Necessary Halves

Observing the writing mind at work is sometimes humbling, often embarrassing.  My creative persona sits at his desk crafting sentences that will be quoted for decades, if not centuries, to come. At dinner parties, at the beginnings of great speeches, his words–the ones he’s putting down right at that very moment–will be the measure of a man’s learning, and readers will scour his works, writing volumes about the intricacies of each sentence.

Writing requires hubris. Who am I to mark up a page and expect anyone to read it? In order to get past this doubt, Creative Me has to imagine he’s  good. No, the best. He is the best writer to emerge in recent memory. When I imagine Creative Me sitting there, I see him wearing gaberdine suits, fine linen shirts, a cup of first-rate tea beside him, well-worn first edition Great Books surrounding him in some imagined, idealized library whose stacks touch the ceiling, and when he writes sentences, they resound with ageless truth.

He turns out gems like this: She stumbled on the uneven pavement, the tree roots swindling the powdered limestone with the currency of time.

Luckily, for him, there’s Editorial Me. He stomps in the next day and surveys the wreckage left behind. He takes stock of anything salvageable, like an insurance investigator. His manner: professional. His dress: utilitarian. His drink: drip coffee. Mostly he deals with losses, and he is ruthless. Over the years, he’s become better at his job, enough so that he would never let a ‘gem’ like that slip by. Best of all, he knows that in times of loss, it’s best to move forward. Fill out whatever paperwork is necessary, be thankful for what you have left, and start putting the pieces of your life back together again.

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2 thoughts on “Necessary Halves

  1. This is a great description of the self-delusion writing demands. I often think of the temerity it takes just to call myself a writer. There’s a passage in “Stoner” by John Williams that describes Stoner’s efforts at putting together his study in his new home. He builds the bookshelves, refinishes the desk, and lines shelves with his books. As he constructs the office, he feels like he is constructing himself and the life he imagined for himself while he was in school. Every time I sit down to write, I believe I’m going to churn out the next Jesus’ Son. Hasn’t happened, of course, but I don’t think I could write if I didn’t deceive myself like that.

  2. Thanks! I think self-deception is definitely key because otherwise you get hamstrung by thinking nothing you put down is any good.
    Side note: I need to read Stoner! It’s now officially on my list.

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