Wednesday, August 1, 2007

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” –Thomas Mann

Oh, Thomas. Thank you for admitting this, even if it does seem a little pity-partyish. Its truth does not escape me. When I was a freshman in college, learning how to tutor other students in the campus writing center, I learned the term “reticence” as it applies to writing. I learned how to help people overcome this common problem, and fairly well ignored the fact that I myself am quite reticent.

Reticence is the fear of the blank page, but I think it boils down to perfectionism, which boils down to control, the lack of which boils down to vulnerability. Those of us who received writing accolades early on will recognize how the flip side of praise is pressure.

Paul Valery said, “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” The sentiment is that, like any other craft, writing is subject to the constant reinterpretation of the writer. Sometimes the kernels of truth remain in a piece, and sometimes you want to burn it, erase it from the universe. Once the piece has been read by anyone but you, total annihilation is difficult.

Writing at the computer has one clear benefit to the reticent writer: if the writer can type quickly, the flow from brain to page can reach amazing frequencies. As usual, there is a corresponding disadvantage: the delete key. Unlike its predecessor, the furious scribble, the delete key leaves no evidence of the process of arriving, finally, at the words you choose. The sanitization of the writing process may have created the unintended consequence of lost thoughts and ideas that could later bloom into something worthwhile.

The answer to the reticence problem has always been simple, regardless of the medium. Just write. Keep coming back to the page and leave a little ink (or some pixels) each time.

1 comment:

Bubbie said...

Enjoyed reading your posts. The blank page for me is my canvas. Since my MS diagnosis, I have had a block in returning to my work. No confidence, ON changed the way I perceive color, or that tremble in my hand makes it too difficult for me to control the outcome? I think it all comes down to the loss of power and the old illusion we had of control.