it's a great life, if you don't weaken (matociquala) wrote,
it's a great life, if you don't weaken

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deep experience is never peaceful.

NPR is full of things to make me think this morning, mostly included in an interview with Joyce Carol Oates on Weekend Edition..

First, a Henry James quote:

We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

Second, a discussion of Hemingway's inability to write while in the throes of depression and alcoholism.

I don't talk about craft here as much as I used to, and one of the reasons that I don't do that is because I'm not learning about craft as much as I was. I think I'm not learning new things as fast--well, I am learning them, or at least observing them, but the writing itself has become so much a struggle of using everything I know that I am not making new discoveries with any regularity. Right now, I'm struggling to integrate what I do know, to make it organic rather than intellectual, and that doesn't make for very interesting writing. Except more bitching about what a grind it is right now, and how hopeless it all feels.

I miss the epiphanies. They felt like progress.

But integrating all that stuff would be progress too, and if I could do that, I might be able to treat writing as play again rather than toil.

So I observe little chips of things brilliantly done, now, and think "I wish I could do that," while struggling to see any roller derby and any shiny in my own work. I think I have reached another plateau of "now write for ten years," which is in some ways both heartening and frustrating. Frustrating, because you know, one would liek to think one eventually gets good at this. Heartening, because, well, I got through the last one of these and didn't die.

I just need to keep telling myself that these books are not as bad as I think they are, and that what seems to me to be incompetence is actually just me being hyper-aware of all the many things that go into the narrative, and having to do them in stages. And you know what? Writing is not a performance art. It is okay to do them in stages.

I post a lot of examples here of revision, of the kind of sentence-level pickiness I tend to engage in. I do a lot of revision, drafts and drafts of everything. I also do a fair amount of stunt writing, by which I mean using the structure of the plot or the POV or the prose itself to support the narrative. It's one of my favorite tricks.

And it's not easy to do on the fly.

Anyway, I just have to have faith that this will get easier again, and give myself the time I need for my subconscious to put it together, all this new stuff I've learned, and build a process out of it. I'd really like to go away and stop writing for a year while I sort this out, but alas, that is unlikely to happen. So I guess it's one painstaking selfconscious step at a time, until I internalize all this stuff and learn to do it automatically. And I need to remember that conscious competence is, indeed, a stage of learning, and the fact that I need to think about what I'm doing doesn't mean I can't do it.

And now I need to go shower, and clean up my apartment some.
Tags: narcissism, writing craft wank
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