Sunday, January 8, 2012
VONNEGUT: HOW TO WRITE
One fellow famously said, Being a writer is like having homework every day of your life. He was right, of course. If you're not sucking the academic tit--or even if you are, some of the time--you work your day job and come home not to eat and collapse in front of the TV, but to write. Strange as it seems, you write. You puzzle friends and family with this need to "get it down," and their well-meaning encouragement is little help because they--like all logical people--wish you would simply get this out of your system and stop this fool's errand. I'm kidding, but only a little. The writer is blessed and cursed, and in the act of writing he is actively defining himself and his world because he knows boundless, mad life hasn't been captured yet--it's still running loose though perhaps trailing a couple quill pens and maybe a harpoon from its rough hide--and the writer can't be satisfied living in the vague and cliched constructs of the unreflective and the conventional because he knows better. He simply can't fake it. He knows where the TV show is going--has to go--well before the commercial break, and he's seen the movie before, and he's already familiar with the twice-told joke, and he's read the book--and while he may sound only jaded or world weary he is really just waiting for something new that is not a reproduction of something else, not an echo, not some familiar, formulaic trope, and that discomfort, that cognitive dissonance, that impatience with the conventional, may--if the need is strong enough--be a sufficient catalyst to make him create that new thing. Vonnegut was one such soul. He told his story and he made it new and he twisted the old, reformed it, mangled it, undermined it. You couldn't just read his work comfortably and without reflection. With humor--sometimes very dark humor--he made us look at ourselves. That's risky business. It's like making caricatures of people at the carnival. Is my nose that big? Sure it is, even bigger, but I need the money.