Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Final Stretch

I have written over 80,000 words and am headed into the final stretch of this novel. As I suspected would happen even when I first started writing, my heart is growing heavier as I near the end of the story. I don't know if the story is a tragedy so much as a story that expresses the tragic sense of life. If it is a tragedy, it is not so because it is about death, but precisely because it is about life.

Also as I suspected, the characters have become very real to me and I am reluctant to part with them. But part with them I must, so that I can let them go and allow other people to know them too. In some strange sense that is surely true for all fiction writers, my characters are almost like my children. I did in fact conceive them and give birth to them. I do not always approve of everything they do or say, but I love them nevertheless. I allow them to suffer, but only for their own good. And in the end, despite their many flaws and mistakes and perhaps incomprehensible choices, I am proud of them.

No matter what becomes of this novel, it has been well worth the writing. It has been something like a catharsis. Even if I never earn a single penny from it, it has been one of the best investments of time and effort I will ever make. As I said earlier, it is like a distillation of my soul, and plenty of my soul and my blood have been poured into it, with much more still to come in the final pages.

Looking back, the way this story idea survived over the many years, and the way it is flowing out of me now, it seems that this story is something I was meant to write. It is not my place to compare it to the works of other artists, but in terms of my own art, it is without doubt the greatest thing I have yet produced. I used to wonder if I had it in me to write a real literary novel, meaning a full-length, serious, deep work of art that has at least the potential to stand the test of time and find readers in future generations and, yes, perhaps even be given to English majors. Only time will tell if these events come to pass, but if nothing else I have learned that I can at least write a novel. I am frankly surprised at how well it has turned out. I don't know if that statement expresses pride or humility, or some mixture of both, but it is in any case true.

One of the strangest and most wonderful things about artistic creation is that it often seems as though the artist is merely the vehicle for some higher reality that is being channeled through him. As I have often said, to a very large degree it feels that this story is just coming to me rather than being something I have to consciously construct. Of course, I still need to take my inspiration and consciously mold it into its actual form, but I am also surprised at how easy it has been to write such a long work.

I have occasionally looked back at passages I wrote well before and been struck by symbolism or foreshadowing or other connections that I did not intend to put there and did not even notice while writing them. The effect of writing this novel has been like being caught in the grip of an ongoing visionary seizure. There is something obsessive and compulsive in the writing of it, even though I undertake it willingly and gladly.

In the end, no matter how many readers or how few my novel may have, what I hope for it the most is that whoever reads it will see the beauty and the truth I am attempting to communicate. You (if you are in fact to be one of my readers) may not fully understand it, at least not at a conscious and rational level. I do not claim to fully understand it on this level myself. But I think that, like all poetry, even though it does speak to the mind, it speaks even more deeply to the heart and the soul. I can't explain in concise terms what it means, or exactly how the ending makes me feel, but I know that it is something very real and meaningful that I wish to share.

The German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer spoke of literature creating a fusion of horizons between the reader and the author. In other words, the "horizon" or world of the reader can meet the horizon of the author, thus creating a shared understanding. Art is one of the most powerful means we have of bridging the often seemingly unbridgeable gap between the loneliness of our souls, in which we often feel that no one can truly share our experiences and thoughts and feelings. When it is successful, a literary work can create a quiet and marvelous space where, at least for a moment, two souls can touch, even if separated by centuries, and find communion in their shared human experience. If in reading my story you and I can create a shared horizon, a shared understanding of truth and a shared appreciation of beauty, then I have greatly succeeded.

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