Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wait why do I want this writing life?

Mexx was having a huge 70% off the entire store sale last week. On friday, I decided to "stop by". After an hour of fighting the crazy crowds, I gathered up all my items. And then waited online to pay for 2 hours. In that time, I finished The Writing Life.

I liked this little book. It meanders a little, but it gives this accurate little sense of the lonely, yet ultimately fulfilling aspect of being a writer. She says that being a writer is hardly called living, that their external lives are colorless, but that this helps fuel the internal world of creation and invention. She describes the task of writing as something both dreadful/frustrating and something that you feel compelled to do.


Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, Can I do it? Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles. The problem is structural; it is insoluble; it is why no one can ever write this book. Complex stories, essays, and poems have this problem, too- the prohibitive structural defect the writer wishes he had never noticed. He writes it in spite of that. He finds ways to minimize the difficulty; he strengthens other virtues; he cantilevers the whole narrative out into thin air, and it holds. And if it can be done, then he can do it, and only he. For there is nothing in the material for this book that suggests to anyone but him alone its possibilities for meaning and feeling.
--[pg. 72, The Writing Life]

I read this book, and I'm like, good god, what am I getting myself into? You almost have to be dumb to want to write. But then I read all the rest, about why we write, and I'm like that, that's why. Because I can't not.



Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed? Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts? Can the writer renew our hope for literary forms? Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?
--[pg 72-73, The Writing Life]

I write partly because I'm selfish and I can't not; partly because I believe fiction, strangely enough, is one of the mediums best suited to exposing humanity's truths.

By the way, I ended up coming out of Mexx with 9 items, $88 less in my bank account... but it was worth it when I looked at my receipt and saw that I saved $300.

6 drops:

writtenwyrdd said...

Sounds like a lovely book! Glad you had fun shopping.

moonrat said...

interesting re: every book has an intrinsic impossibility. it's true, or someone would have written that book already. this makes the author actually a solutionist.

it also makes me feel less stupid when i face the inevitable impossibility!!

Frank said...

You must list the books you bought!! How can you do this to me?

angelle said...

oh. mexx = clothing store, but i did happen to purchase way too many books in the past week (all newly added onto the "books i own" list), as well as a subscription to mcsweeney's, the future dictionary of america, and an instant gratification order. bc i have money to spare like that. and the time to read all of that too.

god, what am i thinking. i'm so going to hate my credit card bill this month.

Frank said...

I'm a huge McSweeney's smoocher, but I was disappointed with the $100 book subscription thing. It was smart on their end, but I didn't like half the books.

The Quarterly Concern, though, is fantastic. I've been a subscriber since the They Might Be Giants CD edition.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ooh, another They Might Be Giants fan! They're the best show live. I got to see them three times while I lived in SF.

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