Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blood on the teeth II


   When I was a cub writer back in the 70's, I met an Irishman with prematurely silver hair who
got himself up at 5 a.m. each morning in his little apartment in the city before going off to a tiresome day gig as a clerk.  This was his holy time, and the time he dreaded too, when he rolled a clean white sheet into the typewriter, a mug of tea beside him, and began to write.  He had come up in the desperate poverty of the Irish 40's and 50's, his da a working man who drank his pitiful wages away. 
    "250 words a day, that's a good day of writing," the Irish writer said to me. 
    "But that's only one page!"
    "One page that is the truest thing I can make of it.  It's as hard as breaking rocks," he said.

    Yes, he's right, my Irish friend.  I no longer care so much if there's wit or sparkle in my writing. Over the years, my writing has been hammered and whittled, and I've been beset by a
  sense of the near-miss, the almost there. Now what I'm writing (the new book, The Bad Dream Notebook), is hard, it's hard on me, it tears at me sometimes. I want to write the truth and the truth has changed for me.  And the truth is still so often just around the next bend, the next scene, the new character.

    Yet I've always loved writing, it clears a channel through me and it sets me free.
    Good hard labor.  Like breaking rocks.  Or as another writer said, like getting blood on the teeth.

     Have I also mentioned that it's great fun, this writing game?    

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About my latest book, a novel, "Gringa in a Strange Land." Set in Mexico in the early '70's, a(n American) female on-the-road adventure, a coming of age tale, but also a kind of love letter to southern Mexico, especially the Yucatan, during the tempestuous counterculture and - many of us thought - the edge of a new era throwing off repression, war and dictatorship (man, were we wrong.)