Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Against blogging; about writing

All the things you can talk about in anyone’s work are the things that are least important. It’s like the ballet. You can describe the externals of a performance—everything, in fact, but what really constituted its core. Explaining something makes it go away, so to speak; what’s important is left after you have explained everything else. Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable.

--from Edward Gorey, Ascending Peculiarity

That's already in My Commonplace Book, but I've been quoting from it all week. You have to love a man who went to the ballet wearing white tennies with his big fat fur coat. I suppose Gashlycrumb is the father of Lemony Snicket, but I wish Gorey Himself could still be with us, scritching away at his cross-hatched pictures.

* * * *

Reminders to myself about writing:

1. Don't talk about unfinished work.

2. Remember how a simple and utterly beautiful thing like "The Song of Wandering Aengus" can put to shame all the lesser words said or read around it.

3. Don't be clever.

4. Unlearn, unknit, unstitch what they told you in school, until the well-made straitjacket goes back to its source and is a billowing field of Georgia cotton, with a mule and plough on the horizon.

5. For advice to writers, there's not much better than Auden's instructions at the end of "In Memory of W. B. Yeats." That will serve, in the dark and in the desert.

6. Keep that good news secret a little longer!

7. Read the story out loud before you fire it into the universe. Let the ear be the final arbiter.

8. Mutter, lots.

9. Cast out the demons of marketing before you sit down at the library table.

10. Don't write about "what you know."

11. You know nothing.

12. Chase joy, life, gusto--

1 comment:

  1. Chase busy balls!

    --Lady Azure

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.