Monday, October 6, 2014

It's a rite of passage, something we all must go through as writers, as human beings.  You've written your first book.  And then comes the crisis of faith, the low self-esteem, the self-questioning, 'was it worth it,' or simply, 'why?'   You put forth an enormous literary effort, largely on instinct, as a bird knows how to build a nest.  And then what?  Of course the world takes little notice.  (It is interesting to note the few who do take note, who do provide support.)  That's how it is.

That you finished the book turns out to make no practical difference in your life.  The twenty you earn in yearly royalties versus the one hundred extra you have to spend to do your taxes on-line...  You have the same sort of job you've had while writing the first, and it's just as hard, if not harder, just as uncertain, and all this too can eat away at the positive force that you bring to the task of writing.  It's no one's fault.  Few can take the time out of a busy day to realize the achievement, not having the terms, unless they too see themselves searching for meaning and spiritual fulfillment and the calm as yoga brings calm.

For pretty much all of us now it's head down.  We have time only for the things we know are good writing.  Those of us who grew up in houses with bookshelves are bound to have a broader sense of tastes, but all writers must fight for attention in the bandwidth allowed written works, which creates a hyper competition, one that does not favor good old simple honest spiritual exploration.  Literature has to be culturally supported, an age old value so deeply rooted as Nordic saga and Celtic bard.

For the writer of first novels, there is the sense of having opened up personal and private matters as a framework of the story.  Did you open up too much?  There's the tendency toward shame, oddly enough, even as you are carrying through with your dreams to be something, in the same way a person aspires to be and then becomes an astronaut, a doctor, a philosopher, a deep sea diver.  You had a vision, from deep within, and you carried it out in adverse conditions over time, and you knew that the work had succeeded on the basic terms you in an act of faith set out with.  The story represents a spiritual quest, how could it not, an attempt to find meaning.

Is it that the worries, the particular ones caused by the artistic pursuit, different from other careers in aspects, the fears of insecure futures become the seed, the background turmoil for the continuation of the spiritual quest that will fuel the next literary endeavor, as if the ashes of the first effort is the necessary condition to move forward.  And the next work itself must represent an impossible mountain, requiring the finding of things you knew in some way secret unto yourself, the things you don't know you have in you...  But what are those things, and what are the conditions that allow that way forward?  Must one change himself, or not change?  Or, how, to what degree, what exactly?  What new belief system must he raise, taking from what he knows, his sense of how he really should proceed, which to him might be in many ways represented by becoming a better Buddhist philosopher, accepting the very things most difficult to accept, but which due to the keenness and deep insight of the artistic vision must be undertaken, painful as it may be.

Are you then come to destroy, to cast the unclean elements from the temple, getting down to serious business.

A first step in my writing world was to not be too upset with the kid I wrote about, my actions of a previous time long ago.  To continue to be wasn't good for my health anyway, it caused me stress and the stress caused aging.  Further, no magic wand was going to save me.  Nothing to right the wrongs.  No Winter's Tale fantasy of things fixed after years.  I had to accept, and take the ways of people and things as as they were.  And as far as that kid I wrote about, the things of his were the things of a writer, and that too is a large part of writing, having the proper personality for it, the appropriate habits, the right kind of nobility and decency and noble failure, almost if you weren't in some metaphorical way like Lincoln going through a civil war, so that the house would not be divided against itself.  A writer is a writer, and on good days he writes, and he is often circumspect and internal, appearing slow and quiet as far as action.

I still think of my father's thoughts on the concept of the Treason of the Clerics, the effects of academic specialization.  By the same standards as the academic world, now a writer needs the same kind of conspicuous success; he/she has to write too well, a master of a created genre, in doing so losing the gifts of a generalist, one with the depths of spirit.  The result of which is the heaviness of genre over form, over content, over heart and soul.  Specialty literature speaking to a particular experience and even celebrated as such.  An exaggerated shard of a human being who displays only one side of himself, easy for market label, the specialist who no longer understands his specialty on a fundamental level, a skilled negotiator preaching his own vital importance but no longer seeing the shape of humanity and the world.  The treason is found in many professional forms.  The generalist eats shit.

This is why some of us don't intend to be particularly good stylistic writers.

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