One person behind a desk or computer can determine a writer's fate. One person with a headache. One person who just read forty stories in three days, thirty-three of them unfortunately dealing with the same theme in your story. One junior editor or MFA student that culls out the crap may decide that today is the day you are crap. Perhaps they stubbed their toe and it's throbbing red in their shoe or they dislike the words creamed corn which you used or they believe people should be braver and your character succumbed to fear and froze. Or you have no name yet, no reputation, or you listed a journal in your cover letter the editor doesn't like, or the fan on their desk rattles, the building in which they sit groans, the traffic slums by outside slowly, farting out black exhaust and the editor breathed it in on the way to their office before they spilled their six dollar coffee, splashed their pants, and sat down to read your story about divorce. Rejection makes the journal better, but the writer morose.
My copy of The Irrelevant English Teacher, by J. Mitchell Morse just arrived. Fifth paragraph down:
We are perishing for lack of style.
Style is a matter of intellectual self-respect. To write well a certain moral courage is essential.
Eighth paragraph down:
Good writing is relevant to itself. It need not be relevant to anything else.
I am trying to ascertain what that means for me, exactly. There are many things that I dislike about the "book" that I pulled from the old box. Many things I do like. I like the language that's often there just for its own sound. Sound is an element of a text, often critical and overlooked. Rhythm and tone, sound, are evocative and can communicate emotional information in the same way that sub-textual absence can. That is the reason the language is there in the way that it is -- for the sound. One can not be present without the other. It is raw and has no plot, per se. It moves via emotional strands, entropy, and imagery. The structure is a series of letters, was in fact, a series of letters. I am struggling with decisions regarding form and intent. I think that perhaps I must simply re-type it and see what happens first. I have to type it into the computer anyway, since I only have a physical copy. I suspect it will change as it goes through that process. We'll see.
This will likely be my last blog update for a couple of weeks. Saturday the family and I fly out to California. A baby on a plane. Imagine the joy. I've never been to California, much less Los Angeles. Disneyland. Legoland. All sorts of lands await us over there. I suspect it'll be bright and crowded, full of noise and fast image. I plan to observe as best I can through the baby's mauling palms. The hardest decision will be which books to bring. I believe Musil will have to remain in Texas. No room for him. I'll be thinking about style while squirting mustard onto corn dogs, about meaning and force while cramped in the hurtling jet, about structure, tone, and story while baking in the white sun on concrete amid a bright soup of people. Perhaps I'll be deep in the bowels of Space Mountain, rushing through the dark toward the next unseen turn when another email from an editor or an editor's assistant arrives. Before I read the email, anticipation will rise with nausea. There's always a loud clatter under the coaster car as you climb the slope before the course flings you down. There's a moment there, on the roller coaster and before I click the email on my phone, that I wonder, closing eyes and halting breath, if I'll plummet into dark depths or rise, my hair wild about my face.