Beacons

noun
the beacon penetrated the fog: lighthouse; signal light, signal fire, danger signal, bonfire, warning light, warning fire; spotlight, searchlight.

(K. Salasin, all rights reserved)

(K. Salasin, all rights reserved)

From my recent time with The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard:

The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.

~

You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds.  You are writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest.  Your feet feel the steep ladder’s balance; long muscles in your thighs check its sway.  You climb steadily, doing your job in the dark.

When you reach the end, there is nothing more to climb.  The sun hits you. The bright wideness surprises you; you had forgotten there was an end.  You look back at the ladder’s two feet on the distant grass astonished.

~

I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.

This tender relationship can change in a twinkling. If you skip a visit or two, a work in progress will turn on you.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild state overnight . . . . As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room.

~

The line of words fingers your own heart. It invades arteries, and enters the heart on a flood of breath; it presses the moving rims of thick valves; it palpates the dark muscle strong as horses, feeling for something, it knows not what . . . . [S]ome film of feeling, some song forgotten.

[T]hese fragments are heavy with meaning. The line of words peels them back, dissects them out. Will the bared tissue burn? Do you want to expose these scenes to the light? You may locate them and leave them, or poke the spot hard till the sore bleeds on your finger, and write with that blood. If the sore spot is not fatal, if it does not grow and block something,  you can use its power for many years, until the heart resorbs it.

~

The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less…

~

(T)he fanaticism of my twenties shocks me now. As I feared it would.

~
Remarkably material also is the writer’s attempt to control his own energies so he can work.  He must be sufficiently excited to rouse himself to the task at hand, and not so excited he cannot sit down to it. Writing a first draft requires for the writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce.
~
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