Monday, September 28, 2015

The Writers' Eccentricity Spectrum: From Notional to Bat-Shit Crazy

 Most of the accomplished writers you know personally or know about from reliable anecdote have a public persona, which ranges from genial to suspicious. and a working persona, which ranges from mild eccentricity to bat-shit crazy. Unless you're quite certain of your audience, you tend to be circumspect about raising the subject of hearing voices or being subject to visions.

For some emerging writers, the shift from public to working persona is painful and reminiscent of removing adhesive tape bandages from a hairy chest.  One of the ways you've found helpful in getting emerging writers over the hump of normality and into the tunnels and labyrinths of true, plausible dramatic presence is to discuss with them the possibility of their having visions or hearing voices. 

This approach seems to you to be the necessary step from the world of ordinary observation and sensation, into the binary potential of the creative presence.True enough, some individuals do tend to have both, which is to say they not only see their dramas, they hear a form of voice-over narration while in the act of composition.  

Of equal truth, not all emerging writers are ready to hear this.  They want from you instead an assurance that you were kidding.  When this happens, you are reminded of the opening narrative to Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where the narrator and a pal, already well medicated and driving across the desert toward Las Vegas, tells us to wait until his passenger sees some of the monsters who've come to take up residence on the front hood of their convertible.

You're not kidding.  You're so dead serious that you begin co-opting one of the techniques of a favored muse of yours who, in his productive lifetime, produced a book called Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which he considered his best work, and which you consider ample reason to think he was well enough along the eccentricity spectrum to qualify for bat-shit crazy.  The writer was Samuel Langhorn Clemens, also known as Mark Twain.

Your belief that a writer must somehow encounter his or her vision quest or hear the sound of his or her voice reverberating through every cavity and orifice, may well be a potential indication of your own position on the eccentricity spectrum.  You certainly have a well-thumbed catalogue of quirks.

These quirks were picked up over the years from the various stages of your progression from insatiable reader to someone who was naive enough to believe he, too, could do things with such apparent ease as the likes of Jack London, Mark Twain, Talbot Mundy, and H. Rider Haggard.  In point of fact, you can say your naivete has grown in direct proportion to the projects you now attempt.  

This is based on the fact that you managed to get quite close to writers you read with avidity.  In some cases, you even managed to become the editors of some of these writers. How easy it was (and is) to judge your progress as a writer by considering the quality of your quirks rather than the incisive clarity of your composition.

In your distorted vision, the fact of Ray Bradbury's epic enthusiasm and enormous reach led you to thinking more about your own enthusiasm and less about the enormity of gap between your ability.  In addition to the fact of reading much of his gigantic oeuvre, he actually suggested you read on specific novel by the splendid Canadian novelist, Robertson Davies, that has found its way into you hundred most influential novels.

On some level of intuition, you knew you had to seek, then find your own voice, which you now define as the one steady voice you hear above any possible others as you compose.  It is yours,  You own it.  Even though it occasionally cannot be trusted, the burden for this is yours, not its.  

Nor can the fact of you having found it, recognized it, claimed it, be any assurance of the quality of your output.  You have heard mad men and madwomen, speaking and reading in their own, unique voices, and known straight off that, original as they were, they represented the outer reaches of dullness and self-absorption in your opinion.

No comments: