Tag Archives: emotion

On Being Off: A Disquisition on the Failure of Everything

The loa of animosity ride down through the streets, looking for furious horses but finding only bitter sheep.  So what do we expect when they drive us to the edge of the cliff, in front of the bus, to that drawer under the sink, to the shoebox on the closet shelf, to the fireplace poker we never use.  Let the sky fall.  Let the buildings come down.  Knock over the steeples.  Let it all burn.  There are periods (sometimes days, sometimes weeks) when, for no discernible reason, I exist in a toxic emotional hell.  Life seems pointless. A giant hand seems to be pressing down (sometimes literally) on my brain. And I feel a great unfathomable anger–loathing might be a better word if HST doesn’t somehow still own it–for all humans everywhere including (especially) myself.  It gets worse or slightly better.  Maybe it gets worse again.  It.  The loathing one feels for one’s fellow man, the distaste, the need to get away from everyone, everything.  The feeling that can sometimes even boil into pure hatred.

On such days, it’s all I can do to avoid others. Spending time with animals helps. Writing helps. Doing things for others–being outwardly directed–helps if I can stand the company. But this is the secret I’ve discovered and it’s better than any drug, therapy, or puja: I stop thinking critically about things. I stop passing judgment and drawing conclusions. I stop with the sweeping generalizations and all the cruel theories. I just stop being a critical thinker and I instead narrow my awareness such that I only focus on things and individuals I admire.

Admiration is a tunnel that begins in appreciation and ends in gratitude. It’s an escape tunnel from the prison of my own mind. This sort of gratitude is not the false facade thrown up by the Sunday morning Christian; it’s personal. It’s an antidote for an irrational hatred that’s born in brain chemistry and lives in a kind of self-perpetuating pseudo-logic designed to keep me as miserable as possible. I don’t believe in giving up control or that life is what happens when we’re making other plans. But I do believe in recreation (re|creation) through various acts of admiration that lead back to a sense of inner equipoise. And it’s free, too.

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By an Inner Sky I Chart My Way

Planisphaeri Coeleste

Planisphaeri Coeleste

The structure of what I write is the structure of my emotional life.  My fiction isn’t autobiographical in any overt way.  Yet how I approach my subject matter depends on the way I see the world and myself in it.  Therefore, conceptually, perceptually, structurally, I write the narrative of my life the way I write any narrative—certainly in words but, in a deeper sense, in images.  Strung together in the mind, they form a constellation of emotions unique to me.  The physical manuscript is a chart of these moments, an inner star map, a personal zodiac that makes it possible for others to see what I have seen and feel the way I have felt.  The secret of such navigation is not in the words but in the structural relations between them, not in any given star but in the proportionality of the constellation.

This is my current understanding of creative writing: building associations between emotional states instead of focusing on monolithic things (characters,  paragraphs, settings, scenes).  A character is a humanlike set of particularities that exist in relation to something else.  A paragraph is a movement, an emotional gesture.  A setting is an environmental set of particularities, also significant insofar as it relates to something else (even to the eye of the reader, Mr. Fish).  A scene is all of the above moving together and in relation to all the other scenes.  And all of it exists for one purpose—to map a structure of intricate emotional movements that took place first in my mind, now in yours.

Is this difficult or complicated?  Not really.  But it is more honest, more elemental (-ary), than saying, “according to so-and-so, a character should do X, Y, and Z in a dramatic scene.”  Focusing on X, Y, and Z misses the point.  I don’t write to fulfill a preset arrangement of static constituent categories.  I write to move my reader.  And that is just as dynamic, relational, and variable as any emotion I might feel.