The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yah, right!

By Antonios Maltezos

The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial.
~Virginia Woolf

I ain’t exactly trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe with my writing. So I’m not sure what she means by profound? Can anyone tell me, please? I did try and figure things out for that farmer guy in that story I wrote a while back, but he was made up, and so were his troubles. I don’t even know where his farm was located, whether even in Canada or the US. I’m thinking it was in an Iowa type of place because I know they have lots of farms there, and most people are familiar with it from the movies, but I can’t be sure. I took a bus ride across The Great Canadian Prairies, once, so I may have mixed in some of that scenery, too. Btw, does the US have an equivalent of our Prairies, or do they just call it farmland? Good question, huh? The point is it was all made up. Any details I thought I might confuse, I simply ignored, left out, kept the camera focused in on the faces of my characters, close-up, so the reader wouldn’t notice that I’d left out the background. How can this be profound work when I was so actively trying to avoid getting caught in bullshit?

The truth is…

This writing thing is a major source of grief for me. I feel bloated most mornings because of it, constipated. It makes me wanna pull out my nose hairs -- peel onions so I can weep for a while in front of a mirror, convincing myself that I’m a Human being and not this strange creature whose mind works on a level with a thief, stealing lives just because I can. Truth is… this is when I’m not even writing -- when I’m sitting down at my desk even though I know I ain’t gonna write anything of consequence this day. Most days. Yah, there’s something profound about it. Especially the way my confidence takes a beating on a three/one shift. Three days feeling like a shit, with one good day off from all the misery when I’m finally able to write something I can keep. It’s a fucked up shift, and it’s taking its toll. I cut back my work hours this summer, incidentally, just for this, just so I could gain twenty useless pounds that don’t even help cushion the hours I spend writing and then backspacing. I did it just now, you know, and I’ve already forgotten what it was I erased. Tell me that wasn’t a waste of time?

The truth is that writing is the profound pleasure…

I’m like a no-name golfer working the pro circuit, except there isn’t even a promise of some money when I’m playing well (by playing I’m referring to the fantasy that a grown man can make a career of playing a game.) And like most of these okay golfers, I’m constantly forcing the ones I love to reschedule because I’ve managed to convinced them I’m that good, and it’s worth the hassles. God bless ‘em. Truth is, when the writing is going well, I can look them in the eyes. It’s part of the pleasure (yes, I said pleasure) when they’re realizing they’d better get in on some of the fleeting happiness and do the dance with me, and they do, because everyone knows I’ll be in a profound mood for three days following.

… and being read the superficial

I’ll admit my first reader was my mom, the poor woman. Incomplete thoughts, out of the blue characters and scenarios, tangents that were more like wooden planks on a pirate ship – she devoured it all, struggling to make some sense of it with her English being a second language. I don’t think she got most of it, but she was very good at pretending, using generic terms to express the way my stories made her feel. You can blame her for allowing me to move on to the next stage, newer readers with keener eyesight, like my wife, who’d read most of the early stuff and decided long ago she wouldn’t stand for my “you’re just not getting it” explanations. And then there’s the Zoetrope writer’s workshop, and those first five reviews required of… umm… newbies. I do get them every once in a while, and I value them as they serve as a reminder that what I do, I do for the reader, but not really. It’s why they hurt so much. It’s like having your gift opened while you’re there, noticing the grimace, the way the package gets tossed aside because there are other gifts to open, gifts that might be more appropriate, more exciting than the one you brought.

… profound

What if I don’t see the profound aspect of the writing experience the way I’m supposed to according to Virginia Woolf? Do I fill my pockets with stones, find a lake whose bottom is slippery with silt and drops suddenly after only a few paces? No way! Yuck! What would be the fun in that? I’ve had enough misery up to the now. I’m still dreaming of a hole in one.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love this, Tony, so heartfelt and so true for most of us, I suspect. The self-doubt is a killer. As for me, I need to be read to convince myself to keep at this up and down game. Thanks for the post.

Thu Aug 03, 11:08:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

I second what Tricia said - great post. I don't know if I feel pleasure from writing, but profoundness? Maybe when it's going well and emerges with little perceptible thought. It's kind of hypnotic don't you think? The rest of the time it’s like grit in your eye – you gotta get it out but damn it hurts!

Thu Aug 03, 11:27:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

This is right where I am today, Tony. Wishing those pleasant, relaxed feelings would return to make the words less wooden, flow more easily. I think I'm too caught up with approaching deadlines....and that darn flashathon that I can't seem to brave!

Thu Aug 03, 01:00:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Thoughts like this probably helped Virginia write books that weren't easy reads. I'll admit to not being able to make it through a Virginia Woolf novel. I started one and there was some trouble over a bouquet of flowers. It was hard to follow. Like Jane Austen in a blender. I started another one and I couldn't tell you who was thinking what or saying what or whether something was just being described. It was Jane Austen in a blender on acid. But! But! I love the idea of Virginia Woolf. When I hear her writing described, it sounds like just my cup of tea!

Thu Aug 03, 01:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Thanks for this one, Tony. You've captured the struggler's angst perfectly. You know, even amidst your self-doubt you write with pizzazz. I've no doubt you're heading where you hope to go.

Fri Aug 04, 02:43:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger craig said...

Yep that dance with self-doubt - or is it more of a sparring match? Sometimes you can win, but someimtes you just knocked flat on your ass.
Keep your guard up, Tony, and watch for the jab.

Andrew - you made me laugh out loud with that Austin in a blender on acid. Damn, gotta get me some of that.

Sun Aug 06, 05:31:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahahaha, Antonios, we're on the same page so to speak, re profound pleasure.

Now I think I'll go pull some nose hairs out.

Diane, Maple Room

Mon Aug 07, 10:23:00 am GMT-4  

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