Shooting Fish


Screen Shot.pngC S Lewis capitalized the important things and I have friends who are Writers. Real wordsmiths, their craft broken on wheels of insomnia or the anvils of pain.

I’m not. But, why do I admire those who are? Because they have mastered the art of partial disclosure, giving us a peep inside the labyrinths of their souls as if the reader is an uninvited guest at the party and gets to mill about with everyone else. They write stories, or better, partially shadowed myths, climbing a pole of imagination like an eremite. Having surveyed and described the view from the top, they can no more climb down, nor can they rejoice since in a moment, they can see everything, the good and the appalling under the surfaces of the imaginations.

It’s become fashionable these days to say that the writer writes because he is not whole, he has a wound, he writes to heal it, but who cares if the writer is not whole; of course he is not – which of us is – nor is he necessarily particularly well. There is something unwholesome and destructive about the entire writing process. It eats like rust on chrome, often from within as the author tries to make contact – the perennial question being – ‘is there anybody out there’? He is the recovering perfectionist, prone to anxiety, stumbling around, tripping over his words in the pitiless twilight in search of ‘the great, cold, elemental grace which knows us.’

I never expect to be nourished by my own work – writers don’t write for themselves, or, for that matter, their prospective readers, even if sometimes in craven hunger I binge heedlessly on impurity, sugar or alcohol and expect to be fed and comforted. I am found pathetically eager to serve the greater visionary, the master of ideas who so easily overtakes the frenzied scribbling, the search for the perfection of Heaven. And yet, knowing well that one must inevitably be satisfied with less, only occasionally startled by a rare but refreshing lightning bolt of a phrase. Margaret Atwood once remarked that writing was like shooting fish in the dark with a slingshot. Somebody, somewhere might be pinged into wakefulness, perhaps, but mostly not.

Henry Miller enjoined the writer to work calmly, joyously and recklessly on whatever is in hand. Jack Kerouac invites him to remove all literary, grammatical and syntactic inhibition and, like Proust, be ‘an old teahead of time’. I wish I’d written that.

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