29 November 2008

Letter 4.35

Why do I love your awful writing, you ask? Really, it's very simple: your writing isn't just awful; also, it's aweful, and for aweful writing -- writing that has a sense of awe, wonder, generosity, touching (but not squeezing), and waking-up joyfulness -- I'll forgive just about anything. Of course, if it was good writing as well then it would be all the better, because it is, what I've seen of it, also pretty awful as writing (I haven't had a chance yet to get into your Ethiopian epic; maybe The Falasha's Choice will be great writing -- if the drought's pruned the jungle), I think the reason for this is that, as you say, you really get into what you're doing, so much so that you can only see it from the inside -- or, rather, you choose only to see it from the inside, since it's not really a question of can/can't -- and from its own perspective it is, of course, great writing (because it's aweful writing), and nothing else matters. Only later, when you become distanced from the creative act, are you able to see it from a partly different perspective, and to appreciate that difference.

If you would be willing to make a great sacrifice and choose to be able at will to distance yourself from your writing while you were writing it I believe you would develop a different sort of critical faculty, one which would allow you to recognize bad writing as it was being written, and through which you would learn to write not only awefully but also well. (I, for example, can write very well, but very seldom awefully: good writing can be learnt, but aweful writing just has to be in you, and in me it's not-hence, I believe, the sense of weightiness you often find in my work, whereas yours, even when stylistically it's a ton of bricks, still has a kind of motion that I love.) I know it's a lot to give up, but it doesn't have to be all given up at once, and in fact I think it probably can't be all given up at once, since giving it up has to be learned, bit by bit!

But the learning, and the giving up, are immensely rewarding and the long-term result is an incomparable gain. You don't lose anything, because you can still be totally within your writing; rather, you gain the ability to flash back and forth between being in it and being out of it (sort of like gliding, maybe), and while in it you can see what needs to be done to make the conception stronger, strong enough to truly support the conception, the feeling, the essence without which the best writing is merely a well-executed pratfall. More work for poppa, of course, but on the other hand, what else is there? Hell, you know all this anyway.

Your tape, on the other hand, wasn't awful at all, and maybe you should turn in your typewriter for a cassette recorder, and start putting out talks for people to listen to while they're driving to and from work. (Though I must admit that as much as I enjoyed your tape I didn't enjoy it so much as to go completely bonkers and get a job so that I could afford to buy a car so that I could drive to work, listening the while to your non-existent tapes.) Meanwhile, my 'affordable desktop printing' strategy continues to be improved as I learn more about computers: just the other day I learned, at last, how to break into the tables which control the software so that I can modify any value or relationship at will. But learning this is sort of like discovering the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns: there's still a whole heap of exploring to be done. While interested not at all in marketing this, I'm willing to freely share the info with anyone who will also freely share it with anyone who will also...(the infinite hierarchy strikes again!), and I shall probably compose a small tutorial telling the good folks how to go and do them likewise. When I get the time. And when that'll be, only the non-existent good lord knows.

However, I've finally found the time to finish, just the other day, a long-planned paper doing some theoretical physics (Buddhist physics, actually) -- The Big Bang: A Modification -- my first venture back into science in a long time. Nothing aweful in that one at all, of course, but it's now being studied by a physics prof to find out if it's awful. Mebbe so: when it comes to science I'm like you when it comes to writing: me critical faculties be a tad undeveloped, and I have yet to make the choice to develop them. Of course, I won't be doing physics every day for the rest of my life, so there may not be the same incentive, but anyway we seem to have come full circle now, and 360 degrees ought to be enough for anyone.


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