Flannery O’Connor, 1956 letter to Betty Hester, taken from The Cartoons
the most immediately noticeable element of her comics are the characters’ sour expressions. nearly everyone’s mouth is downturned, oftentimes gruesomely so.
I remember a teacher at school who, upon being told by a pupil that there just wasn’t enough time in the day to do all the things they wanted to do, would simply refuse to accept this. There is enough time, was all she would say. There is always enough time. I have never been able to decide whether she was right or not. All I know is that the impression she wanted to give was devoutly meritocratic: that if you didn’t want something enough to wear yourself ragged in chasing it, then you probably didn’t deserve to have it in the first place.
One problem with deciding that you only ever want to post long and (how else can I put this) ‘serious’ things you have written on your blog is that this takes time and energy and inspiration. Time, in fact, is not such a problem for me. I have to go to work in the week but I don’t work unreasonable hours. I am home by 7pm most days. I have evenings and weekends. I’m tired in the evenings and I seem to sleep through most of my weekends, but that oughtn’t to stop me doing anything. Which only leaves energy and inspiration.
And if you believe some authors, you don’t even need either of those things. I am often tired but rarely so tired I cannot keep my eyes open. I have no dependents. I have no debt. I have a computer which works. I count myself incredibly lucky and privileged in all these respects. I had a creative writing tutor at university who would always say that he never had writer’s block. He would just sit down and do it. And if it comes to it, I can do that. I do that with the little book reviews I’ve been writing. I did NaNoWriMo last year by getting up at 5am to write for an hour and a half before work. It was exhausting but I may do it again this year. I’ve barely looked at the manuscript since but really what did you expect.
So what do I do. I pick up ideas and turn them over in my hand. I am looking to be surprised. I expect them to sprout legs. I look at them and put them down again. I write a few hundred words and I can’t think of how to end it and it goes into a file which I will probably not look at again. I think about what Jaron Lanier wrote in his book, about how the whole notion of a file system on a modern computer conditions us to think in certain ways that aren’t necessarily inevitable or even desirable. The first Mac, he explains, did not have a file system as we know it today. Nobody would even dream of going back to that now.
I’m sure I like to give the impression here that I am a relatively erudite and well-informed person, but if you were to build a graphical user interface which approximates the content of my brain on a 1:1 basis it would be full of the most shockingly stupid, banal, offensive crap. A lot of people are good at turning the crap that is in their brains into good blogs. But my filing system is intended to enable concealment as much as it is about categorisation.
I’m sure you don’t care, actually, but if I were to write that what I put up here is only the tip of the iceberg, please do not take this to mean that there is some great hidden work of genius lurking below the surface. All it means is that the tiny part of what I do that is good is supported by a whole mountain of mental rubbish. This is actually the best I can do with what I have.
this is comfortingly/disturbingly similar to my current self-assessment and anxieties
|—||Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death|