Thursday, August 16, 2007

Impending Doom

Something new… I need to write something new. I can’t imagine what. A story, an amusing anecdote, maybe a philosophical premise - I don’t know. Life has been good, but in something of a holding pattern of late. Time is passing and with the passing of time some forecasted events are approaching, but right now it’s just niggling little things that I really, really don’t want to do. Yet, somehow they are getting done. My laundry is almost all clean and put away. The dishes are mostly all clean and out of the dishwasher. The bills are paid and there is gas in the car. Yet… I feel somehow ineffective, like I am neglecting something.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?” A man far wiser than I once asked. “It’s impending doom, stupid!” He was talking about instinct; about intuition; about gut feelings. For me, it often means that I need to write something and I don’t usually know what it will be until I see it before my eyes. Stephen King wrote that writers don’t create their stories, they discover them. It is an interesting angle and one that works for me. He likened it to the archeologist who is digging up fossils. Once discovered, care must be taken in excavating them. Too much haste will produce an incomplete or fragmented artifact while carefully bushing away the soil will reveal a complete and beautiful specimen.

And Michelangelo felt the same way when working with a block of marble. It is reported that he “saw” the figure in the stone and merely uncovered it with his chisel. Could it be the same process with writing? Is it that the themes and the thoughts and the stories have existed all along only waiting to be tripped over by a literary explorer? Do we create our worlds or navigate them? There are instances, many, many instances when I know I have taken a wrong turn; when I will select and delete many words, complete sentences and in some cases, entire documents. I have taken a wrong turn. Often I will know it immediately - it just doesn’t feel right - but sometimes the path has been cleverly disguised that I won’t realize it until many miles have been traveled.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?”

It is difficult to turn back after so much has been committed, but if the words lead to a dead-end, there is little choice. Vision is not always prospective and sometimes the forest can only be seen through the trees in retrospect. I think fast and I write slowly. I never learned how to type and I don’t intend to. It has served to slow my thinking down and in a very real sense it gives me the vision that helps keep me on course. Mostly. There is a downside, however. If I don’t get the thought out, I risk losing it… maybe forever, maybe not, I can never really know. Was it that elusive fossil that I have been searching for or just another piece of petrified wood? Often the answer can only come from running headlong into a dead-end, writing wildly scattered thoughts as fast as my two fingers can carry me.

Joan Dideon reveals that she never learned grammar. She just knows what sounds right. Jimi Hendrix never learned to read music, but he too knew what sounded right. It’s about how it all fits together. It has to make sense. Translating the thoughts in my head into words clarifies them not only for you, but for me as well. It takes the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle floating around in space and assembles them into a mosaic that can be viewed in total - perhaps even understood. It intimately links the reader with the writer, crossing the barriers of time and space. We become, for a brief instance, one.


MaR said...

Strange coincidence you mention Jimmy Hendrix when I have been listening to old Woodstock pieces today... and the distance barrier of a whole ocean in between makes no obstacle because Mchele sent me :)

MaR said...

Michele sent me back, Mr A. I was busy apologizing for calling a Kiwi an Aussie, and I am not blonde!

Michele said...

According to William S. Burroughs, "whenever anyone reads his words the writer is there. He lives in his readers."

Your writing is always there Mike, when you are doing other things, when you are doing nothing, and yes, even when you are doing the "niggling little things that (you) really, really don’t want to do."

Your writing is always there BECAUSE you are a writer. Your writing is also there in every single reader who happens upon your words.

You are, of course, correct - for a brief instance writer and reader are one. However, occasionally, that brief instance lingers, because some readers, and I am certain you have many, read not only with their eyes, but also with their heart.

kenju said...

Oh, yes, Michele, I read here with my heart, because Mike always reminds me that I have one.

I think you are right, that the stories are already there, and you have to find them in the ether, just like Michaelangelo uncovered his statues.

MIchele sent me, but you know I am here everyday.

Pat said...

Hi Mike ! Here from Michele's and I hope I caught you before you got bogged down in those pesky little details. I agree with you and Stephen King and I relish the discoveries and recognise the impending doom when my creative juices are arid. I have a soft spot for Jimi and my # 2 son played him to me until I learnt to appreciate him . My favourite is Paley Gap. It's my bed-time now. Night night!

Carli N. Wendell said...

Maybe that's my problem. I type 90+ words a minute.
Here from Michele.

MsT said...

