Friday, October 23, 2015

The Wright Brothers and Fiction Writing: A Comparison

Sometimes the intra-caucus wrangling and divisiveness has less to do with which of the multifarious aspects of the Self shall take up the gavel as Speaker of the Self, and more to do with a rancorous, often combative shouting match where the representatives are writing projects which have nothing to do with the diversity of constituents among the Self.

These writing projects include but are not limited to a series of what you thought would be two suspense novels, but which seem to have been joined by yet another.  Add to these at least three works of nonfiction, one of which seems the most audacious of all, which is to write what you would call Volume 2 to a one-off work written by D.H.Lawrence.  

You are well into a nonfiction work you'd not thought of at all as recently as April or May of this year, but the shouting got to you and when you began to make notes with the thought of returning to them in some kind of order, the material already had you and would not, except for the occasional frisson of doubt that comes with any project, let go.

There is a hidden drawer in the Queen Anne secretary you inherited from your mother.  The secretary is an accurate representation of the binary aspects of life.  You cannot look at it without thinking of your mother with an affection that is substantial and yet bifurcated.  

Suffice it for now to say you appreciate much of her role in your life, have occasional dreams in which she appears in supportive concern--"Are you still taking your cod liver oil?"--and think of her fondly.  The Queen Anne secretary reminds you of her and of the fact that it is totally unsuited to your taste.  Into the hidden drawer, you toss the occasional ten- or twenty-dollar bill when that aspect of your personality calls your attention to the need to save for "the years ahead."  

The last time you smoothed and gathered the bills, their aggregate total was fast approaching three thousand dollars, which you take as proof that you listen to that aspect of yourself, even though a visit to your bookshelves, clothes closer, and kitchen shelves will reveal your heed paid to yet other aspects of yourself.  

In some ways, you are almost glad to have the "years ahead" voice taking such an active interest in your welfare.  You could, and on occasion do wonder of your kitchen needs advocate what possible need you could have in the years ahead for so much anchovy paste, tins of Aunt Polly's hollandaise sauce, and no less than six means of making coffee.

The wrangling of which you speak here has to do with projects, notably those bristly opposites, fiction and nonfiction.  Your last published book was a collection of your short fiction, the contents of which you enjoyed above most of your recent work, no doubt because, when you have moments of reducing yourself to Twitter-length basics, will say of yourself that you "are a short-story writer and book editor," which even allows for some commentary about your teaching activities.

Twelve of the short stories culled from your available cache were written during times in your life when working at fiction seemed to be the most singular and significant source of pleasure, thus they also became a working defiance against the impression you were making on the rest of the world.  With news of their forthcoming publication in one collection, you threw yourself into revising all of them, the revision having the effect on you that you were hoping to make on the rest of the world.

This is to say that you consider yourself a storyteller rather than a nonfiction writer, even rather than a more acceptable term, essayist. Looking back without consulting notes, you've probably published equal amounts of each, yet you still like to consider yourself a storyteller rather than the likes of an essayist.  

You will risk the modesty of comparing the stories you write to the degree of flight achieved by the Wright Brothers. As such things go, you may be overstating the quality of your own work, but you do consider those brothers to have been focused and devoted to achieving their goals, and you may be hitching a ride on their determination, but you do believe in your focus and devotion.

The editorial shouting begins when ideas for stories, novels, and books of nonfiction begin to clamor for your attention, , enhanced by the equivalent of a neighbor yelling to keep the noise down because people are trying to sleep.  That neighborly equivalent is a voice reminding you that you are well beyond the halfway mark of your opportunity to see what degree of ability you can wrestle into your days, nights, and flights of imagination.

You do what you can to keep the editorial shouting manageable; you assign a fresh Field Notes notebook to each project.  You try not to indulge such obvious comparisons in your mind as to consider the differences between fiction and nonfiction as the equivalent of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.  You try to keep up with the sincerity and devotion to your craft that the Wright Brothers showed their own visions.

When some interior neighbor shouts out to keep the noise down, you shut the window and get back to work.

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