22 March 2007

Writing under self-inflicted duress

"Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks of the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities."

Silas Flannery (fictional author in Italo Calvino's If on a winters night a traveler)

I was thinking recently about a new story that I want to tell, and as usual, self-censoring before I'd written a single word. Oh, but I don't know anything about this kind of person, I'm a white girl, what do I know about growing up black in America? How does one become a bounty hunter anyway? Am I writing genre fiction, and if so, am I okay with that? Why not? What's wrong with writing genre fiction? Just because I have a higher admiration for more intellectual authors and would very much like my work to reflect that admiration doesn't mean I can't write pulp if I want to, does it?

Never mind all of the other ways I find to avoid writing, now I can just sit perfectly still, or drive my car, or make dinner, and be actively not writing all the time! It's a miracle break through! In her book on writing Bird by Bird, Annie Lamott talks about putting all of those inner voices in a glass jar and screwing the lid on tight. The visual doesn't quite work for me, but the idea is right. One at a time these voices must be silenced. The problem I keep running into is that each time I think I have eliminated them all, a new one turns up, more serious than the last and demands consideration before joining the others. (Where do they all end up anyway, do they find ways to disguise themselves and appear in the writing itself? I think they might.)

This latest story that I have been thinking about and writing snippets of will get itself written. One way or the other I will push the doubts aside and force the words to stick to the paper. I know I will. I know this because I have to know this. To push past my own limitations and prejudices, to force my own hand and create something is the only way to make the voices disappear, if only for a little while.

I will worry about the revision demons when I get there.

No comments: