Seeing a Pattern

[currently withdrawn, to be revised some day, sorry]

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7 thoughts on “Seeing a Pattern

  1. “An odd thing I notice is how it was easy to write the early posts; while today it takes so long, so many attempts are abandoned.”

    I’ve noticed this as well, though maybe in a different way. I feel like I doing more editing on posts more than I used to, weeding out awkward phrases and clearing away grammatical stumbling blocks. I feel like I keep going back and tweaking them after they’re posted a lot more than I used to.

    I’d like to think that this means I’ve become more conscientious with my writing. But I look back at my older posts and they usually seem to flow nice and naturally.

    A few possibilities:

    1.) I did much more editing on them than I remember. This is a good possibility, especially since I tend to sometimes tweak a few things here and there on older posts sometimes long after the fact, and it’s easy to foget the accumulation of these tweaks.

    2.) I’ve grown more comfortable with these older posts; they feel more set, and thus maybe more natural.

    3.) There has been a shift, not necessarily for the worst, maybe even for the better, in how I write. Maybe it just takes more work now. Maybe even the simple stuff is more complicated than it used to be. But maybe that’s because I’ve expanded into more complicated territory, and I’ve developed a more versatile bag of tricks. I think I may have even read somewhere that that tends to happen to writers as they go along.

  2. I’m glad we’re seeing a similar pattern, and that you puzzle over reasons for it. You’ve inspired me to a question, or perhaps several.
    1) Is the direction of travel we’ve observed a necessary or inevitable shift? i.e. that it cannot go back the other way, towards dashing off something simple & spontaneous?
    2) Is the analogy of mining relevant? i.e. you start off with an open-cast coal mine. You can pick up lumps of coal in your bare hands, take them home in a wheelbarrow. But then you have to go deeper, build galleries and elevators. It gets harder to find the seams of coal.

  3. I’d like to say that you could go back, but the truth is, probably not, or at least not without great difficulty — which defeats the whole purpose (There was some quote from Picasso about taking a lifetime to learn to paint like a child again.) At any rate, innocence seems to be the archetypical adversary of time and entropy. It’s the one thing you can’t get back.

    The mining analogy is an apt one. I noticed that same idea with something else, but exactly what it is escapes me at the moment. The closest I can come up with is the idea that you can walk five miles on your own two feet with little preparation or trouble, while with a car you have a whole network of complications involving payments and maintenance and insurance, but the car can ultimately take you farther. But I don’t like that analogy, because in that case, walking local distances is still an option.

    No, I’m thinking of something where it’s fundamentally altered to take on a larger scope, but in the process it becomes cumbersome in dealing with simple matters. But I can’t put my finger on it. Might have something to do with Thoreau. Maybe. Might be Thoreau entirely.

  4. To bring it back to the subject of writing: I’ve always TRIED to keep it simple. Ideally, I want the words to unspool smoothly without a lot of knots and kinks in them. If it’s hard to read, it’s counter-productive. So, I always edit by reading back through and seeing where I get caught on these kinks. Sometimes I won’t be sure why a sentence doesn’t work, why I keep catching on it, and I’ll keep messing with it a little bit here and there until I realize that the whole way it’s put together is just ludicrous. And I’ll say, “What was I thinking? How did I ever come up with such a crazy, awkward sentence?” And then, hopefully, I’ll figure out an easier way of writing it.

    And the funny thing is, I find this happening MORE now than it used to. And so I think, “What’s wrong with me? Aren’t I supposed to be getting BETTER at this?”

    But there’s another side to it. Because I’ll be going along and I’ll see where I can pull off something a little more, say, ambitious than I would have before. There was a part in one of my recent posts where I was talking about sitting down on a porch swing, and there were a couple of different beats to it. It was a little thing. It wasn’t even really meant to be noticed. It was just there for texture. But I got a kick out of it. It was neat trying to put one of those little details of life into words, that feeling of trying to sit down and join someone on a porch swing as it’s already swinging.

    A few years back, I might not have tried that; it might not have even OCCURRED to me to try that. I might have just said that I sat down on the swing. And when I think about it like that, when I think, well if that’s as far as I would have gone with it, well then OF COURSE it was easier to write back then.

