Nots and Crosses

Monday, February 8th, 2010

It’s sad, it’s fantastic, I’m writing again. I’m working on a novel, a second one, in case you were confused and hadn’t bought or read my first, UGLY DUCKLING (big crime in my book!). It feels wonderful but the cycles of creativity are hard to bear. A friend of mine used to say to me, oh no wonder you’re in a crap mood, you’re writing again! It was a variant of the ‘oh you have your period’ jibe, but unfortunately true.

My novel-writing isn’t a fun thing. I mean it is when I start, it feels like being in love again, like being with a sacred lover. A sacred, secret, deep and extremely fulfilling lover. But then it starts to go downhill because such a jealous, exhausting lover, I hope you never have! Like I said in my last blog post, writing is a sculpting of the emotions. All art is strictly speaking the same, but writing and music are the most mystical. They don’t use solid materials. They use abstract units of meaning, even if words require paper and books, and music requires a recording medium (now). But in actual terms, writing and music use no materials for their creation. They go straight to the heart, soul, brain, nervous system. Music is perhaps the most mystical of the arts. But words themselves are mystical if you think about it. Why certain sounds to express meaning? A constantly shifting use of sounds among different peoples? Words themselves, in this sense, being formed of sounds, are a subset of music. And therefore profoundly, undeniably, inescapably mystical.

At least that’s how I see it. In today’s shit-bucket world, good writing is all about rules and highly schooled gibberish. But I don’t like that kind of writing. Perfect form doesn’t move me. I like writing that reaches beyond the intellect and the rules of form and literary crapola, and enters the heart in a rapturous, unmediated, gut-munch sort of way. I like it messy, I like words that feel unique, immediate, unrehearsed, and even if they are rehearsed, I like it when they feel they are made of raw human flesh, when they aren’t fantastically perfect and artificial. Such writing has emotional weight as far as I’m concerned, it carries mystical possibilities. Bukowski moves me for this reason. John Updike does not.

The way I write is, if not mystical, definitely mysterious. It builds up, to paraphrase Bukowski, and then gob-smashes down on me like a giant wave. WHOOSH! But unlike Hank for whom it was a pleasure, with me writing is not. Well not entirely. I am deeply happy when I’m writing at long last. It feels like I’m alive again, like I was dead all this time that I wasn’t writing. So it isn’t work either, I don’t mean that. But when I write, I control little of what’s going on. I feel like I’m in a trance or something (although I’m not) and that the book is writing itself (although it isn’t). Of course it isn’t. But it sure feels like it is. I have to run almost, like a child who’s being dragged along the street by a mother who’s too tall and so the kid has to rush and run constantly to keep up. It’s exhausting. Debilitating, depressing. The images arrive, the words, in a rush of blindness, they don’t wait, the mood descends, the movement is there. It must be followed. And followed NOW, relentlessly, without time or space for rest. It’s like a rhythm that must be kept up with, snip snap, clip clap, no time for sitting, reflecting, looking out at the trees. I do not form, set down or create. Gopal, my brother, writes like that. I do not. I write like a bedeviled fool, like I’m possessed by demons, a despicably divine madness. And this is why my emotions do the f*cking shimmy when I start to write a book. It sounds crazy when you put it like that. Write a book. It sounds impossibly huge. Unfeasable. Last year, when I was accepting manuscripts from authors and doing no writing myself, not a word (except something resembling a diary), I marveled that anyone would be fool enough, insane enough, to waste their lives writing a book. It seemed absurdly time-consuming, I admired anyone who could do it. And I wondered how I had been able to do it, me! And why, why on earth! Like other people, I even used the word ‘discipline’ about writing. Man, I thought, these people who stayed home for days on end and sat in front of their computer and wrote this stuff. But how?

When I write, it has nothing to do with discipline. It is a type of enslaved dementia. If I have a sense of clear controled words that I am typing, when I do have a sense of that, the writing is crap, banal, laborious. So over the last few years, I have learned not to write when I’m in that state. When it doesn’t ‘come,’ I don’t write. This can be depressing too. When I’m not writing, and the mood can disappear for days, I feel like I’ve been dumped by that ruthless (but divine) demon lover. And I get wrenchingly depressed. It is good to have a boy around at such times, or booze, friends, restaurant dates, but life doesn’t work that way. I hope not to go through that this time. This time I have Revenge Ink (yeah right). No really, I hope this time, to be good about it all (?!).

For all these reasons, there is the slight wearing thin of my emotional state when I write. I write when I’m in the mood, but I tend to work to exhaustion. Outside of the world of what I’m writing, I become alone and moody. It’s ups and downs all the way. I have to admit, this time, my inner imaginative world has yet to fully come alive. I am too distracted with Revenge Ink. But I am buzzing around it, I write and scratch and carve. Even if the world doesn’t fully show itself and only peeps out dimly from behind the Bodhi bushes, I hack at it because I have no choice. I tell myself it is showing itself gradually and even for that I must be grateful. Because even this feels fantastic. It is an unbelievable act of grace to be able to write. To be bestowed this gift, this inner beautiful world. Even if it is the world of my already lived life.

When I’m not writing, I am equanimous, well ok, not quite, but I am even-keeled. Self-contained. I am pleased to potter about, I pass the time, I watch TV, I do this and that. But when I’m writing, time begins to hang heavy, things go cock-eyed, I feel like I’m hanging off a cliff of some sort. And I don’t like it.

But here I am. Damned bloody grateful for the new book that is installing itself in my soul, and f*cking delighted to accept the shit with the bliss, the beatitude, the sheer incredible honor of writing. I thank the stars. Or my own inner spirit. For having chosen this life.

Amen!