Saturday, November 8, 2014

On Writing

"I hate writing, I love having written."

There was another ugly gap in this blog recently.  Now, things were busy and I was moving (not to mention work, where I have taken on a massive project) but I also did promise not to do that again.  But here's the thing: I also want to do this right.

I'm now old enough, I think, to more appreciate the subtlety -- the deep, hard-to-describe, almost microscopic shades --  of things, and this can hardly apply more to anything than writing.

Lately, inspired by a friend's recent reading habits and aided by having to go through all my boxed up books, I have started rereading classic works of literature.  In the first encounter, I think, you can recognize something as great, as special.  I'm not saying that when younger we can't appreciate things, but so much of the world is new and fresh; the range of possibilities can be lost in the novelty of that first experience.

I wonder: As a general rule, what we consider "great literature" -- the classic novels, the truly timeless writing that has been proven such by the passage of time -- is wasted on the young.  In youth, we haven't experienced things personally to truly see and understand the depth, the tones of gray, the subtle range of color in great writing.  It's all too easy for us then to be impressed by flashy tricks or bored by less showy gradation.  Only in age do we appreciate the hard work in tiny changes, that there is one word that is the right word for that place.  All the others are not as good.

As an example, listen to the NPR story on some of the great poets of the 20th Century reading their work at the 92nd Street Y.  These are people who slaved over every word, every syllable.  Should a line end on a hard sound, or a soft sibilant one?  Did my joy in building that tiny little alliteration in the last sentence add, or just create a tautology?

Now, I don't think for a second that my blogging is ever going to reach the level of great writing -- I know I am no Samuel Pepys -- but I do want to do this well ... perhaps just to the level of being happy with it when I read it again in a year or so, having forgotten the details and moments that inspired it and the struggle that went into composing it.

But I promise I'll keep trying ... more frequently.