how shall we write if we do not read?
The notion of reading as a transformative act has been with me since my youth when I began to read conscientiously. Often I’ve sought to express why it’s vital to the development of a modern society, but my arguments seemed cumbersome, or at least too much of a burden for those I sought to persuade. How to pithily articulate my position, if not for the intransigent non-reader, then for myself? This works nicely:
“Ideally, we lose ourselves in what we read, only to return to ourselves, transformed and part of a more expansive world — in short, we become more critical and more capacious in our thinking and our acting.”
People often tell me of their appetite for literature, only to disappoint with a reading list marked by bias and exclusivity. It’s a trap of familiarity and comfort, which narrows, rather than broadens, perspective. The caveat I would amend Butler’s observation with is that we should spend a portion of our reading time with uncomfortable stuff, uphill novels and texts that pull us from our frame of reference. We need to move uncritically, for a moment, into another’s perspective; it’s the key to a vibrant, life changing experience through reading.
at first there was a sense of accomplishment, and for some there may have been acknowledgement (even if only the slightest regard). money…that was the joke. the world was too big and, no matter their reach, it predictably exceeded their grasp. time and inevitability became too great a liability for self-deceit and a slow fading of effort followed. some stopped abruptly, though most dwindled with the last spasmodic bouts of faith whipped onward by vestiges of denial. hope then gave way to a claustrophobic sense of limitations, which stopped many altogether. a resilient few, with tempered determination, grew to understand that inevitability meant something different if they looked through defeat and moved on…again and again and again.
again, the post spontaneous combustion has relevance beyond its own existence. i’ve taken to burst-writing, using one word to begin a session with no direction beyond combinatory play. one word. begin. write another. vigorously wash, rinse, and repeat. the motivation is to loosen the psychological strictures inhibiting creativity. the genesis of spontaneous combustion was a dambuster. it’s also the origin of the notion of berserker writing, that is, writing like a madman. it’s fun. try it. go crazy.
read an excerpt from virginia woolf’s the waves days ago. her writing is, sadly, new to me, but this novel may break the ice between us. it’s an experimental work written in 1931, which crosses the boundaries between prose and poetry. this was the root cause and inspiration for writing the post spontaneous combustion, a post i’m not certain i fully regret. (revision would be nice, or deletion, but…). in the waves there are, if i understand this correctly, six characters speaking in a stream-of-consciousness, where each is a separate voice, the cumulative effect is one of a whole. the meaning of this, as i read it termed, gestalt, is a mystery to me, but the bit i found has enticed me to investigate the whole.
so it’s in the queue to be assimilated.
also, i would like to say, i dreamed a dream of the waves last night. my own nocturnal stream-of-unconsciousness, where two beautiful women rebuffed me for standing before them on a cliff overlooking the sea. it seems i was obstructing their view.
postpone posting experimental drivel. write like a berserker if you must, but leave the aftermath for another day and further consideration.
one word. begin. write one more. kinetic energy! liberate associations. loose the bindings that restrain the unexpected. momentum! don’t stop. don’t rest. more, more, more!
if i should fall, there is no ground beneath me, yet my path is before me still. this is a journey to the satellites of…what…spirit? the mind? consciousness? for convenience it will be called resources of the self…the bits of everything within to access…to write. these are the places of the self, which the discipline of conformity forbids many to travel. let boundaries be burnt to the ground in a purifying fire! one thousand journeys at my command…tales for the telling. yes! burn the bindings of restraint. oh, i rather like that! burn the bindings of restraint! then let it go! don’t stop. don’t rest. more, more, more…one word. begin. write one more.
writers on writing sometimes fill the curious, in possession of a pen and jotter, with despair. don’t write if the words aren’t bursting out of you recklessly, heedless of restraint, by the tens, the thousands and in no need of revision, they seem say. oh poppycock! rubbish and trash! write damn it. write for fame and glory; write love letters to your fourth grade crush; write on the walls; write to yourself; write to fill the garbage can, but write. write simply because you are able.
okay, wait a minute…admittedly, there is a burden to be carried, at least it seems to me, to call yourself a writer. it implies there might be something to fear. am i? could i? is it? should the? what if? oh for the love of…pick up a pen, find something the pen will write on and call yourself a pianist. then write. flippidy gip fortin lot da poocortink. norda, norda, norda untood der soint ca di pooter. write what comes to mind, it doesn’t have to be good. why should it be? you’re a pianist for god’s sake! write some more…now you’re onto something.
I heard Salmon Rushdie speak one time, and he said something in the same vein in answer to a young aspirant’s question.
Write a novel in a month. Uh, no. Although it sounds fun. I think I’ll keep plodding along.