Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Writing Experiment Concludes (With a Little More Joyce)

Well, it's been 10(ish) days, and the experiment has come to its final moment. The final post!

I'm kind of sad, to be honest. Sure, maybe y'all are sick of reading the words "the experiment" and equally sick of all my pontificating on the CRAFT, and DEDICATION, and WORK ETHIC, and shiiiat. But it's been a good 10(ish) days.

It was harder than I expected. I don't feel like I completely succeeded, as there was a day or two here and there where I didn't post, or I'd be highly productive one day and then feel completely spent the next.

But I guess that's why it was an experiment. Now I want to try another one, and see how I do. I'm not sure what that would be, exactly, but I'm open to suggestions.

I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to write about today. Marco and I spent all afternoon at the bookstore, me reading, him drawing, and of course I got all these "brilliant" (ha, ha), fleeting ideas at the strangest times. Like when I'm waiting in line for the bathroom, for instance. Those ideas are still floating around in my brain, somewhere, but for now, I wanted to keep the focus on writing, in general. So I thought I'd bring it full circle with some words of wisdom from Ms. Joyce Carol Oates, once again.

The following is excerpted from her 1976 interview with The Paris Review (all emphasis is mine):


Do you find emotional stability is necessary in order to write? Or can you get to work whatever your state of mind? Is your mood reflected in what you write? How do you describe that perfect state in which you can write from early morning into the afternoon?


One must be pitiless about this matter of “mood.” In a sense, the writing will create the mood. If art is, as I believe it to be, a genuinely transcendental function—a means by which we rise out of limited, parochial states of mind—then it should not matter very much what states of mind or emotion we are in. Generally I've found this to be true: I have forced myself to begin writing when I've been utterly exhausted, when I've felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so. Joyce said of the underlying structure of Ulysses—the Odyssean parallel and parody—that he really didn't care whether it was plausible so long as it served as a bridge to get his “soldiers” across. Once they were across, what does it matter if the bridge collapses? One might say the same thing about the use of one's self as a means for the writing to get written. Once the soldiers are across the stream . . .


Do you enjoy writing?


I do enjoy writing, yes. A great deal. And I feel somewhat at a loss, aimless and foolishly sentimental, and disconnected, when I've finished one work and haven't yet become absorbed in another. All of us who write, work out of a conviction that we are participating in some sort of communal activity. Whether my role is writing, or reading and responding, might not be very important. I take seriously Flaubert's statement that we must love one another in our art as the mystics love one another in God. By honoring one another's creation we honor something that deeply connects us all, and goes beyond us.

Of course, writing is only one activity out of a vast number of activities that constitute our lives. It seems to be the one that some of us have concentrated on, as if we were fated for it. Since I have a great deal of faith in the processes and the wisdom of the unconscious, and have learned from experience to take lightly the judgments of the ego and its inevitable doubts, I never find myself constrained to answer such questions. Life is energy, and energy is creativity. And even when we as individuals pass on, the energy is retained in the work of art, locked in it and awaiting release if only someone will take the time and the care to unlock it.

I particularly love what she says about how "the activity of writing changes everything"—because I agree with her. It does. Like the other night, when all I wanted to do was either go to sleep or watch another episode of Weeds, but instead I picked up my laptop and just wrote. I wrote as my eyes burned staring at the screen and the battery level on my Macbook flashed to red.

If nothing else, by trying out this little writing experiment, I was finally able to remember that feeling, that eyes burning from staring at the screen, adrenaline rush, that creative energy, that fucking feeling, that I can put words on a page and they can mean something, and that I can use "one's self as a means for the writing to get written."

1 comment:

  1. Bravo, on the experiment. I will always love your writing.