and you can only guess what is on my mind.
Today someone told me that she couldn’t imagine writing a book. I thought, though didn’t say, that I can’t imagine not writing a book. Writers are, collectively, a compulsive bunch. Writers must get words onto the page, nearly every day, or with some personal regularity. Many writers say they can’t seem to find the time to write, what with the rest of life. To them I say I can’t find the time for the rest of life, what with all the writing. I humbly propose that these writers who do not write are not writers. I have been there; living in a lengthy span of time during which I did not write but thought of writing. Hence, I was not a writer.
Now I am, first and foremost, a writer.
I've yet to be asked about the compulsion. The typical assumption is that writing has to do with working out problems which are associated with a group of people. (Chick lit.) Writing has to do with lack of happiness. (After all, great writers are purported to be quite unhappy: bent over a sour drink in a dank bar when not bent over their sour words in a dank office.) Great literature has to do with answering the great questions (Where do the raccoons in my neighborhood spend the day?) with plain language and straight-talking revelation. (And did you catch how I’ve so cleverly analogized sleeping raccoons with unrealized potential?)
Those assumptions are bullshit, and the writing derived thereof is largely bullshit.
One type of prose... well, you know what they are trying to say. kInD oF. Another type of prose is perfect, correct, and painfully boring in its precision. Some is as lacy as the doily on the arms of your grandmother’s favorite armchair--the one only she finds comfortable--and has as many faded stains and holes. And then there is the sort of prose which doesn’t get in the way of its own meaning. I aspire to the latter.
Great writing has to do with telling a story. Great writing has to do with knowing the mechanics well enough so that the story can speed along without the engine racing, or, God forbid, stalling. Great writing flouts rules, but so subtly that the rule itself misses its own undoing. Great writing has voice and style and vision. Not vision like that of the future or a way of putting things together in a unique way. Anybody can do that. It provides Vision, actual mind’s eye Vision, of what is transpiring. It connects your memories to the prose; "memo-vision", if you will.
A long time ago, when I used to write, I wrote because I was unhappy. I have one worthy story from that time; a little shortie called Snowangels, which I wrote shortly after meeting my future husband and shortly before I became unhappy again and quit writing for nearly two decades. The rest of it was, is, crap. (Sort of like Beck’s music from his fugue... it can’t compare to Guero. (“Thank God he pulled himself out of his depression,” someone said recently on the radio. Indeed.)
I can’t suggest that I’m a great writer. I can’t claim new ideas or clever insinuation. Greatness is reserved for the published, and I can’t wear a hat to that horse race. Not yet.
But I do write, damn it. I write and I edit and I hack at my work and I sit up late nights here at this computer until my eyes spin with words and my head spins with alcohol or muse inspired fervor; sometimes its hard to tell which. I do the mind-numbing work of reformating manuscripts for submission and tell myself that I’m lucky that I’ve got the drive to do it (not that I always believe myself, but there you are). The early sun hits my face in the morning and my first thought is the fix I’ve left my characters in. My kids tell people that I write books. I can physically feel the effects of revision: mostly done with the mouse, my shoulder flares and my fingers go numb. Yet they still reach for the keys which they no longer feel. I can't claim to be great, or even the least bit good. But I write and I write and I write and I write.
It’s a great ride; one which people wait in line for years to take.
Are you in line, or are you on the ride?