Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Spooky Art

Between working on the final corrections to the ARC of The Sky Took Him and trying to make headway on a new book, I’ve been reading Norman Mailer’s book on writing, The Spooky Art. If there is anything that can help an author realize that s/he’s not totally neurotic or bordering on the insane, it’s reading something by a writer as famous, acclaimed, and well-established as Norman Mailer and discovering that he suffers the same pains with the process that the rest of us do.

I’m in a Dostoyevskian mood, all dark and Russian. Sometimes it almost takes more sheer will to sit down and write than I can muster. Almost. I do it anyway. I write in a void. Is what I’m doing any good? Mailer says that in his case, "there is always fear in trying to write a good book ... I’m always a little uneasy when my work comes to me without much effort. It seems better to have to forge the will to write on a given day. I find that on such occasions, if I do succeed in making progress against resistance in myself, the result is often good. As I only discover days or weeks later."


I observe that sometimes too much thinking gets in the way. If I try too hard to figure it out, I become paralyzed. Is this better than that? Perhaps I should do this instead. I become Hamlet in drag, unable to take action. When I do enjoy myself, when I read what I’ve written and find it good, I have a strange feeling of dislocation, as though the words came from someone else. Mailer experiences the same phenomenon. "On happy days," he writes, "one is writing as if it’s all there, a gift. You don’t even seem to have much to do with it."

How does it come to other authors, I wonder? Is it such a spooky art for everyone? Mailer again : "The act of writing is a mystery, and the more you labor at it, the more you become aware after a lifetime of such activity that it is not anwers which are being offered so much as a greater appreciation of the literary mysteries."

Be sure and read Debby's entry below. It's a testament to how attending events with other authors can inspire and energize a writer.

On a less Jungian note, I have begun uploading excerpts of my books onto my web site, for any who are curious. Thus far, I have excerpts from the beginnings of The Old Buzzard Had It Coming and from Hornswoggled. I hope to have an excerpt from The Drop Edge of Yonder in a few days.

Finally, and most happily of all, our guest blogger Sunday is Hannah Dennison, author of the witty and wonderful A Vickie Hill Exclusive. A job writing obituaries for a newspaper in England, a conversation with Steven Spielburg, and The Night of the Cheap Red Wine led Hannah to move from her native England to LA -- where she landed a new job, found a new husband, and became a mystery novelist.

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