Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing That Won't Let Go

You know the kind of writing I mean. Words that hang onto your heart and mind like a mastiff with its favorite chewy toy. They have teeth. You write something down, a blog post, say, and commit words to a subject that initially perhaps seems casual and nonchalant but as it progresses reveals new substance and increasing vigor as a subject not merely of written expression but mental exercise. It happens. The thing chews on your brain. It chomps and demands satisfaction. Undertake a novel and suddenly you find yourself being eaten alive.
William S Burroughs said that he hadn't really thought something until it was written down. The act of writing completes what started in your head and in some instances can be an act of absolution. Or is it absolvement? In any case, there is a certain special kind of restlessness that attacks your limbs if the writing is neglected.
I had a blog post that wouldn't quit. The subject had seemed exhausted, the writing complete. A few days later it hit me that the subject of the post was a certain kind of person whom I hadn't represented correctly. I had failed to recognize his qualities as a bastard. This could not be. I could not rest without full disclosure.
The issue can be phrasing, or a point of grammatical exactitude; it can be that what's written doesn't fully convey what I'm thinking. This last is too often the case, as words express only partially what is thought even in the best scenario. Understanding doesn't quell the restless quill, and it can even make things worse: the runaway tiger of complete expression always has a greased tail.
Rainer Maria Rilke advises that writing is do or die, and I take odd comfort realizing that finally choice is not part of the bargain:
No one can advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.

4 comments:

fullet said...

It was so refreshing to read this post, it's fantastic. My favourite books are written by people who ask themselves about these things. I send you my best wishes.

Lin said...

Ahhh, I like this. I, too, find myself not acknowledging or truly feeling a thought until I write it down. But thank god for computers, so I can write and re-write my thoughts over and over again until I fully figure them out. Or not. ;)

I find I process everything as to how it would play out as a blog post. I swear I am losing it!

Andrew said...

Have to say I love your top banner. Best use of Tron Legacy art I've seen lately.

James MacAdam said...

fullet, thanks!

Lin, I don't think you're losing it, not by what I see on your great blog, anyhow.

Andrew, thanks for noticing the banner, you're the first. I have to admit I felt a little proud of myself when seeing it the first time. Now it serves as a reminder that the long wait to see the film is almost over!