Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Never What You Pictured

From Mark Childress's hilarious and oh-so-true essay, "Fear of Finishing," in Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction (2007):

"Of course, the moment when a book is best comes before you have written a word of it. Let me repeat, a book is at its absolute best--and will never be better--than when it is unwritten. When it's only an idea. A shiny beautiful thing twisting and dangling in midair. A concept, a notion, a radical reinvention of the very idea of the novel. A shade, an arc, a passage of time . . . a big swath of pages easily written, in the naive and simpleminded imagination of the novelist imagining himself in the act of writing it.
After that, it only gets worse. Every page you write is in some ways a tiny death . . . of the illusion with which you began. Every clumsy, unstructured, redundant sentence that you apply to paper is one less deathless, tripping, dancing, rhythmical internally rhyming piece of brilliance like that you had in mind when you sat down at the piano and started to play." (191-192)

Thank God for ear-plugs.


Anonymous said...

What a perfect quote.

The bit about every page you write feeling like a tiny death - just perfect.

lucyp said...

Oh, this is so true. I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Julianne, is that a useful book? Does it offer specific advice about craft? I'm always on the lookout.

Julianne Douglas said...

Lucy, I think it's a good book. It is fun for me to read, since I've attended the Writers Workshop twice and have heard the essayists speak and/or teach, so I bring their personalities to the page. I haven't read all of the essays yet, but the ones I have are insightful.