Wednesday, October 19, 2011

not writing

He couldn’t think of how to start.

He couldn’t even start! If you can’t start, how can you continue? How can you then finish? Starting is fundamental. It’s the first thing. Starting comes before everything else. He decided that instead of starting, he’d circle around, try to sneak up on it. The frontal approach wasn’t working, but maybe there was a soft spot somewhere in the back. I’ll circle around, he thought.

He started to write about not knowing what to write about. In its own way, it was working. Letters were coming out. The letters came out through his fingers, pooled into words on the page, the words clumping into phrases and sentences. Was this the right way? The flanking maneuver continued, but the result had not yet been achieved. This isn’t what I want to write, he thought. I want to write something else. It’s up ahead now. Right up ahead.

Or is it? Have I gotten lost on the way? In avoiding the actual confrontation with the thing to be written, he had tried to creep around, to surprise the thing, to tackle it from an unsteady angle. But how long should the creep take? Should it go on and on like this? When should it stop? When has it failed? When has it almost succeeded?

His mind wandered, dragging with it the stream of letters and words and phrases and sentences. He thought about waiting for a bus when you’re going a distance that you could reasonably walk. A twenty minute walk or a three minute bus ride, that’s usually the choice. The problem is when you don’t know if you’ve just missed the bus, or if it’s about to come up over the horizon at any minute. The more time that goes by, the more likely it is that you have just missed it, and that it really might be another good long while before it shows up.

That’s what the flanking maneuver was like, but not really. Because really, a flanking maneuver fails in one of two ways. One, you get lost, or you arrive at position too late, and the enemy is just gone, and you have to start over again, and by the time you find them again you’re likely to be face-to-face, just like when you started. Two, the enemy might notice what you’re doing, and you arrive exactly where and when you intended, but they’re ready for you, and it’s face-to-face again. The first is worse, because then you have time to be demoralized and disappointed. The second is better, because when you arrive you’re ready to fight anyways, even though now the situation is maybe not exactly what you had planned.

It would be best if they didn’t know you were coming. If the thing to be written could just suddenly find itself being written, without knowing that it was being written, that would be ideal. But how realistic is that? The flanking maneuver was never a good idea. It could never work in this situation. No matter what, you wind up at the same point, with the thing to be written, waiting to be written, not being written.