and the notion of the changes the project will make in your life.

In direct proportion to the positive implications of the project is the sense of yourself as the proverbial used car salesman or his predecessor, the livery stable denizen who appears in Mark Twain's story, "The Mexican Plug Horse," to observe in casual indifference to Twain, "I see you are a fine judge of horseflesh."

In your all-too-brief interview with Helen Meyer, Chairperson and publisher of the Dial, Dell, Delacorte empire on the occasion of your being measured to run the Los Angeles office, you said in effect that your qualifications for the job included your ability to judge books.  She stood abruptly, nodded at you in dismissal, then left the room.  

Her voice, a corvine sort of caw, spoke to the member of her cadre who would become your immediate supervisor.  "Tell the young man that his good taste must be supported with good sales.  Tell him no snakes on book covers, because I hate snakes.  Tell him aesthetics only matter when they are not seen as aesthetics.  Tell him writers will lie to him in order to be published.  Tell him writers will blame him when their books do not sell.  Tell him the persons who congratulate him for beginning New York publishing to California will turn him for having brought in a monster.  On second thought, don't tell him any of this.  He will either learn or he will not."

You did learn that taste is more to be acted upon than talked about,  Even that time, in an office on Wilshire Boulevard, just far enough south of the Beverly Hills border not to seem as though pretending to be in Beverly Hills, you learned that you had negotiated your way into a job and your capacity for recognizing illusions was about to expand.

The arrival of a new idea reminds you of the ups and downs of various careers and as well various writing projects where the early stages seemed to demand some kind of payback, starting with thoughts translated into such questions as, "What made you think you were up to this?"

Over the years, you've taken a new approach to The Cosmos, welcoming anything related to the project, even crises of confidence as a part of the sum total of the project.  Being a quarter or third of the way through a major draft of a project while experiencing the fading of confidence is good for the project because you are able to see within the material sentences and paragraphs which whisper to you, "Say, this isn't as bad as you thought.  In fact--"  Your voice trails off as you become caught up in a sentence that wants some chiropractic.  But you know what the rest of the sentence is.  "--this isn't so bad."

"Isn't so bad," moves on to an idea for a sentence or an illustration, or a quick restructure of a series of paragraphs.  You go into it with a flush of energetic expansiveness, which can only last for so long before things begin to slow, then wane.  For a day, perhaps two, you are looking for things to delete or to move elsewhere, at a great distance from where you found it.

Perhaps events take you out on errands and you see one of the places you have horrors of achieving, the lawn bowling greens.  The sight of this activity sends you back home, looking at the pages, some with your pencilled notes.  "Say, this isn't bad.  There is much to be saved here."

You are at the precise point where you are able to answer that question of "What made you think you were up to this?" with the simple riposte, "What made you think I wasn't."

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