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April 14, 2008

Nothing Doing

I have nothing in particular to write. The weather in the Bay Area was fucking beautiful this past weekend. I couldn't stop smiling and looking around. It was so bright I had to squint even with my shades on. I slept with the windows open.

Everything I did, all the music I listened to, was imbued with glory and sadness, that summer feeling, like you are at the height of something and everything will be downhill from here ... but also don't worry, because it will come back.

Today is still bright and sunny but chilly. I'm insistently wearing my flip-flops, because, well, I don't want to let this weekend go yet. But it's gone. My feet are cold.

Da Nobble is again underway. Every time I stand back from it, I'm overcome with terror. When I was a small child, I had a recurring nightmare which was very difficult to describe, because it was simply a feeling with no images or sensory impressions attached. The feeling was just that of standing before infinity or endlessness. There was also a sense that I needed to encompass, or even merely comprehend, the infinity that I stood before ... but I think that feeling is inherent in human responses. When you stand before something overwhelming, you automatically feel an impulse to comprehend it, and it is this need to encompass combined with the impossibility of encompassing the infinite, that is so terrifying.

Also, infinity is just terrifying in itself.

I had the dream most intensely between about age five and maybe age ten or eleven. In grade school I could recall the dream during school hours and give myself a fun little thrill of terror while surrounded by daylight and people. But at night it was just devastating, because it wasn't the kind of nightmare that made you scream and brought your parents running to comfort you. You couldn't actually tell anyone about it because you were too young to articulate it and it didn't sound scary in any case.

The last time I had the dream was when I was seventeen. That's a whole nother story, but the point is, I don't fear--or experience--endlessness anymore. But standing before a big project like da Nobble, trying to understand all the things I still have to do with it at once, recalls a small amount (really tiny, actually, it's nothing like infinity), of the terror I felt in my childhood nightmares.

They say that genius expresses itself in the mind of the genius as an instant comprehension of the whole of a field of endeavor--a comprehension that includes exquisite views of detail, a total revelation of structure and energy flows, as well as an overview. Like the musical genius looking at sheet music and being able to see other possibilities, or understand the various melodies and harmonies and chords simultaneously, as individual lines, as masses, and as flows that work together; being able to understand the piece as one expression of a multitude of possible expressions.

And in essence, I think the work of each of us artists and writers (and scientists, and tradesmen, and artisans, and organizers) is to take the slow route to genius: learning and adding each aspect of our chosen fields, slowly building over time that total comprehension which comes to the genius instantly.

After much reading and writing and study and analysis, I've added a great deal more comprehension of writing to my overall ability. That's my job as a writer. I've begun to "see" and "feel" structures and flows of energy, to understand alternatives in a manner that now seems intuitive, but isn't the slightest bit intuitive, because it is the result of hard work and conscious acquisition.

And, hardest of all, I've begun to be able to apply this to my own work ... slowly, painfully, and with much attempted brushing away of bullshit. It's hard work. To "see" da Nobble clearly requires a great deal of posturing and glancing out of the corners of my eyes. I have to spend two or three hours posturing for every one hour of solid work I get done ... and that's even on my best days. And I've only just begun again. I don't have my routine down yet. In fact, what I'm doing right now, writing this, is posturing and bullshit-hounding, in prep for--at most--a couple of hours of revision.

But I'm working. Hallelujah.

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Comments

I wish you well with it. I'm there, when you need someone to read it. And I hope, one day soon, to ask you to autograph my copy of the first edition.

But I have to say I wish you wouldn't call it da nobble. It sort of feels as if you're disrespecting your own work.

I know, I know - if I start thinking of Writing The Novel I go all tense and can't work sensibly on it at all. China gave me the *best* piece of advice at Clarion - don't think of it as writing a novel, think of it as typing. "Nothing going on here, just a bit of typing, move along please..."

Type on, sister!

I hear that, Clare. Go you! Some good advice I was given: The trick is to keep showing up.

thanks guys!

wendy, "da nobble" is my nickname for my baby. just like i call my cat "fatboy" and "head of shit." i think that's acceptable.

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