Monday, March 9, 2015


The best metaphor I know of for being a fiction-writer in the middle of writing a long book is Don DeLillo's "Mao II," where he describes the book-in-progress as a kind of hideously damaged infant that follows the writer around, forever crawling after the writer (i.e. dragging itself across the floor of restaurants where the writer's trying to eat, appearing at the foot of the bed first thing in the morning, etc.), hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper-armed and incontinent and retarded and dribbling cerebro-spinal fluid out of its mouth as it mewls and blurbles and cries out to the writer, wanting love, wanting the very thing its hideousness guarantees it'll get: the writer's complete attention. -- David Foster Wallace
I've been living with these characters long enough now that I'm really tempted to kill them (which would be convenient if my story included a murder, but it doesn't, so I'll have to be content to let them just mull around unhappily while smoking a lot of cigarettes and talking about Foucault or Marcuse). If I were a teacher, that would be my first lesson: writing is damn hard work. I envy anyone who says they enjoy it: the flow of creativity, the godlike sense of building your own little world. They're deluding themselves. (And I suspect, not very good writers.) It's always felt like work to me. The fun stuff, the dreaming, the possibility, comes prior.