Writing. When I am writing a memoir piece or something that arose from a dream or a series of interconnected or random thoughts, it is usually enough to jot the words down and come back to it later. Writing on a deadline, such as a term paper or newspaper article or press release or voiceover sometimes produces writer's block. Poetry is different. I rarely sit down to write poetry, unless I am at salon (which my friend Greg calls "literary masturbation," lol). Poetry makes me wake up it the night or keeps me from falling asleep or makes me pull the car to the side of the road or the cart to the side of the aisle in the grocery store until I have captured everything. A lot of times a poem will come to me complete. It's almost like a burp or a sneeze or something less polite in that I am compelled to stop what I am doing to write it. Thanks for the visit, and sorry I'm so late from Michele's.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Wondeful POST Mike...and so much of creativity is Instinct, I think...One does not have to have gone to Art Schoool to be a painter...And ome does NOT need to know how to read music to be a composer...Irving Berlin played the piano by ear and in onnly one key....Yet...! (He had a piano built bsck in the 20's or 30's that could change lkeys while he continued to play in "C"...)

So, why should it be any different with writing....?

But I have a question for you: If you never learned to type and don't intend to ever learn---How do you use a computer? I mean it is all about the Keyboard and "typing", no?

Michael K. Althouse said...

Naomi -

It's all just two fingers and I have to look at the keyboard. I can type fairly quckley, but I have those limitations.

Bobkat said...

Creativity definitely comes from within somewhere and if it is not captured then it is gone forever. Well, that is true for me anyway! I have seriously thought of putting a white board in the bathroom because of this as I always seem to ahve these ideas in the shower or in the middle of the night!

awareness said...

Hey Mike.....I've been bouncing around all day doing this and that, and formulating various ideas in my head.....don't know which ones will flow through my fingers, but the one which seems to be niggling at me is the topic on the power of the written word. And I am reading about your process of writing, and how sometimes one doesnt know what one is going to write about.....a big blurry topic, but often the words somehow formulate......and I'm thinking......GEE I seem to be on the same kind of wavelength as Mr. Alhouse today.

Beautifully written your how it how when I read it, the words are spoken in my head out loud......

and I love how your writing, and other's writing allows for a magical moment of feeling like youre right here with me..... :)

enjoy your Friday, friend.

Michele sent me.....she's a butterfly.

Anonymous said...

I always love your writing, Mike! ;) Thanks for promoting my 10 Yr. Bloggoversary Contest! I can't wait to see your entry ;)

Tawcan said...

Ideas seem to come when you're not looking for one.

Interesting to read about Michelangelo. I had the chance to see some of his arts in person and this artist amazes me. The Creation & Last Judgment @ Sistine Chapel were absolutely amazing. The figures are 3D like...almost real.

Anonymous said...

I once read an article where the author stated that he never creates or finds the story but the story finds him. He just has to slow down enough to let it catch him. Great article Mike. I visited on my own this time but that was just because your name wasn't directly ahead of mine. Then again, I visit regularly anyway.

awareness said...

that impending doom feeling nips me in the butt from time to time too. It's coated with a wee bit of anxiety that for once and for all the word tap won't run again.....the doomy gloomy feeling quickly evaporates as soon as the fingers hit the keyboard these days.

After I read this the first time, I sat down and wrote out (in one sitting) my post for sunday scribblings this week......the prompt was "diary" With thoughts about impending doom and the ideas I had about the power of the word, it flowed beautifully. So, in part, I would like to dedicate my Sunday Scribblings to you my friend.

Hope you jump out of the Michele queue for a moment to read it.

Oh, and that rascal Michele sent me AGAIN to say hello....truly a butterfly she is.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Michele sent me.

I love the way you write. Did this post start out as stream of consciousness writing? The reason I ask, is that I have written something similar in a notebook...and then that entry became something else entirely. And I do the same as you when I sit down to write. I don't know what will come of it, it just shows up. It's almost out of my control.

And it is very cool when it happens.

You make me want to write. I'm glad I came by.

rashbre said...

I know that feeling that sometimes there's a story or a point waiting to be told.

My version is a little different though, I usually have a stream of ideas and pointers and then have to poll and select a few.

Its part of what I think of as wide time. Many things happening together. Then its about taking the step back to look for the long time point that can bring some of it together.

And then I wonder what happens to the discarded fragments.


Helene said...

Hey Mike...
Just stopped by to say hello and see what you were up to.

I think the thing about Impending Doom is that it can be a self-fullfilling prophecy.

Hope you are having a great summer!

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

wonderfully written my friend, insightful, amusing, profound and very human - just what writing should be.....

Shephard said...

Ok, I laughed at the impending doom quote.

It IS like being an archeologist, isn't it. Quality writing feels exactly like careful, methodical digging. And that point of no return, where you look back and realize you enjoyed the journey of getting to that point so much, you hesitate at throwing it all out when you've hit the dead end. But you must. :)

Great post.