    So, to the question of going back, I also add the answer that I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even WANT to.

  5. I want to add something about the post too (which, after all, is supposed to be point of the comments.) I really love the way you describe your interactions with people, such as the evangelist on your doorstep here, pointing at the sky. There’s a common feel to the people that populate the landscape of your posts, which tells me that it’s not just them, but it’s how YOU see them and understand them.

    I’ve noticed a similar thing with the way Jack Kerouac wrote about people. There’s this unique Kerouac feel to the characters in his books. And when I’ve encountered some of those people (since most of his characters were actual people) outside the context of his writings, and I’ve seen them as I would see them, or as someone else would describe them and I’m able to consider the disparity, I have a moment where I think, “Ohhh, okay. So that’s how Kerouac sees that sort of person”, because all the while I’ve been picturing them through Kerouac’s quirky lens, as martyrs and madmen, invested with a faith that strives to constantly look beyond their faults.

    For instance, there was a movie made of On the Road a few years back. I didn’t see the whole thing. But I remember that the guy who played Dean Moriarty said the things that Dean said and did the things that Dean did, and yet, it didn’t feel like KEROUAC’S Dean Moriaty. In a way, it felt like someone more familar to me, like someone from the neighborhood, like how I might have understood him, had I been there. I was seeing the things that Kerouac had described acted out before my own eyes, for me to process on my own terms. And it wasn’t necessarily that this Dean was any less true to life — he may have been more so — but the real Dean of On the Road is the Dean of Kerouac’s imagination.

    My point is, it’s a thing you notice with some writers. They have a certain way with people (Dostoyevsky is probably another great example of this. There definitely a very Dostoyevsky way he has of capturing people’s little expressions and mannerisms.) I sense that in your descriptions. There’s always a feeling that there’s unplumbed depths to these people. No one ever really comes off like some shallow shlub put in your path by God just to be a nuisance, like extras in the movie of life’s little annoyances. No, it always seems like there’s a story behind them, like they have mysteries and feelings that run deep, all the way down.

  6. Thanks, Bryan. I’ve far too much to say in reply. Re Kerouac, I was influenced by On the Road to an unhealthy degree in 1961, along with Miller’s Tropic of Cancer & Capricorn. And later by The Dharma Bums. Without noticing how much. But then in 2012 we saw the movie of On the Road, not because we wanted to but it seemed the least worst of the films being shown at the “Eye” Museum in Amsterdam, a cool place we’d decided to hang out for the afternoon, or day. I realized how appalling are the characters of Sal Paradise and Ed Moriarty, how badly they treat women, what contempt they have for honest behaviour.

    As for the unplumbed depths, you are exactly right. I wanted to say very much more about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what we shared. As they stood before me I explained how I see a difference between the person and the religion. And at that moment felt the mysteries and feelings that run so deep, as if it were indeed a visitation by God (!) but on the other hand the religion was constraining them like ropes and chains and strait-jacket. (I suddenly think of a street performer in Amsterdam in a big square, who was absurdly constrained like this and gathered crowds with his extraordinary oratory (in English), then collected money from the crowd, and was out in seconds. Except that religious people don’t escape. They try to have fun within the manacles. To which a voice in me wants to say “Like the rest of us!”

    And on the other topic of going back to simplicity. After spending the day indoors I was ready yesterday to have a short strenuous walk, so went up to the Pastures, halfway at any rate, remembering past inspirations, past simple outpourings: the shapes of clouds, the sun on the red bricks, the blackbirds’ songs, the sense of feeling embraced and at home. It was all there, but it wasn’t new any more. I couldn’t write that again with the same excited simplicity as when that stuff spilled out as though I’d never seen these things before. There’s always a search for the new. Even if it’s just a new expression of the same. So I think we are at one on this “no going back” part of writing.

  7. errr, yep. Hav recently posted to Womby’s drivel, Wrote it ‘offline’ .. edited it, re-editited it – copied ‘n’ pasted ‘,published’ to womby’s drivel ….. Aaargh … not the whole concept of what wanted to say
    However, not t’ worry …… remain a larrikin … more or less … meh

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