Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Again, I find myself up—well past the bedtime of the puppies and about an hour after my wife has clutched a comforter to her and surrendered to that uncontrollable collage of image and thought that is sleep.

I long to join them, but I need to write. If I were to power off the computer, sip a cup of tea in front of the television, brush my teeth, and climb the stairs to join my family in sleep, what difference would it make? In truth, none of the readers I know about would fault me, and any readers who just happened across this little missive into the darkness certainly wouldn’t pause. Indeed, you would go on with your plans, finding one voice or another that would hopefully please you. You would not, in fact, know of what seems to me a dereliction of my duties.

"Duty" is an important word to me—not least because I still have a first-grader’s sense of humor. In fact, both of our dogs are subjected to a cavalcade of tasteless jokes, particularly when white beans creep onto the menu. By now, I’m certain that, if Archie and Dixie could protest, they would. Alas, their understanding of English is so basic that they’ve yet to master the syllables necessary to protest. But, snicker, I digress. I had meant, instead, to tell you why writing is so important to me. Sadly, I don’t honestly know.

I do know, however, that this impulse to write is fickle. If I spend a day chomping on chips in front of the television or twiddling my thumbs at the altar of the PlayStation, the next day’s writing is that much more difficult to enter. Worse, I often find myself at the nexus of my cultural inheritance: protestant guilt. Strands of guilt and foreboding seem to cling to my forehead like an unseen spider web, and soon enough I find myself flinging my hands around my face at nothing in particular. Perversely, such worry about writing sometimes prevents me from writing. I begin to look at the next line of a poem with increasing trepidation. I question my ability and doubt my authority. I have trouble with scansion, forgetting for a horrifying moment, how to write a line in pentameter without using two or three trochees. I wonder to myself whether or not I actually have anything to say, and occasionally, lament the fact that I seem incapable of articulating any of the vatic truths that I do have to say. Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming of the praise Kirkus Reviews will rain on some unwritten book.

Obviously, it’s easier to write. If you simply sit down at your desk (or anywhere else you find appealing) and start to write, focusing on the way the words themselves connect to form meanings, you’ll succeed. You may not write a masterpiece, or even a merely adequate work that further demonstrates the vast number of competent writers in a nation that often seems uninterested (that’s my specialty), or even a work that would embarrass you if a child had written it in crayon, but you will have succeeded in working on your craft. More, you have an opportunity to entertain yourself. After all, the first reader of your work is you, so, if you get the inkling, lather on the fart jokes—there’s always time to revise and, even if we won’t admit it, most of us like such crude humor. In fact, one of the bawdiest writers I’ve ever read is Shakespeare, and that’s the main reason I’ll love Romeo & Juliet until I die (at which point it may seem melodramatic).


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