Monday, July 9, 2012

The Passion and Devastation of Writing

In the first six days, I have written over 7000 words, so I'm averaging over 1000 words per day. At this rate it would take maybe two months to complete, which would mean by the end of the summer. Of course, there's no guarantee that this pace will continue. I'm grateful to have gotten off to a great start, but I know that the middle section could be tougher going.

My writing these days is animated by a passion that makes me feel like I am in love. I think that perhaps such feelings of passion arise any time we find ourselves close to something that our souls long for, something that most deeply fulfills our being, whether it be in relationship with others or in the work we do or in the simple enjoyment of things. But I think also that the passion I am experiencing is further intensified by the nature of the work I am producing, as I have never really felt this way before when writing anything else. This story, more so than anything else I've written, is intended as a deeply serious and, I hope, profound, work of art, something that, while it may not make any bestseller lists, I like to dream might prove itself to be an enduring contribution to literature. I wouldn't dare to say, nor would it be seemly for me to say, that it is in fact a great work of literature. I'm just saying that this is the hope I have for it, and the way I envision it. I have many other ideas for stories and novels, and if I am blessed with the time on this earth to write them all, and if I am further blessed with even a minor literary reputation either during or after my lifetime, I do believe that this first novel of mine will always remain thought of as one of my most important works. Note I am simply saying one of "my" most important (like a personal best), not necessarily one of the most important in all of world literature.

The reason for this is that this story is, I have come to realize since starting to write it in earnest, something like a distillation of my soul. I feel it has at least the potential to be one of my greatest personal achievements because I am, as they say, pouring my soul into it, in a way and to a degree that I never have before. In the writing of this novel, I am focusing on my highest ideals of beauty and truth, and attempting to express them in the best and most powerful and most beautiful way that I am capable of doing, according to such gifts and talents as I have. I am looking at life, and writing about life, in the largest possible way, with a view toward ultimate meaning.

I am doing all this through earthly, imperfect, and real characters. Among many other things, I am attempting to show the coexistence in human life of vulgarity and sacredness, despair and ecstasy, and I choose to do this through characters who are not necessarily role models or heroes, who don't always do or say or think admirable things, but whose souls nevertheless hunger for the good, the true, and the beautiful. I believe their very imperfections and flaws will make their encounters with goodness, truth, and beauty all that much more real and powerful. These characters become more real to me, fuller and richer human beings, the more I write them. I feel, as many writers do, that I am discovering them more than I am actually creating them. It is great fun to write about them, as though they are actual living friends. I know, too, for that reason, that I will be sad to say goodbye to them at the end.

But I think there will be something even more difficult about coming to the end of this novel. Even though I say this is a serious and hopefully profound work, it is far from being thoroughly serious in its tone. I only hope it is half as fun for others to read as it is for me to write. I am filling it with all the passion for life that I am capable of feeling, which comes out in ways both playful and mournful. But despite all the fun along the way, I know that the end, at least for me as the writer, will be emotionally devastating. Not because of any overt tragedy--no one dies, I can reveal that much--but just because the sheer weight of the story, the reality of the characters and their souls, will make the beauty and truth I wish to convey, the profundity of life which it is my aim to express as clearly and powerfully as I can, fall heavy on my heart. It is something I can sense from here, near the beginning, but I know I will not feel its full effect until I actually reach the end. It is by no means a tearjerker, and I am not one who likes easy sentimentalism. In fact, the ending is not highly dramatic at all. If anything, it is quite understated. But the most beautiful and the most profound things often have the effect of devastating us, in a very good and healthy way. It is an effect as joyous as it is melancholy, and it feels like a strange, wondrous mixture of both. To me, that is the ultimate passion for life that we can feel... like fire, it lights us up, but also lays us waste. It is something that breaks us open.

This story, at least as I envision it in my head and heart, does that to me, and my hope is that I will be successful in translating that vision into writing... like all art, it is a communication and a sharing of what truth or beauty one has seen, and the artist's greatness lies in his ability to communicate his vision from his own mind and heart and soul to that of another human being as fully and powerfully as possible. I have seen, and continue to see, something beautiful and devastating, and my passionate quest right now is to try and make you see the same thing. It is something that cannot be summed up in a sentence, but will take at least about 200 pages or so of fictional storytelling to explain, and that can only be explained in the exact form which this novel finally takes.

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