Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Can't not

It's the sparsity that speaks. A man sits alone in his shirtsleeves, a desk and typewriter in front of him in a simple wooden shack or shanty on the water. It's the kind of view that will cause the mind to wander, coupled with a lack of distraction. There is no fluff. There are only thoughts leading to words. Not just any words: the right words.

He sits there and tries to work it out. Tries to say what he has to say because he has to. He can't not.  It's primal and inherent in him. He might be the tide, the breeze or the sun. He is just carrying out his purpose.

I've always dug that photo. I first saw it as the cover to E.B. White's "One Man's Meat." It's the archetypal writer, in any age, all you need to do is change his tools to suit the era.

Maybe it's the influence of reading Palahniuk, but I sometimes picture this scene with there also being a gun on the desk. For specificity, we'll call it a 9mm--a shotgun would throw off the balance of the desk.

The writer then has two options for how to express himself. There are times, if the words aren't coming, if genuine communication seems compromised, that shooting a hole in the wall of the shanty probably says as much as any words could. Yeah, it's probably best if writers don't keep handguns on their desks.

But for me, this morning, it's the primacy of words, the right words. When distractions abound and I'm not sure what, if anything, I have to say. When words are strewn like litter, used and tread on and I'm picking them up and turning them over, I dig calling up this picture. The writer, stripped down. The words. The attempt. The purpose.

The can't not.

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