On Wanting To Be a Writer
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On Wanting To Be a Writer

 Sam Rasnake
 Sam Rasnake
On Wanting To Be a Writer
by Sam Rasnake  FollowFollow
Lines from an overheard phone conversation: “Sam Rasnake has written a few things. He’s published a few. Once he saw a dolphin swim past...read more a wrecked steamer just off the Outer Banks. He’s fairly certain – though I can’t prove it – the dolphin saw him. The wreck was unconcerned. But the cloud was happy.”
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On Wanting To Be a Writer
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LET ME BEGIN with an example:

“I Knew What I Wanted”

In this world there are those who give and those who ask. Those who do not care to give... those who do not dare to ask. You dared. But you were never quite sure what you were asking for.
                     – Gregory Arkadin

Like fixations on an unlovable Orson Welles’ film –
unfinished, fragmented, dirt on the print, dialogue
out of sync with lips, the sound either too glaring
or all but muffled, with scenes spanning faces,
decades, and continents, piecemeal, knowing
the work was, for whatever reason, stolen from
Welles’ hands to finish, making certain to fracture
then confuse the vision in the name of audience,
but you watch it anyway, repeatedly, as if just once,
you might press play and it will be the lost but final
cut, complete, intact, hidden away from studio eyes
in reel cans stacked in a closet somewhere on the coast –
you want to be a writer, knowing your words will never
find their truth or reason, but you can’t stop yourself
so your hand moves: “never find their truth or reason”

Now we could debate the merit of the above lines, the predictability in connection with their author, their blending of poetry and prose, of fiction, nonfiction. In some ways wanting to be a writer is the same as being someone who wants to breathe. We don’t think about our breathing – barring health issues of course – we simply breathe. Yet we spend an exhausting amount of time as though it were a stone – years really – talking and thinking and studying writing, when in fact all we need to do is pick up the pen.

Another interjection – Is there a major creative difference when it comes to the physical act of writing: pencil, pen, paint, keyboard, cell phone?  Creation is creation, but the hows and wheres and whens – that’s something else. In a world of digital recording with endless tracks and auto tuning computer programs, would Pink Floyd have made Dark Side of the Moon?  I doubt it. There would have been music, but not that music. Could Eliot have written "The Waste Land" today?  Doubtful. What about Bishop’s “Crusoe in England”?  No, but I must say that greatness has no limitations. Bishop would be a great poet today, would be perhaps – who can say – more than willing to write directly from and of the personal. But I think her poems would suffer somehow – though they would, I’m sure, be strong. Her great gift to writing was in shadow, subtlety, tiny perfections. The lightning pace of text & tweet & post would devour her gifts – spit them back – in absolute conformity. And Dickinson?  Not only would she not publish, she most likely would withdraw from writing altogether. I’m writing this sentence on a computer. It’s of its time, its speed and technology, and timesaver – but it’s anything but personal.

Back to the lines at the beginning. They were drafted on paper in a Moleskine notebook with a pen. Some lines remained whole, some were scratched out, underlined, circled, questioned. Writing in a journal has the feel of time, of something living, and its revisions become directly active, and the writing is more voice-like. With the computer I can save, edit, distribute with such blind ease. The amount of sweat and time that’s saved I couldn’t begin to calculate – but that doesn’t make the writing better.

If you want to be a writer, you don’t need a computer, an iPad, a tablet – and I’ll add – you don’t need paper or pen either. You need a muse. You need the muse. If you don’t have that, the how and what will never matter. You’ll have the words – oh yes – stacked away in journals or in files somewhere in Dropbox, but they’ll only be words. Nothing more. They’ll carry their own deaths with them – letter by letter, file by file, page by page, sound bite by sound bite – until there’s only silence.

A note: By late fall 2012, I'd more or less given up on writing -- In December, M. Elvy asked me to send something to A Baker's Dozen: Thirteen Extraordinary Things -- as it turned out -- the final issue.  I sent her a Leone piece -- though it had already been written.  Also in December, D. Menendez made me write a couple of poems. Now she won’t see it that way, but that’s how I remember it. Her voice is a strong one – even when she says nothing. It's been a process, and I don't know how long it will last, but I am writing.

If you want to be happy, don’t be a writer. If you want to make the universe tremble, write one word – just one – and mean it – and nothing will ever be the same.

Also by Sam Rasnake



  4 years ago
I really like these 'On' essays.

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