Dread and Sympathy

… On writing into the unconscious.

“I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.”  – Annie Dillard*

I chuckled effetely when I read this. I know about those visits, those bleak hours in the dim facility. You have to trudge far down the Formica-crusted hall, under flickering fluorescent, to Room 404: cohesion not found, please verify your path.

Get it? … Now that’s a little bit funny, right there.

Some of us write, not just to tell a story that we know and can tell, but to explore the unconscious, to give names and form to obscure emotions, to say the unsayable.

It’s not easy because it’s not fantasy, not entirely. We write ourselves so much, you know? And when the ink flows or the keys clack, we don’t always like what we find.

What can I tell you? Nobody confronts the pit and prune juice of his soul – and takes good notes – while watching puppies in a sunny park. It’s a night shift job, no way around it. So I should quote Cormac McCarthy, from The Crossing, because it happens to be the book on my desk right now.

It had ceased raining in the night and he walked out on the road and called for the dog. He called and called. Standing in that inexplicable darkness. Where there was no sound anywhere save only the wind. After a while he sat in the road. He took off his hat and placed it on the tarmac before him and he bowed his head and held his face in his hands and wept. He sat there for a long time and after a while the east did gray and after a while the right and godmade sun did rise, once again, for all and without distinction.

Keep the faith.

*Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (1989); Props to Poets & Writers .

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  1. Pingback: I owe it to myself to keep my life secret « How my heart speaks

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