I tried. I can’t. I suppose I could if there were a gun
to my head, but there isn’t & doesn’t look to be any time
So, I write slow, despite a voice inside that tells me my
days are numbered & I need to start building up my body
of work, which is paltry to middling at best. That tells
me I’m taking too long to write whatever it is I’m writing.
That voice I find to be fading & losing strength fast. No
It’s not even that I write slow. I write as if there is
no such thing as time, no such thing as growing old,
no such thing as death. The fastest piece of long fiction
I wrote took three years. I’m currently working on a short
story, which I decided to do because I haven’t written a
short story in many moons, and because I wanted to take
a break from novels.
I thought I would knock off this story in a week or so
at most, because it had been brewing & bubbling for a while
in the attic. I thought it was ready to accommodate me,
just leap out & lay itself down there on the paper, the
It’s been five weeks. The end appears to be in sight, but
that is a matter of length, not time. I know how many pages
it’s going to be, roughly, but that is not about time.
Getting stuff published is not in my control, at least
compared to getting it written. My mind deals in time, so
it sets a schedule for my heart, or my intuition, or
whatever it is that’s in charge of my writing. But my
intuition doesn’t much abide schedules. It sees them
& takes note of them, but it doesn’t relate them, it
doesn’t respect them. It doesn’t disrespect them, either,
it just doesn’t really care.
It doesn’t pay much attention to fear, or money, or the
world, or anything that doesn’t have to do with the place
where stories get written. My mind thinks about all those
things, or a part of my mind, but that part doesn’t have
anything to do with the actual writing of the story.
I wouldn’t even say it’s about timelessness, either. It’s
a much simpler place than something as cruel as time or as
dreamy as timelessness. It’s beyond both. It considers both,
or uses both, in the writing, because a story about people
is a story about time, and I have a spiritual outlook so
timelessness is present, too. But time & timelessness are
just two more characters in the story, they’re not telling
me what to do or how long to take doing it.
I used to imagine being on my death bed & regretting not
getting a book published. Being so close, and being so, um,
frustrated by the process, has somehow allowed me to let go
of that fear some. Is my soul going to be truly altered in
some way by whether I get a book published? I like to imagine
not. Then I imagine being near death & wishing I had written
more, more books, stories, plays, published, performed, or
not, and I can’t really get much oomph going behind that fear
Now, I can answer the pressure of a deadline, which I did
when I incorporated hundreds & hundreds of little & big changes
suggested by my brilliant editor David Adams (since laid off
in the economic crunch) at MacAdam/Cage. So I can do it if I
have to, but I’m not talking about have to. I’m talking about
the normal day-to-day pursuit of telling the story just the
way it is supposed to be told, and the pleasure given &
received in writing it, in the writing, in the flow of
using everything available to the intuition in the making
of sentences, paragraphs, written conversation, scenes,
sections, and on.
I’m talking about my natural velocity as a writer, and it
appears to be the velocity of a turtle, a turtle in a rocking
chair on a porch, smoking the pipe of the imagination,
employing the skills of the craft given & learned, overlooking
the world of the story. (I just thought of a wonderful line
from some tough-guy movie I saw: "I hate scenery.")
It takes something beyond time to use everything you have
in doing something that you love so much. Death & failure
are no reasons to rush it.
I think I’ve finally come to accept that the venture that
is the creation of a story for me is so slow & so . . .
self-contained that all clocks stop in the vicinity. As
long as I do it every day I’m OK with it, I’m fine.
Of course I prefer to have a spiritual outlook about these
things, life, death, art, time. So, as far as what we do
at our best, in my view it survives. And if it does survive,
I want it to be the best, the clearest, the funniest, the
poignantest, the most loving & loved it can be, from the
words to the flow to the people & to life as embodied
in the story.
I can’t do that with time breathing down my back. Time
is not breathing down my back. Or it may be breathing down
my back, but if so I haven’t gotten the message yet, and it
seems that I would have gotten it by now if I were going
to get it. Things may change tomorrow, but today I am on
the timeless boat, the timeless porch, moving again through
the story from start to toward the end, which in this case
is going to be an ending that must have the time it needs
to find its perfect stopping point.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Posted by Richard Martin.... at 3:51 PM