has anyone seen Californication? (i'll admit it is not the highest-quality show around, but the writing is still better than, say, Law & Order: SVU.) in one episode in the first season, the show's protagonist, a washed-up, blocked writer living in LA (played by an unforgivably hot David Duchovny), announces to a group of plaid-clad high school girls that being a writer is like "having homework every day for the rest of your life."
this sounds accurate to me. i mean, who in their right mind would sign up for a life like that? the obvious answer is: masochists. (i think it's fair to say that nerds are a subclass of masochists.) from this it's not hard to see how serious writers (as a group)are also notoriously hard on themselves for not being productive enough. ironically, they (we?) are frequently also brilliant procrastinators. not that that's surprising, either. what we do is difficult and unpleasant on at least one level, even when it's addictively fun. we look at things closely, unflinchingly: the world, other people, ourselves. then we digest it, funnel it into words, and then by the nightmarish taskmaster that is revision, are forced to revisit and sculpt those words until they tell exactly the truth that we have not only seen, but felt--vibrating in our bowels and our lungs.
about a year ago i was spending my free time stuffing my brain with every book on craft that i could get from the library. i recall reading a quote from some writer who, with resignation, described the curse of the writer: to eventually be unable to experience the world except through the filter of words. he was always writing his life in his head as he lived it; the immediacy, it seemed, was gone. is this what we're doing--constructing, however inadvertently, a window between ourselves and the world? a window that, most importantly, cannot open?
it seems that this outcome is not actually necessary, but rather the result of a wrong turn somewhere. the brute incoherence of the world never completely goes away, after all. if we become unable to sit with that, aren't we missing something vital?
i'm still questioning my commitment to this craft, and wondering how much forgiveness i should offer myself for recent displays of laziness and fear. i have a long history of dreams about killing babies--not just human babies, but kittens too. last night was the newest of them, and involved, for the first time, actually being pregnant, and realizing i had made the decision, however unconsciously, to have the baby, simply because i'd waited too long to get rid of it. years ago, when i dreamt of rolling infant flesh into cigarettes, a friend advised me that the babies in my dreams might represent my own nascent creative urges, which i sometimes exploited and sometimes simply didn't know how to nurture. last night's dream was all about denial, and then the pain of recognizing my own irresponsibility toward this child i had chosen to give life. most frightening, the dream suggests that i have passed the point of no return: if i don't step up now, something inside me will die.
these are the pulses--aren't they?--that drive me to write: these peristaltic churnings that force tears when i sit still and feel them moving inside me. and these are the same pulses that i can so easily slip into ignoring. when i put it that way, it seems both unforgivable and altogether human.