Saturday, January 10, 2009

On writing ... well ...

In addition to fiddling about with this blog thing, I'm trying to write a novel. I've written essays quite a bit, short pieces, some of them satisfying, others less than. Writing a book length piece is something else entirely.

Ed Abbey said it takes your whole life to write a novel. What he didn't tell us was it takes all of your life RIGHT NOW! And there are other things demanding rapt attention: work, relationships, bicycles to ride, wood to chop, waves to count, clouds to gaze at, women to appreciate (one in particular).

I'm too slovenly to dedicate the early morning hours to writing, wake up at 5 am and pound on this poor innocent keyboard till dawn seeps in around the curtains. Nor do I burn the candle at both ends of the day and work doggedly late into the night, ruining my health, consuming single malt whiskey in a mad attempt to free the muse.

I find I can't shut myself off in a high mountain fire watch tower, a picturesque writer's cabin out behind the house, a starving artist's garret overlooking the Champs Ellysée. I'm too cowardly to demand a properly ascetic writer's isolation.

And then there's reading, another incessant demand that must be assuaged. I find that if I don't keep the pipeline stuffed at the incoming end, the outflow shrinks to a meaningless dribble. The same applies to travel, broadening the mind through physical experience, stoking the fires of the creative boiler that drives the pistons of imagination.

It just takes time, and there's only so much of the stuff, drat it all anyway. Not enough to go around to all the worthy causes deserving attention. Who invented this time thing, anyway. Don't they know time is only an illusion? As someone wise once said, it's the only illusion we've got.

So I work at it, slowly, sometimes satisfying, other times frustrating. The experience of writing a long narrative is something in itself, something beyond mere telling of a story. It will write itself in its own time ... if I live that long.

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