Sunday, January 9, 2011

Resistance

I have been writing a book for many years now. It isn't the same book as it was when I began--not even a shadow of it. I have written hundreds of pages and thrown them out, or at best, put them in a drawer. (One of the top uses for drawers is to house unrealized books.) Yet it is unfinished. I have been resisting the book all along--not blocking it, but resisting it. There's a part of me that wouldn't settle for what I have thought of before now. It isn't that my conceptions have been wrong, or that the pages have been bad. It's simply that they haven't been the right ones. I have carried within an image of the book perched on a tree branch, with me standing underneath, reaching upward--not quite touching. 
It was a many layered resistance--as I resisted explanations for it as well. There was something I wasn't getting at, something I needed to find for the book, and there was no way to it but to keep working wherever I was at the moment. It's hard to be so utterly uncertain. But sometimes that's all there is.
Part of it has been my general unhappiness with the form. It isn't so much that I don't like conventional narrative--on the contrary, I don't think there's anything quite as hard to do as to tell a story from beginning to end with no digressions, and keep it interesting. It is a fantasy of experience in the same way symmetry is a fantasy of nature. Neither of these correspond to our real experiences, but we wish they would so badly that when they show up in art, we feel a tremendous relief. I recognize this and have no quarrels with it. A single linear narrative didn't feel right for the book, though, but my other ideas were just that--ideas. Inorganic. I wasn't resisting from my mind, but from my soul, or wherever forms are created within the self. I was searching for the right shape by resisting the attempts that didn't fit. Finding a shape is such an odd process, with only an intuition to go on.
Resistance is inherent in fiction. It goes by other names; tension, conflict, juxtaposition, and some of the more arcane rhetorical nomenclature, but it always has to do with separation--the push back or the hold back that creates a space that might be filled with something unforeseen. It is the flip side of inspiration, which also appears in many forms, and makes you feel at one with the gods, be you reader or writer. Some people believe in neither; I believe in both.
I see the shape now, for now. I am at peace, my guard is down. I am not reaching for a branch, but swimming in a warm Florida river, touching the river grass.
Thank you, Resistance. It's great the way you kick my ass.

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