With our work [as writers], we oftentimes feel an impulse to attach special conditions, and some of those conditions and some of those attachments are so deep that we never submit the work at all. Which is to say that we can learn to live a life organized around justified resentment. And that the act of drinking poison and expecting the other person to expire can go on right up to the end, when we know, finally, who the one is who keels over.
Any time you want to take the easy road in dispelling the misconception that we find our final identities as separate creatures, go to a ball game and listen to the distinct special personality of the crowd as one organism. St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, who drove him completely crazy, wrote: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed. There are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit. And there are varieties of service, but the same Lord. And there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good...”
If you persevere [in writing], I suspect those feelings [of inadequacy and fear of authority figures] would subside then reappear. But at a certain point, you’ll discover a separate phenomenon, which is that the pages exist and begin to have a certain substance, a certain heft. Perhaps you begin to generate respect for the separate existence of the material, and if the voice begins to come alive for you—and sometimes they don’t for a while—but if they do you might recall the moments of doubt. If you sustain your commitment, the amount of time that you commit to it allows various textures to enter into the material. The brief moment that we live, as we experience it, is textured by time. And if we allow our work—whatever work we do—to respect the dimension of time, then, simply, “If you stick with it, you begin to experience a different sort of truth.”
My teacher told me that the secret subject of any story worth telling is time, but you can never say its name.
When you work in a police show, when you talk to cops, when they analyze different types of wounds, they describe one set of wounds as “defensive cuts,” which are the kinds of wounds you receive when you’re trying to ward off a blow. That set of voices—the one voice that is punitive, and the other voice that simply is trying to ward off a blow by distracting the conversation (there are 50 different strategies that second voice might use) . . . I should tell those of you who experience that set of voices simply to press on. The danger for the people that we’re talking about is to identify the self with either of those voices. The separateness of the material is crucial to accept. Ultimately, that’s how you must come to experience your work. If you do that, you will feel that same, separate, larger identity that the crowd feels in the stadium. Ah, you will feel a different being. And the opportunity to feel ourselves as different beings, as larger than ourselves, is the great gift that God, or life, gives us.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Milch on separateness and time: