Write a Sentence

“I feel I could not possibly live without writing, even if only for myself, in my diary…A thought that is not put on paper is as if it had never been born. I can only truly grasp a thought when I’ve expressed it in writing.” Hannah Senesh

Writing takes me away from myself. This happens when I have something to say. I write and time flashes by. Sometimes I look at the clock and cannot believe what time it is. Writing is liberating, a state of mind that is mindless.

"From things that have happened . . . and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason." Hemingway

It’s not so much the tale of her husband’s death (Joyce Carol Oates, New Yorker 12/13/10), but rather the way she has written about it. The full interiorization of her experiences, the rhythm, the short rolling sentences. The frequent use of the first person, present tense. It rings in my ears. I start writing that way.

“Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one tamped with your personality.” Robert Darton

Unexpected ideas and experiences I had forgotten about emerge when writing. Sometimes I become a different person when writing and the words just seem to appear on the page. I think this must be someone else.

“I started to write again. I did it for myself alone, not for anyone else, and that was the difference. It didn’t matter if I found the words, and more than that, I knew it would be impossible to find the right ones. And because I accepted that what I’d once believed was possible was in fact impossible, and because I knew I would never show a word of it to anyone, I wrote a sentence.” Nicole Krauss

I don’t know what voice is. But I get into this mood while writing and it stays with me until the end. Usually it is in the third person, present or past tense. It is a kind of ironic, jesting voice that I sometimes find in the works of Coetzee.

“I don't mean style... I mean voice: something that begins at around the back of the knees and reaches well above the head." Philip Roth

Is it just a playful way of writing, poking fun at myths, styles, ideas, simply by affirming them in a way that makes them seem silly, ridiculous, etc. An example is Coetzee’s novel Youth. One technique he uses a lot is a string of questions, three or four one right after the other. Each question poses a different alternative, usually an opposite with the final one an absurd combination of the earlier ones and it is usually very funny.

“I have written nothing whatsoever for three years and I do not see any immediate likelihood of my writing. The writing of poetry takes time and I never have any time."
T. S. Eliot

Writing is an antidote to insanity.

“It’s hard to tell somebody what you mean to say. And that’s an idea that I’m obsessed with. It’s why I write. It’s why everybody writes. Because it’s hard to say what you want to say.” Jonathan Foer.

I have my best ideas away from my desk.

“How do your books come into being? Where do they start?”
“I have little pieces of writing that sit around collecting dust, or whatever they’re collecting. They are drawn to other bits of narrative like iron filings.”
Louise Erdrich

For me the pleasure comes in composing a thoughtful, sensible, clear page or so. In a way, the fun comes in meeting the challenge to put something worthwhile together. And knowing you can do it once in a while.

“A writer’s personality is his manner of being in the world: his writing style is the unavoidable trace of that manner.” Zadie Smith

The muse arrives in the writing, not before.

“We write to taste life twice.” Anais Nin