Week Forty Two.

“Maybe this was what happened when there was really and truly nothing more to say, either in acrimony or forgiveness.  Life did, after all, have to go on.”

The book: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

The memory:

Everything I write is a first draft.

By the time the words hit the page, I’ve already depleted my mental capacity to fumble with them any further.  The sentences form as they will. When they do, I’ve relinquished all control. I may have spent time nurturing them in my head, for days or weeks, or maybe even years, because sometimes I become obsessed with a certain phrase I’d written down at some ambiguous time in the past, but once they’re concrete objects, I no longer edit or rearrange or cut or rephrase or censor them. They are what they are.

“It was as ludicrous and as simple as that.”

Words, words, words! Why?

Why am I writing?

Words words words


Fast Forward: Then I read this article in The Atlantic on Sherman Alexie and it all made sense. Here’s a snippet, but I think you should read the entire article:

“If “I’m in the reservation of my mind” is the question, then “It is when I play it” is the answer. It’s an internal condition, and we spend too much time defining ourselves by the external. There is always this implication that in order to be Indian you must be from the reservation. It’s not true and it’s a notion that limits us—it forces us to define our entire life experiences in terms of how they do or do not relate to the reservation.

The line also it calls to mind the way we tend to revisit our prisons. And we always go back. This is not only true for reservation Indians, of course. I have white friends who grew up very comfortably, but who hate their families, and yet they go back everything thanksgiving and Christmas. Every year, they’re ruined until February. I’m always telling them, “You know, you don’t have to go. You can come to my house.” Why are they addicted to being demeaned and devalued by the people who are supposed to love them? So you can see the broader applicability: I’m in the suburb of my mind. I’m in the farm town of my mind. I’m in the childhood bedroom of my mind.

I think every writer stands in the doorway of their prison. Half in, half out. The very act of storytelling is a return to the prison of what torments us and keeps us captive, and writers are repeat offenders. You go through this whole journey with your prison, revisiting it in your mind. Hopefully, you get to a point when you realize there was beauty in your prison, too. Maybe, when you get to that point, “I’m on the reservation of my mind” can also be a beautiful thing. It’s on the res, after all, where I learned to tell stories.”

End, Memory Moment Forty Two.

Next Week: Light in August by William Faulkner


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