Sunday, July 06, 2003

Reading Writers

A ripe bunch of dreamers, writers are. My aunt gave me a collection of essays written by contemporary writers (Joyce Carol Oates, Saul Bellow, Alice Walker, etc.) from the New York Times, essays from the series, "Writers on Writing." The "big contemporaries" write about inspiration, dialogue, fictional forms, "the craft", motivation, phrasing, teaching english, loving literature - anything and everything about writing. Being brave, excellent writers, they traipse through random thoughts with extreme clarity and use functional words when big ones might do better. They take minutiae and exalt its detail, then swing through "big-ticket items" of purpose in a sentence and leave the lessons in the barrel of details. They do this in a matter of 3-5 pages, whose genesis is either hand- or type-written (not so many computer users among the big contemporaries). They do this sporadically when the mania of storytelling takes its deathly grip and does not let go until it is released and barren, exposed on the page.
I find the exercise they describe invigorating and frustrating, but I wonder how their struggles and resulting output are universal as they tempt the imagination. Their sensations apply to all artists alike - some just happen to inhabit the imagined world more frequently and intensely than others. But the struggle is the thing, and amidst its tension emerges the certain story, a coercion of the imagination with enough motivation to wrestle it from the shadows of the psyche. Cruel, though, that once imagination is captured, it becomes a degree of ridicule and misunderstanding, since the exposed imagination of one (remember the sacrifice for its clarity?) is the intrusion on concealed imagination of another (whose formation is only confined to the mind and much less threatening).
Perhaps, it is each writer's imagination articulated that unlocks the commonality of our collective imagination; they are merely the messengers that carry it forward amongst us. Dreams are all different, but they share the same value - as childish and beautiful as catching butterflies. Some, like the big contemporaries, just know better how to swing the nets.
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