ON METHOD AND MADDESS
“So, how’s the writing?” The number one most loathed questIon I get. Strangers, who often don’t know much about me, but they know that I “write”, ask this very question every time they see me.
I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t quite know how to answer it. Do I truly write every day? No. Do I want to write every day? Yes. Do I have the energy to write every day? Maybe, yes. Do I tell myself I have the energy to write on certain days? No. What days are the hardest days to write? Workdays. What days are easiest? Days-off. These are questions and answers to my most pressing problems as a Man of Letters.
The terrible truth is, I DO, in fact, have the energy and capacity to write every single day. What holds me back? Fear. Fear of failure. Fear of judgement, even though there is no one judging me, but the lurid specter of myself — the harshest most merciless judge there is.
So the best response I’ve come up with, and I heard this recently and cannot recall where or when, is to say, “It’s my life’s work.”:
“So, how’s the writing?”
“It’s my life’s work.”
I read recently in a book called The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante, that Shakespeare mentioned something of a writer’s “method” & “madness”. And I began to think of my journey thus far as a Man of Letters. Before graduate school, I was all “madness”, ambition, conceit, and pretension. Some of these traits sound bad. And then through grad-school, and leading up to it, I became more infatuated with “method”. Thinking about how to craft, how to control language, how to move plot, create conflict — how to avoid flights of madness.
It was this dichotomy that led me to into the strong, lanky arms of my dearest Thomas Wolfe… whom I spoke of just a few days ago. If there lived anyone who was all “madness” and no “method”, he was it. But what many critics fail to understand, is that Wolfe’s non-method was to illustrate just how lost we were at being human. The pain, the loneliness, the struggle, the endurance, the loss, the under-doggedness. All the subterranean experiences clawing to awaken and erupt. To teach us the truest human experience of all; a transcendence — desire and its elusiveness. It’s the search, not the discovery. It’s the “madness” not the “method”.
As I forward on as a writer, I must reconnect with my madness. That much is clear to me. Yet if we want to be dispassionate, then perhaps we can say the “madness” lives in the drafting, and the “method” dwells in the revision. By by the gods, I will find my madness again!