Postcards and plums

January 18, 2011

Yesterday I came down pretty hard on literary “fakes,” but as I was writing I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of empathy for those men. I wonder if we all don’t feel a little fake sometimes. Surely in the way we live, but maybe even in our creativity.

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to discipline myself into writing regularly. Since I have not been in school for the month of January, “regularly” has meant everyday (though I am sure this will change once my classes start). And it has been difficult. Especially so in the moments when, after working on a post for an hour or two, I realize I have not learned much in the process. Of course I cannot expect to be inspired every day, but then why post those days? If this were a more public blog, I don’t think I would. But since my main purpose in starting it was to force myself into practicing what I love, those entries that make me cringe a little to re-read (and some I have not mustered up the courage to re-visit) are posted. And sometimes, I feel a bit like a fake for it.

Not to mention that so far I have not been able to resist piggybacking off writers that I respect, quoting their work as if it somehow validates my writing. Does this make me a fake too—this inability to see a situation through my own eyes? Am I like Thierry Guetta? I’m not sure if I will ever be to go through a day without hearing the words of characters or authors I have read; how can I ever mail a postcard without thinking of Milan Kundera’s The Joke, or eat a plum and not think of William Carlos William’s “This is Just to Say”? And maybe I don’t want to…I haven’t decided. But it undoubtedly affects my writing.

One thing I am sure of (admittedly only through the wisdom of those very authors): writing is a discipline. And even if I convinced myself that every thought I wrote was completely original, there would still be days I feel like a fake; this is simply a consequence of being disciplined.

Sometimes when I pray, I have absolutely no sense of God’s presence; I am sure I am talking to the ceiling. How relieved I was to learn that Madeleine L’Engel used to feel the same way when she was alive. But, she points out, as when writing seems fruitless and even embarrassing, this is no excuse to stop:

“If I don’t struggle to pray regularly, both privately and corporately, if I insist on waiting for inspiration on the dry days, or making sure I have the time, then prayer will be as impossible to me as the C minor Fugue without work.”

I want to learn to play the C minor Fugue. (Metaphorically, that is; I have given up all hope of ever being musical.)

(A note of caution: With discipline sometimes comes arrogance. Occasionally I find myself actually stopping in the middle of a prayer to think, “Oh, that was a good one. Yes, I said that just right.” Well, L’Engle helped me with this one too: “If I am conscious of writing well as I am writing, those pages usually end up in the wastepaper basket. If I am conscious of praying well, I am probably not praying at all.”)