Thursday, February 24, 2011

That voice

As is often the case, what I'm currently reading births the urge to return to this blog -- if you can call these semi-annual posts a log. This time it's Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends, and the short essays My Back Pages and Diving Into The Wreck. The book is simply gem after gem, in my opinion -- this is the first of his books I've read, incidentally -- but these essays in particular have reminded me of an inner turmoil now a decade old, or more.

I've toyed with the idea of writing for a living -- and that's the perfect phrase for it -- for many years, culminating in what was an exquisite inner agony, and yet by 'n' large invisible to even those close to me, some 10 years past. I bought the books, I subscribed to the magazines, I drank the juice. And I didn't quit my job. Thank goodness.

There are a few reasons to be thankful, but Chabon's raised one in particular with those essays: when he's almost hit bottom with the second-novel blues and finds that lifeline, I'm lost. I mean, I'm there when he reiterates the "Write what you know" mantra, but that bit about writing without purpose, luxuriating in the knowledge that he's found that voice to tell whatever story comes is as attainable as Zen master in my world.

That voice, that urge, isn't in me. In fits and spurts is how I write. Working abroad is a prodigious well that I plunge the bucket in regularly, ostensibly for the folks and family back home, but truly because I enjoy writing when the subject is self-evident. That, and I'll never remember all we've done otherwise. I'll bottle this time of our lives and sell it back to that senile sod.

But I'm under no illusions: the project, fun as it is, is finite. Once we're home again, the same problems will rear up. It simply means that my respect for these writers of epic fiction grows with every passing year. I was lucky enough to have been able to dabble in writing non-fiction in my day job; enough to know it isn't for me, be it travel writing, journalism, critiques, etc. And without that voice, well writing fiction for a living would be torture, and a destitute agony at that.

I still have a few projects I'm kicking around. But this is a hobby. Repeat after me.