Writing is a temporary surcease from exile. It is not a search for one’s "voice" or "subject"; it is not the invention of a "self" nor even of a "world." These are the concoctions of critics, who study the scattered places where the writer momentarily relented from his unrelenting search for some place to relent from his unrelenting search. The word writing is a progressive verb. The writer is distinguished by his progressive activity, not by what he has written. Nor by the kinds of things he has written. Someone who has written stories is not necessarily a writer, nor is someone who hasn’t. --D. G. MyersI'm feeling a little obsessed with Myers because he makes remarks that have little thorny hooks that catch and stick in the mind. He has no business latching onto my brain that way--or maybe that is exactly his business, maybe that's what he's for... at least in part.
There's much that is interesting in that passage and about the bond between writers and the idea of exile, but what I'm thinking about right now is "exile" as starting in early childhood. For a while, I was going to call The Throne of Psyche after a short poem, "The Exile's Track," and I have had a strong feeling of being exiled since about the age of four. First there was a feeling of exile from family, of things being sigodlin, askew because of a death. Then there was the constant ripping away, at least every three years, from the place I knew and where I had made friends. And this was particularly acute in my second and third moves, when I was dragged out of fairyland, as I conceived it, in the form of crawfish and Cajun playmates and tropical blooms and shrimp and alligator turtles and moonvines. We moved from Gramercy to Baton Rouge, but there was much that I loved there as well. But after second grade I was dragged entirely out of Louisiana and the South. I wept with relief and joy when, at almost 13, they told me we were moving to North Carolina.
After a while, one is always a little uneasy, or balanced somewhere between a past and a future uneasiness. And that's not what Myers is talking about, but it's related.
If a writer ever felt completely at home in a tale and satisfied, he would then have found home and would never need to progress again. Instead, writers are all melancholy around the edges, even the happiest of them, because they can never pluck the silver apples of the moon and the golden apples of the sun and are condemned to go on wandering with Aengus, endlessly searching, endlessly almost capturing, endlessly letting go.
Or perhaps we are like Odysseus, wandering on, creating a kind of archipelago of islands, temporary stays. Maybe we are Penelope, endlessly working over her strange warp and weft, throwing the shuttle--always tearing down, never satisfied, never quite at home even though at home.
No wonder all stories seem to herald an arrival or demand a departure...