Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guess I Should Update...

Ben told me to update and so here goes:

Not a lot to say, except the Cubs won the division (yay) and my friend Amitabh had a short film uniquely titled The Art of Stalking win the award for Best Short at the Boston Film Festival. Congrats to him.

I'm sick and working lots of overtime right now (the perfect combination) but I did FINALLY get new glasses after a years of questing. The stars are now tiny round dots again and not fuzzy halfway hairy things of blue and silver. I'm reading Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer which is a very good 'How To' book without being a 'How To' book. Her central point in the book is that there is no how-to when it comes to writing. There are ways of seeing, and it's simply (well...) a matter of choice. That's my problem. I cannot choose. I feel like I can deploy a certain style or tactic of writing to one degree of success or another, but I never know what is right for me or the story I'm working on. It results in endless revision and endless second guessing. Part of the problem is I have no one there to act as my conscience. No Spock. No Willow. No Scooby. I'm working in a vaccum as I was before college and I fear the results are essentially the same. The writing is much more skillful and knowing, but it's aimless. I lie awake in worry some nights this whole enterprise will simply wash ashore as driftwood some place in a future of deadening, numbing 40 hour work weeks and nights in front of the TV watching reruns of sitcoms to dull the senses, and I will not know how I got there, or remember what brought me to it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'Engle, the author of probably my favorite book as a kid, A Wrinkle In Time, has died at 88. Following the many links and tributes around the web I found on her website her acceptance speech for the 1963 Newberry Medal Award:

So how do we do it? We can’t just sit down at our typewriters and turn out explosive material. I took a course in college on Chaucer, one of the most explosive, imaginative, and far-reaching in influence of all writers. And I’ll never forget going to the final exam and being asked why Chaucer used certain verbal devices, certain adjectives, why he had certain characters behave in certain ways. And I wrote in a white heat of fury, “I don’t think Chaucer had any idea why he did any of these things. That isn’t the way people write.”

I believe this as strongly now as I did then. Most of what is best in writing isn’t done deliberately.

Do I mean, then, that an author should sit around like a phony Zen Buddhist in his pad, drinking endless cups of espresso coffee and waiting for inspiration to descend upon him? That isn’t the way the writer works, either. I heard a famous author say once that the hardest part of writing a book was making yourself sit down at the typewriter. I know what he meant. Unless a writer works constantly to improve and refine the tools of his trade they will be useless instruments if and when the moment of inspiration, of revelation, does come. This is the moment when a writer is spoken through, the moment that a writer must accept with gratitude and humility, and then attempt, as best he can, to communicate to others.

A writer of fantasy, fairy tale, or myth must inevitably discover that he is not writing out of his own knowledge or experience, but out of something both deeper and wider. I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him. I know that this is true of A Wrinkle in Time. I can’t possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice. And it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.