Peter Hentges (jbru) wrote,
Peter Hentges

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Literary musing

My friend Ray, through our mutual friend, John, pointed me to this Atlantic article. To which I say, "right on!"

I have, over the last few years read less and less. In my teens and early 20s I read voraciously. Now, I gravitate to a few favorite authors and rarely pick up anything unknown. So often, when I do, I am disappointed and have become averse. Even when recommended by others, I am reticent.

What I like in writing it evocative prose that is spare in its style. It is the type of writing that I have been taught is "good." When my own rambles on or starts to look like some of the examples in the article, I hear English teachers or friendly critics pointing out flaws. On occasion, I'll take on an extreme form as an exercise; seeing how little I can put into how many words. When I see similar things in published works, my mind recoils.

My response to most modern literature that I have attempted is driven most by what the author of the article expresses through most of his biting critique: that many authors are writing to show that they are writers. I want to be immersed in the story and, more often as I try new authors, I am pulled out of that immersion by the structure of the writing itself. I end up puzzling out action across pages that should be told to me within a single paragraph. My internal editor engages at a time I want only to escape.

This is probably also why I have such difficulty writing my own fiction. I am as given to the excesses described in the article as any writer. So I end up editing as I go along and lose track of my muse. She rushes ahead with the story and I'm lost in the dusty wake. I've thought more than once that a ritualistic style of writing might work for me; enter into a place reserved only for writing, invoke the proper mental attitude with words and gestures. I find myself laughing at myself when I undertake inventing such things, however, and never follow through.

Another method I've toyed with is the disciplined approach. Write this many words a day, or for that much time. My life intrudes on such an approach, however, interrupting with things more important. I've envied friends with studios where they can secret themselves away without distraction, but haven't marshalled the resources to have such a thing myself.

That may be the only thing that I need, a place without distraction, to find my muse and follow her through the rollicking hills of story. A comfortable chair. A table to hold my laptop. A light. A pad of paper and pencil for those things that need fiddling with on them. No phone. No internet connection. Distant from the distractions of home.

There I go on my hermit kick again. As if getting all Walden would solve all my problems.

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