Friday, October 4, 2013

Fear And Writing

This week, I’ve been reviewing the final proofs of the memoir: a rare typo here, one last-last edit, there, before it all heads to press. It's a good process, a kind of forced reckoning with the near past; what Norman Mailer called the lasting enemy of vanity coupled with the need to exhale, just exhale. Talking out yet another round of writerly angst with Cait, I decided that the manuscript, unpublished, has become something of a horcrux. Not the immortal-magic-wizarding part, but the object of fear and worry that feeds on negative feeling to strengthen itself. My meal with Circe, the one precious ring, another portrait of Dorian Gray. The envelope has not rattled at me, at least not yet. I'm surprised to like as much as I do the intoxication of fear, the sense of stakes, and the ever-delayed reckoning that its continuing engagement delays.

A little more than six years ago,  I needed to make this blog’s record. It was both a public and private time, and the writing here became the hinge. Perhaps my turning so directly then to fear was an aggressive suppression, a thumping of those persistent and sometimes too-fast whac-a-moles—guilt, regret, and grief—that popped up so eagerly, grinning madly, daring me not to play. I’d like to say that how and why I wrote after Katie’s death was different from how and why I wrote before it, but that wouldn’t be true, and it certainly wouldn’t be honest. I knew I had found a subject matter that scared me at a different scale and register. I needed to write out that fear. I didn’t know what else to do with it. Fear of failure was nothing compared with fear of death, which paled significantly in comparison with those things I could not control remembering or not remembering. They scared me the most.

Certainly, the writing improved. And yet, I can’t see the point of being a writer who only takes on a subject matter to plumb it always, first, for vulnerabilities. What gets left out? In the everyday, there is a certain loss of traction that follows the best turning away. On the page (or the computer screen), the turning away is the traction. More and more, I think, what I’ve placed in the hypothetical space of fear, to argue and reason with, to harangue and work into shape, is risking a certain stunt; the failure to renew or continue to evolve. Eventually, fear might become itself the posture, a place from which I could begin to consider anything else, but I doubt it. Fear is provisional. It waits to change me, however I feel about it, whether I see it coming or not, wherever I vigilantly crouch, certain, to borrow a line from the poem, as whatever comes next.

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