Sunday, October 31, 2010

The book question

Write from a place of truth. Or write from your own truth, since "truth" is swayed heavily by perspective, depending on what part of the bicycle you've got your hands around (the seat is not the same as the handlebars is not the same as the wheel, but they're all the bike).

Even if you're inventing, it better come from your truth or no one will take that walk with you.

Seems like every writer, or anyone who has thought about or tried to write has pondered the book question. Can I write a book? I should write a book. You know what would make a great book?

In some cases a writer's self-worth is tied to the book question. It's the marathon of the writing life. Can I do it? As if a runner who doesn't run a marathon is less of a runner, untested, unproven. And yet, I think a lot of runners are pulled by the marathon question. I was. And then that question morphed to 50 miles, different courses, and a re-evaluation of what I want to do with running.

The Rumpus's advice sweetheart, Sugar, has an unbelievable, moving, probing take on the book question here, which culminates with one of the single greatest closings of any advice ever doled out, especially for writing, but applicable for life in general, I think.

For a lot of writers, the "book" in the book question is a novel. I'm currently reading and digging TWM's mind-fu&* of a first novel, KnoWare Man. He's somebody who should be writing novels--it's a form that lets his imagination spread out and inhabit the corners of the ceilings of the universe.

November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo in the Twitter, acronym, abbreviation-minded world. Everybody wants to write a novel. I'm not sure I do. Not that there's anything wrong with it (said in Seinfeld voice), it's just not a form that has wrapped itself around my aesthetic soul thus far.

When I think about the books and writers who have shaped or reshaped how I see writing, it's the aphoristic, genre-benders--William Blake, Nietzshe in college, Thoreau/Emerson/Whitman, William Carlos Williams, C.D. Wright's Cooling Time, Studs Terkel's Working. Books whose truths didn't fit nicely into categorization, so they bend or break a form to fit. Though Mark Twain is among my all-time favorite writers, I more frequently read something from Merwin or Robert Hass and think, man, I want to do that.

I like narrative, mixed with the episodic, with its armed wrapped around some glimpsed universal.

So I'm wrestling with my book question. I know I have one in me. But I haven't settled on what or how. But ultimately, I have a feeling Sugar at the Rumpus is right. That's what it's gonna take.

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