Sunday, February 20, 2011
The Captain of Her Heart.
I own Splash on VHS. I’ve only owned two cell phones and both were gifts— as of this writing, I am not textually active. Place the latest gadget in the palm of my hand and I am worse than all thumbs. In the breakneck currents of ceaseless data streams, I am definitely the small— somewhat turned-around— fish in a big, big pond.
Having said that, working on art has always been a solitary endeavour, and one in which the burden of consummation lies not on the school but squarely on the artist. So because that burden, prior to the signing of contracts, must be shouldered largely by sheer perseverance, it is good to periodically take inventory of that which is helping and that which is hindering the journey.
I recently read a bit of advice for aspiring authors: if you’re going to blog, you are well-advised to commit to updating at least twice a week. If all you can give is a single post in a month’s time, it’s better not to do it, at all. This counsel— from a respected, well-read source— caused me to shake in my Danskos for a day or two. You see, in order for me personally to post something about which I can feel good leaving ‘out there,’ a bit of a time lapse has to go into effect. Call me old-fashioned— and you wouldn’t be the first— but it seems to me that if one is going to borrow the attention and imagination of a reader, it might not be a bad idea to let one’s words sit for a bit before offering them. But before I go a word further in this post, I’d like to steal a moment to express my gratitude, dear reader, for the time and attention with which you have graced my ramblings in this forum, as it has been my honor and pleasure to write alongside three talented and respected authors these last six months.
Still, it must be said that sometimes a little voice inside may be angling for a period of withdrawal from the ‘manyness’ of available opportunities. Everyone knows too many cooks spoil the brew, it’s sometimes hard to hear your part in a chorus and that vessels must be allowed to dock after a particularly debilitating voyage. Sometimes, a season of going-inside is what is called for in order to guard the spring from which your stories issue.
Which brings me to the question: How does an author know when her work is ready for submission? As our society— in privileged and developed nations, at any rate— grows increasingly out of touch with hard-and-fast realities rooted in ordinary time, how does the novelist— at one time the leader in escapism— adapt to a culture in which her scribblings are now arguably more fantail than bow? A novel takes time to sit and read. It is not like a television program which can be consumed in twenty-two minutes. A novel takes time to process. How is it, then, that some novelists feel inadequate when allowing themselves to take time to ensure they’ve got it right?
S. E. Hinton reportedly experienced writer’s block for three years after completing The Outsiders. It is rumored that Tolkien took twenty years to execute his masterpiece. Twenty years. One has to imagine that the man who began the journey is not the one who completed it. How different are you from the writer you were twenty years ago? Three years ago? I bring this up not because it is in any way prudent to suggest that most novelists can indulge the luxury of that kind of time but rather to bring attention to the fact that, in penning a novel, there are always two narratives— that of the protagonist and that of the author. As writers are humans, it is a fact that while their characters inhabit an abstract space, they themselves move about on a more absolute plane. Hence, they age— methodically and without reprieve. Many feel a bit knock-kneed about this reality— maybe in part because the manifest effects include hearts that have grown a little weary.
But isn’t that, in itself, a stimulating thought? Yes, a heart that has been pumping for decades means increased fatigue but it also means that it has had time to develop second sight. It has memories that act as modifiers— exerting their perspective on faulty, unusable paradigms. It has pliability and compassion. It has substance— and such which cannot be attained by any other way save through the passing of time. Perhaps what is true of the human heart is also true of the words which proceed from it?
As for myself, I’m currently bumbling about a bit in my efforts to navigate by fixed point. And my wish for each of you is that— if you’re searching for it— you find your true north and, more importantly, the steadiness with which to steer by it.
Keep it real, fellow skippers.