Driving last night, I was awed by the carpet of stars, and dark country roads leading hundreds of directions in Arkansas. Then, in my e-mail tonight comes a quote I haven’t heard before:
Those dark Arkansas roads, that is the sound I’m after. — Miles Davis
I’ve got to remember to take Kind of Blue out with me next time I go for a midnight drive. The quote is a preface to an article on the Key West Literary Conference. But at the bottom of the story, there are some good thoughts about trying to grasp a sense of place through writing.
People often say that writers write what they know. They also write what they love. And no one loves in general. One loves in particular, in a distinct landscape, with its own weather, shaded or exposed by specific trees, at one time and not another, in an idiosyncratic language spoken a certain way and all those details evoke what is most important, most fleeting, most missed.
. . . About what I advise aspiring writers and students of writing: I advise them to begin a daily practice of reading and writing and to allow the books they love to enter their regular lives.
— Mona Simpson
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that blogging represents a quantum leap in writing practice, because of its very nature: frequency is the key, more than brevity or connection with current events or dialogue. And there is no denying the power of passion, only it’s lasting power. Sustain is a major issue, and looking at people with the longest lasting and most consistently interesting blogs like not.so.soft and What’s New Pussycat shows that it takes a balance of involvement and detachment to keep things moving smoothly. The dynamic of that is interesting to me, because after time reading blogs, I genuinely care about the happiness and well being of the people who write blogs only when there exists enough of them to have some sense of pathos, an identification with pieces of their personality that I connect with. However, without detached consideration that these things are, after all, only words— things grind to a halt; excessive feeling can cause paralysis.
I’m grateful that some people like to read me, and I try to balance my overthinking with some things that are at least a little amusing. I felt a serious connection with some of Barry Lopez’s comments that closed the article about the Key West Literary conference:
In my experience, if you want to write, nobody’s going to stop you. . . .
Working with language is just a part of your personality. The public makes a judgment as to whether it’s relevant to one or 40,000 people.
Read widely and deeply.
Realize that you can go to workshops and learn about the technique but you can’t learn how to be somebody.
Pay attention to learning who you are and what your deep interests are, and pursue those things.
“Get out of town.”
. . . Put yourself in places where you don’t feel you have the answers, because there are no answers.
. . . You can’t teach people hunger and discipline. If you don’t have that, being a writer is just not going to happen.
Find out what is alive in each person and try to bring it to life.