So goes the internal conversation for a writer who’s deep in his first novel. Though I’d like to write more often, I’m largely happy with my progress. About three-fourths of my original length goal has been committed to Word, and I have a routine in place that should get me to the end of my first typed draft before the year’s up, maybe. Hopefully.
An artist’s influences are never far from his work, perhaps, and there’s always the danger of derivation, or the temptation to outright mimic. A little thrill moves through me whenever I write something I think Virginia Woolf could’ve written, so I understand the temptation. But no one can out-Virginia Virginia. Therefore, then, the task becomes figuring out how to simply do Alan. This is the part demanding artistic grit–the part that only the artist can discover, and usually only after years of working. A writer’s voice can’t be gifted him from a well-meaning source, and it can’t be borrowed. Few are the Mozarts, who seem to have been born with their gift; many more are the van Goghs, who labor in obscurity. (Van Gogh would’ve been quite amused by the modern conception of him as a tortured genius; tortured he was, but only two or three thought him even talented, much less a genius.) The question I have for the universe is this: will I know when I find my voice?
I got down about six-or-seven-hundred words today. Through the large plate-glass window of my early-morning Starbucks, I could see the steady rain. The gray dawn looked wintry, but the actual outside air was more like room-temperature. Some of what I wrote, I liked, but just as much will improve with the second writing. In the meantime, I will work, and if I work enough, then maybe my writerly voice will come.
At forty-one, I’ve learned to write sentences. But what of those musicians whose brilliance shines before thirty? Those painters on whom greatness rests like a marble monument? Those poets who chart human consciousness, leaving lights on the path for our senseless feet?
I labor a line to death. I spool out and cast about, dabbling with different-colored baits; I let it rest, and then reel it in fast, mimicking the motions of life. But the monster is elusive–the opus, aging. She hides in the dark, beneath the log at the bottom of a book.
I’m sure I forgot something. Always do. This is happening. This has happened. This has happened!! I didn’t know this would be the day. As good a day as any, I suppose. But it’s like I always think when I hear of a fatal accident: they didn’t know that this was the day they would die. They just got ready for work like they always do. They had plans and loved ones. Plans for those loved ones, plans with those loved ones. But then I comfort myself–restore some equilibrium–by remembering that people just live, until they’re not. They’re conscious . . . of being conscious. No, not usually. It’s something else. Nobody thinks about dying, at least not in any sustained way. Maybe if they’re terminally ill, but even then, don’t we have a nagging optimism that things will work out in our favor? I do. We don’t want to be one of those who thinks, “That will not happen to me.” But we do, at least until something really floors us. Even then, though. As long as we’re still breathing, there’s hope, right? Anyway. Circular thinking. Enough.
Things to do. I have to break the news. I have to . . . “MOVE!! There was NO one behind me! WHY?!” . . . Don’t have to do it right away. Is this freedom? At least until the money runs out. Freedom for an afternoon. Interim between slaveries, what it amounts to.
I’m going to miss this turn on purpose. Good sense of direction. Has to cross a main road at some point. South. Traffic not bad yet. Afternoon fog. Odd.
* * *
Only one here . . . “Ice in the trees is melting. It keeps popping and crackling above me. I feel like it’s gonna crash on my head. Sounds like it’s raining, too, even though it’s not.” Better not hit ‘send.’ She’ll know I’m not at work.
* * *
No one here but me, the ghosts, and the deer. How strange for rain-sound to be quarantined in the woods. Isolated noise? Roosters–two of them–crowing a few acres away. Sun ignoring them. Rain patter on my right but not on my left. Stubborn fog, thickening here and thinning there, but not lifting. Horse-hooves on pavement. Other side of the hill. I am not alone.