Friday, February 26, 2016

Work in Progress

As you make your way along the path you hope will lead you to a greater fulfillment of your literary goals, you find yourself hearing the voice of the admirable Lawrence "Yogi" Berra, reminding you as only he can, "when you come to a fork in the road, take it." 

For you, the fork has always been pulpy, action-driven material, and the more literary and choice-oriented character-driven material known as literary. The biggest obstacle to overcome was  thinking you had to take one path, then hew to it. The take-away for you was the discovery that which ever of those you chose at the time was resoundingly uninteresting after you'd completed a draft.

Your solution became a mash-up of the two, thus literary and philosophical aspects finding their way into your pulp material and of your more thoughtful pieces being set in landscapes reminicent of films that have been variously called noir, B-movie, and thriller. 

This seems to express what the inner you wants, incorporating the exaggeratedly dark voices of yourself who can be relied upon to say something of a critical, uncomplimentary nature about your work into the mischievous notion of being able to laugh the uncomplimentary down.

Along the way, you've found solace and inspiration in the diversified company of such as Sisyphus, Captain Ahab, Ishmael, Wile E. Coyote, and King Creon's niece, Antigone. To be sure, there are others of a similar ilk, not the least of whom is the lead character in Nathaniel West's Miss Lonelyhearts. 

Each of these, and many other pestered, beleagured characters you've encountered who resemble them, has a well-established relationship with Reality to the point of inventing some working philosophy that will allow them to continue functioning in spite of a great and gnawing disappointment, waiting to jump out of the bushes and mug them for their spare change. 

What do they--and you--mean by "functioning"?  They and you mean working best at a level of near obsession, having some goal or dream that seems to defy the ability to realize its reach, driving them even more to try.

For such individuals, the fork in the road, whatever its actual manifestation, may be seen by the reader as a primer for behavior. The reader will surely have come to numerous forks in the road by the time of reading a specific text and may well have come to that text with the hope of learning some technique or posture from which to concoct a strategy.

You recognize a fork in the road when you see it. The major choices you've had to make relate to the double-down approach. Mark Twain said of it, "Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket." Through the accident of having been at what turned out to be the right place at the right time, you accepted the need to put longer composition on hold while pursuing two occupations you thought of as distractions. In time, you learned differently, entering your mid thirties with just enough time and effort put into edition to see it as an ongoing force in your life.

No sooner had you begun to accept the force and promise of editing when it led you into what seemed yet another distraction,teaching. Perhaps ten years were needed for you to see how these two distractions could lead you back to your original goal with a more comprehensive toolkit than you'd ever had.When you saw how the distractions of editing and teaching had not been the distractions you feared and supposed, a great weight lifted from you.

The weight had to do with your concerns about success, which further investigation convinced you had a greater association with finances that you'd supposed. The greater importance was your awareness that the greater payoff was the awareness that editing and teaching were not distractions, not for you, not for the characters who seem to present themselves to you, asking you for help in self-articulation. What, after all, is editing and teaching but opinionated guidance in self-articulation? 

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