Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beckett and Ballard and Woodworm

Sometimes I wonder if I should Become a Writer. You know, give up the lingering idea of having a glittering social life and a worthy career, working for the UN maybe, which seems even less likely now than it was twenty years ago, when I would still occasionally consider going out after dark, and Get Serious. (Whatever that means. The single-minded pursuit of personal writing for possible publication, or SPPWPP, I suppose I mean.)

Why not? I've never really cared for silly socializing, or for doing work that I don't want to do--the regrettable side of a career.

I do worry, though, that writing is such a solitary life. I'm both attracted to that and aware that it's a spiritual danger, the coolness, the remoteness from others. This past year I've seen how easily I could maintain a writer's mind full time, one that is mostly turned toward itself, translating everything into words the way some tourists see all sights as photos.

My lack of a trust fund, though, there's a catch, because writing seriously is rarely lucrative. Or maybe that lack is a saving grace? One of these days I'm going to have to get some more work and that will probably take me back into the social world. My chatty hospital visit showed me how much I've missed that. But I also know that when I'm caught up in it, I don't write much.

And then there's my whole host of neuroses, like woodworm, boring chambers of doubt into anything so solid as Getting Serious About Writing. At the idea of submitting writing to a reviewer, the entire sideboard crumbles to sawdust.

So, I hem and I haw, and if I keep doing that long enough I'll never have to decide. I'm not much of a decider anyway. Something always comes along--someone else decisive says to me, "Write an article for me" or "do this geography project" and I think, sure, or ohgod, no.

Along the way, I take comfort from Real Writers' self-doubts and condemnations of the writing life. I think a lot of people do? Sour grapes, or misery loves company, there's nothing like the reassurance that other people are having a hard time of it too.

Here are a couple good ones I came across this week.

The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume 1: 1929-1940 have recently been published. (I'd never seen a photo of Beckett smiling before, but that's him, the man who wrote, “I'm depressed the way a slug-ridden cabbage might be depressed.”) A review, "Waiting," in the March 30, 2009, New Yorker quoted this bit, written in 1936 when Beckett was thirty, about, of all things, his desire to become an airplane pilot:

"I hope I am not too old to take it up seriously, nor too stupid about machines to qualify as a commercial pilot. I do not feel like spending the rest of my life writing books that no one will read. It is not as though I wanted to write them."
The other is from J. G. Ballard, who died this April 19, in "How I Write," The Times (London), September 19, 2000:

"I've never suffered from writer's block. I have plenty of ideas, sometimes too many. I've always had a strong imagination. If it dries up I'll stop and look for another career. But I wouldn't recommend writing. You can be a successful writer and never meet another soul. I'm not sure that's a good thing."
Don't let me fool you, though. I'm often quite serious about what I write here and sometimes spend so long on a post I'd be shy about saying how long.
Really, blogging seems the ideal point between not writing at all and Being a Writer. Woodworm doesn't much infest the furniture of my e-life. And even though it doesn't pay money, these words are certainly published--made public--and have even led to meeting other souls, which is hugely gratifying.
I'll just stay here for now.


deanna said...

Your work here on the blog is serious, Fresca. I appreciate it, as well as your thoughts (very accurate)regarding taking writing seriously. I, too, like to read of the miserableness connected with practicing the art of letters. I love to know that those whose work was (or became) appreciated suffered as I do. The complaints I don't relate to are of some writers who've done things, like sold books and what have you, and who complain about some of the miserable details in that process. I pray, if I ever do find a gleam of successfulness, that I shut up about the down sides and remind others always how shiny grateful I am.

fresca said...

Thank you, Deanna.

I'll remind you of your shiny intentions when I come see you on your book tour and you're complaining about what some people seem to complain about--what a drag it is, going from city to city, signing thousands of books, dealing with needy fans, etc.... : )

I can't wait to say, "Deanna? Oh, I knew her when."