This blog is about reading and writing.
Have you ever been working on something, a story, a life, a forty foot sloop, and been both inside and outside of it at the same time? In and out of the game? When did you do your best work? When you were inside or outside? Sometimes the two states seem to be the same, or two sides of the same coin.
Writers hang around at the edges; they are not infrequently engaged. However, we are there only as observers. As outsiders we often ingratiate ourselves; flatter, tweet, help, post, and betray; then monetize the very cells in our bodies. We listen to your stories, your flowers, and take them home; we make a soup of them, then return to sell you a bowlful. Thus, we hold the reader, generally, in higher regard than we do any writer; let the writer stay home and make her soup.. Yes, the opinion of even one reader—and let that reader be the worst dolt ever—seems far more valuable than the whole of the thoughts of every writer who has ever lived. Yet we writers know better, we think; or, if you prefer, we have a side to us that is more like a judge than a writer, a side that much prefers to deal with your lawyer than with you. Who, then, is this “lawyer?”
The answer should not surprise you. This “lawyer,” obviously, has to be not only a writer but a dead one to boot. You see, once a writer is dead, the writers still alive need have no fear of what might next come from his pen. It remains only for the living writers to read what the dead one has written, this time without interference from the living, striving human being the writer was in life there remains only the bare, hard truth of that writer’s writing. The dead speak in an eloquent tongue that can seem to be a new voice; the living are still chasing the truth that is buried in what they see, the very same truth that is hidden, and will remain hidden, from the living writer as long as he lives. Once the author is dead, however, her books rise of themselves and rebuke her in the eyes of her readers. Thus, you, the living writer, can finally see what the now dead one was after. One day, as you are reading, the face of the dead writer appears in a mist over one of the pages; simultaneously you are told by a voice, a presence, that, yes, you are a good writer or, no, you are not. Try talking about that at the next meeting of your writers club.
And yet you can, in a way. You can talk about your dead writer-friend, with another living person, with anyone. But doing so will destroy the silent bond between the two of you. What bond? you ask.
First of all, who is your dead writer?
And there you have it.
Something I almost forgot—what about the truth? Writing is actually an answer to the question, “Why write?” Once inside that question you bump into a second question, “How shall I write?” And then you bump into the third question, “How shall I read?” (There’s that magic number three again.) And these all come down to one thing only: the question Love. Notice that I call it a question but there is only one word, Love. There is only Love. There is not even the ready impulse to come up with something to say; there is only Love: the thing you already have. But now you will want to hold it with a different touch. Love is natural. It becomes the only thing, no matter what you are doing. Are you going over your physics notes for the test? It’s all about Love. Are you looking for a pencil sharpener so you can jot down the grocery list? It’s all about love. Are you on a conference call to put the finishing touches on a plan to go up in a helicopter and shoot up a group of people scurrying for cover? It’s all about Love. Don’t let anybody ever tell you different.