Friday, October 20, 2006
All in the outcome?
I talked with a friend yesterday who is incredibly knowledgeable about astrology and all things divinatory. He amazes me with his insight and clarity of thought. He said that the road ahead is rocky but the outcome will be positive. "You're an outcome person," he said. "It's all in the outcome." I'm still figuring out if that is good or bad or if it really matters. Aren't we all outcome people? Don't we all want to know how things will ultimately be?
Some people can't focus on the story until they read the last page and see how it comes out. That's not always a good thing. With books it's the story and the journey not just the ending that makes a difference. The story should be so good it makes you forget everything except the words and where they take you. If you're looking for the ending before you've barely begun then either the story isn't that good or you're afraid you won't live to see the end or you can't settle into the story without knowing how it all ends.
There have been times I was tempted to look at the last couple pages to see how the story ended. The story didn't engage me but when I review a book I read the whole thing whether or not I'm interested. It's my job and integrity won't allow me to cheat. I find it difficult to write the review. I can't just come out and say it was a lousy book, although I have been tempted once or twice. Instead I need to analyze what didn't work and why I couldn't stick with the story. Most of the time I keep a tablet handy so I can jot down things that bug me about a story or places where the writing was especially good. Sometimes the story is so good and the characters so engaging I don't write down anything. Everything is there in my mind like a bright light in the darkness. Those are the books I relish, the ones I cannot stand to put down and sleep or work or attend to the demanding functions of nature. Writing is like that sometimes...
...and sometimes writing is a chore that I avoid with chores and movies and picking up the living room or cleaning the toilet or brushing my hair. Still, I can't get away from the writing because I carry it in my head, sleeping, waking, working. The words pop in there and write themselves. I do a lot of sleep writing when I'm avoiding really writing. The past few nights have been like that, writing articles and reviews and working on books in my sleep, even to the point of editing and rewriting. I have gotten used to the process and I know when it happens that I need to sit down and write something other than a journal post, that I need to put my nose to the grindstone and chip away at the work. I know the outcome but I can't just write the last page like O. Henry. Some editor is bound to want to read the blank pages between the beginning and the ending. At least my brain is working on the blank pages while I focus on everything but the outcome.
No, I don't think I'm an outcome person any more than anyone else. We all want to know there is an ending to pain, to grief and even to the same old passage of days and hours we fill with nonsense and everything but what we truly want. We want to know the story turns out all right and we get to the end of the journey but we still have to travel the blank space in between. It helps to know we will get to the end of the road in one piece but what do we gain by knowing that when it was the plan all along?
I know my parents are going to die and probably sooner than I want. I would rather enjoy what time is left to us than focus on the outcome. On the other hand, focusing on publication and the checks that will come is a worthy goal but it's not the reason I write. I write because that is a part of who I am and for the first time in my life I have no doubts about my abilities. I do have a whole lot of anxiety in finding the time to do what I want to do and what I know I will always do. There is still some part of me that hates seeing crumbs on the floor or dishes in the sink or laundry piling up in the basket but the alternative is taking the time to do the chores from the time I have to write. Each outcome is different and I know both have to be done. I don't think giving up sleep is a good idea. I had a hard enough time with that earlier this week when I couldn't sleep because of fever and being unable to breathe. In that state I couldn't do the chores or write since my mind was fogged and the only thing I could think about was the sleep that wouldn't come as I tossed and turned while my body fought off the bugs my sisters left me.
There are times when each day is like an alien landscape that is almost recognizable, a blank canvas of Colorado blue where the occasional mare's tale swishes beneath a fading con trail and where golden aspens are tucked in between the green and brown.
I am lucky in so many ways. I have more now than I have had in years and I live in a comfortable home, cluttered though it gets from time to time when I'm working (all the time). I see mountains outside my windows and the ever changing panorama of the seasons. I live in the beautiful shadow of grandeur and I have more than enough to make the journey interesting and fruitful. In between now and the outcome of my journey there will be time to sleep but I won't court dreams. I live them every day.
I am interested in the outcome but I wouldn't miss a single step of this journey. Would you?