In A post to keep afloat, Artists, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on March 16, 2015 at 9:16 am

Maybe what frightens people away from writing – or any other sustained endeavor requiring a commitment to regular practice – are those bouts of bone-crushing loneliness when the work isn’t going well. Or when an off-hand remark out of nowhere feels like the thumb of God resting on the top of your head. “A writer, are you? So where are the books?” Or: if nobody wants your stories (implied: if they’re not good enough for the professionals), why don’t you self-publish? Or: Self-publication is the only way to go. Those fat publishers and book sellers don’t deserve to make  one centime off your sweat (this from the Anarchy Forever ones who will never read a word of mine anyway, since I’m willing to solicit the attentions of arrogant literary agents who are nothing but the running lackeys of… etc).

Plus, the scary ones who say: “I’d love to read what you write.” And the panic sets in: oh my gods,  please spare me well-intentioned criticism. Please, please. Etc.

Of course, once you’re into the writing, there’s no bone-crushing anything. You’re in it, the same way a swimmer is in swimming by the thirty-fourth or fiftieth lap. The whole problem, to use that example: getting to the pool in the first place, and into the chlorinated water and off through the first laps filled with faulty breathing, poor coordination, and all the garbage churning through the synapses.

A young girl (ten? eleven) delivering a parcel to my mobile home in Florida, once. Stepping inside and opening wide, frightened eyes. She looked around. “This is so… freaky,” she said.

I looked around, searching for the source of the freakiness. “What’s bothering you, Heather?”

The answer took a while to surface. “The… quiet,” she said.

As in: no tv sets competing for attention – in fact, no tv set at all. No music. No screaming over the rest of the racket. The quiet. Hearing the natural sounds around her. Lord help us- listening in to her own thoughts. How freaky can it get.

The toughest are the bone-crushing bouts of loneliness, but even those are all right, once you manage to make something out of them.

One thing I know: you don’t put on supremely accomplished juggling and acrobatics like those I saw this weekend at  Elsa de Witte and Laurent Cabrol’s Bêtes de Foire* without spending a lot, a lot of alone time with just you, gravity, and objects in need of re-enchantment.

* The title refers, in French, to the so-called Freak Sideshows that once flourished at country fairs. These days you can find freak shows on TV, I guess. (You’re sounding snobbish, the voice says in my head. Oh, Heather, you were right. Silence can be freaky.)


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