Ideas Turn to Dross
I want to be Simone de Beauvoir—well except the dead part and Jean-Paul Satre didn’t sound like a picnic. But a de Beauvoir in training. An apprentice de Beauvoir. A de Beauvoir groupie even although this last seems difficult to pull off when the subject isn’t expelling her fair share of carbon dioxide. Although think Marilyn Monroe. Or Elvis. Thirties, no? Cigarette holder, art deco revival, possibly turban. Need to grow about six inches, lose fifty pounds and have that laser eye surgery.
It wasn’t that I admired her lifestyle, but her ability to think great thoughts and more importantly, to get them on paper.
Turning to Dross
Instead, I often feel like what I have in my head goes through a funnel of the sharpest angle and narrowest spout so that what eventually gets down on paper was only the suggestion of photocopy of a mimeograph. I struggle with what I had in mind and the shadow that actually appears on the page. In fact, the recording of the thoughts seems to be the mechanism by which they turn to dross. Maybe they weren’t gold to begin with but they seemed more valuable before being written down.
I wish I could be like Simone who seemed to have been able to hold onto more of what she wanted to say than I can.
I think (I hope) I’m not alone is this—that things are always better, brighter, more exciting, more lyrical in my head.
Is there an answer?
Of course not. Or at least not an easy one. I think it is a struggle we all are engaged it.
So I have thought about it and these are the tentative conclusions I have come to:
I realize, for me, that I tend to try to make things simple and clear—a hangover, I am sure from the business writing. Taking complex concepts and explaining them concisely and clearly.
Exactly the wrong approach, I think, for fiction. Linear is bad, clarity is suspect, brevity is overrated. Instead, perhaps the opposite. Capturing the world in a phrase, life in a gesture, philosophy in a sigh—this is the nirvana of fiction writing. For all the complexities to be as one, without the need to tease out the threads and lay them out so they don’t tangle. That part of the joy is the tangled. The accidental touching, the knots that make themselves. Because I think we understand at some deep level this complexity and rejoice in it even if we cannot trace all the threads or see all the connections.
Which still doesn’t help me think bigger thoughts on paper.