I’ve been heavily preoccupied with writing for the past few days. My new column on the purpose of fiction is up at SF Signal, and it was both hard to write and consumed a lot of my time and brainpower. I am not a big fan of David Foster Wallace but his ideas about fiction are very stimulating. I spent a lot of time questioning my own motives and skills and goals in the process of writing it, especially as my list of projects grows and I get a clearer view of the course I have planned for this year. I am increasingly gaining confidence and fortitude with the column and this blog as the foundations for more projects, and I feel more inspired by this week’s column to keep forging ahead and writing more and more and more.
Writing is not hard for me, but allowing myself to write is. Writing is a struggle for most writers, but it’s easy to think that your struggle is unique. Fortunately, Joy Marchand wrote a great piece about this yesterday that was inspiring in a different way, one that is not just about the triumphs of writing, but the struggle between writing and not-writing, between confidence and despondency, all tangled up in the living of everyday life and in the idea of the self one uses to navigate that life. Writing is not easy, and by “writing” here I mean putting words on paper intentionally not for strictly utilitarian purposes but to be expressive and artistic. There are a lot of obstacles that can get in the way of that creativity, and one of the struggles of writing is to maneuver around or charge through those obstacles.
But you struggle to do it because you are infected by words. I got that impression very clearly from reading David Foster Wallace’s thoughts on writing. That really resonates for me because I start to feel ill when something (often, my own foolishness) keeps me from writing. The notion of connection, of the writer connecting to words, of the writer trying to connect with the reader, and the reader connecting to the words and creating something in their own mind that materializes some linkage to the world outside of their skull speaks to what makes writing so powerful to me. It’s connecting to the ailments of isolation and challenging by putting what moves and frightens you into words for others to experience.
I woke up at 4AM this morning unexpectedly, and at first I could not figure out why. I then realized that, for the first time, I have several pieces of writing that are in the process of being published (in magazines or online) that people have not yet seen. And that was bothering the crap out of me. I get antsy enough when a review or column is in process for a few days, and now I am at the point where I have work that is done but not in front of readers. And I felt a bit ill because that means they are unfinished; they are not being read. And, I think also for the first time, that made me want to get more writing out there in the hopes that through sheer weight of numbers something would get out there and assuage that feeling of bother.
It’s odd, but there you have it. That is part of what the infection of writing feels like to me.