The End of Industry
I used to think that when I wrote I was looking for the right word, or the right phrase, or the right idea. I used to think that a writer’s mastery was a mastery over language, as if all those possible words were a wave I must learn to ride with grace and hopefully without drowning. Yet the more I write, the less I find myself thinking about language, and the more I find myself seeking effortlessness. Andre Dubus described writing as truth-telling, and I certainly feel that is so for me. The truth, however, exists independently of me, exists before me and will exist after me, regardless of whether I ever write it or not. For this reason, my first job when writing is to find the most truthful perception of whatever it is I am writing about. Since there is no formula for this kind of truth, the only means I have to recognize it is whether or not I am exerting effort.
It takes effort to try to manufacture the truth, much the same as it takes effort to manufacture interest in a story or a lover in which you are not actually interested. Since the truth already exists, once I perceive it I don’t need to manufacture anything, I only need to translate what I see. But if what I am seeing is not the truth, then I must manufacture life from the ground up, and the further I am from the truth, the more effort I must exert.
Do not think, however, that The Truth is a pill we must swallow. Do not think that The Truth is hard-boiled, is joyless, or carries even the slightest whiff of hopelessness. When I am able to perceive The Truth, I do so only when I release everything hard-boiled, joyless, and hopeless I have manufactured in my own grim industry. That is my mastery then: Learning to stand empty handed and accept what is given me.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.