Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Faith Eraser

There's something interesting that happens with time: the longer you live, over and over you prove yourself wrong. You believe certain things so strongly as a child or teen or young adult or larvae or egg, and then as experience piles up those original ideals become crushed under their weight. That doesn't make it wrong to believe in things. A person has to live. No, the only wrong is to disallow the update. I've been thinking about it in mainly terms of writing, only because I've been so thoroughly buried in it.

For instance.

I used to believe that editing was sacrilege. That it destroyed the original moment of creation and was untrue to the work. Now I know these are the words of the lazy writer, that editing is a focusing and tightening in order to be as clear as possible, as beautiful and flowing as possible. You can get away with not editing on smaller pieces, preferring to preserve them as they are, but anything of length will wither without the caring and the watering and the snipping. Some will say that Kerouac didn't believe in editing and use that to prove it. I say that a) Kerouac was a genius and you and I most likely aren't and b) to my reading of him so far I believe he was concerned with dictating truth and experience through poet's lips and that, in his work and in his life, he didn't seek structure or unity and that's fine for what he wanted but, unless you're doing the same and possibly copying/borrowing/stealing/plagiarizing from his worths and contributions, I say you can probably do with some editing.

And also.

I used to believe that mapping out a story before writing it would ruin the journey, because the real excitement lay in typing forward into the gnawing darkness, pushing it back without knowing where it went, what was at the other side, what goal waited with glistening and safety. I was right, somewhat. That feeling is still pure and mystical-god-like. But with age comes the ability to stave off short-term payoffs to enjoy long-terms, comes the craving of world and country travels that hold meanings and not just sporadic runs through violent neghborhoods. Now I know that a basic outline, a simple sketch will get you from point A to F to K to P to U to Z and still have odd detours into rat dens and farmers' wives that enervate and shock and keep the senses vibrating but still with a goal in eye, still with that final leg and leap with the knowledge that I made it, that I won, that where once I was lost now I confound.


I used to believe that it was dangerous to read other writers while I myself was writing. I was, and am still, so prone to admiration and envy that it would pull me to write more like this, less like that, so that cohesion would break down and I would find myself with four different stories across eight different styles in the space of twelve pages. Now I know the key is in reading as much as possible. Get pulled in all four directions and you stand in the same place but find yourself looking up. The more you drink in the more you spit out. Words are an evolutionary gift and I want them all.


I used to believe that style came from adding more, more, more. I would cover myself in bracelets and rings and pins and stickers, gels and watches and earrings and big, bright, floppy clothing. My stories would drip with blood and scream into ears. Now I know that style comes from adding correctly. The right pair of shoes. The word that kills.


I used to believe that since there was no God I could do anything and get away with it. I remember the exact moment as a child, walking down the block to elementary school with a backpack on underneath the tree that dropped acorns two houses from the corner with the crossing guard, that I had this thought. I couldn't have been more than seven and I stopped walking at the impossible weight and size of it. There is no God. No one is watching. It was a pivotal and precise revelation, and may, I now realize, have been had much too early in life. But now I know the opposite is true. That without God I can't lean on absolution and penetence and confessional to erase the things I've done, so I either must do these punishments myself through words and dwelling or do my best to avoid sins and wrongs in the first place knowing that, in this house without foundation, there's no guarantee the columns won't shake and crumble and come down on my soft and splurting skull.

I used to believe a lot of things. Now I know a few.


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