I've been lost, filling out grants, finishing up a short story, rewriting my synopsis for a new round of query letters.
Milan Kundera has been the only thing keeping me afloat. I picked up The Art of the Novel at the library, not knowing who Kundera was. Now I can't get enough of him. During the last several years I have taken on new tutors: Gabriel García Márquez, Samuel Beckett and of course, Miss Stein. Kundera is my latest.
Working on grants can make you lose sight—always justifying your voice and vision, and hammering new work into a small nugget when it has not even emerged from the birth canal. The process tears the lining.
The business of writing is difficult for me. Kundera's The Curtain and Testaments Betrayed remind me to keep working—on my own terms in my own way. My head is occasionally above water; so I write.
"The very ease with which we now research, compose, edit, submit, and market our literary creations has allowed us to slip, step by time-saving step, into an era in which our stories and novels seem less like works of art then digitally processed products."
Two days ago I read these words in Eileen Pollack's piece (Ditto Machines to Digital Literature) in the March/April 2011 Poets & Writers, The Literary Life. Thank you Ms. Pollack.
My main career failure has been my inability to "devote myself to projects that sell."
I still write everything by hand. Then I type what I've got down and add punctuation. I write about people and places most Americans believe are no longer relevant, or even possible. Impossible people believing in impossible ideas living impossible lives. We don't fit. Which is one of my points, though not a marketable one. Still, I take Kundera's description of Beethoven's genius as something to work from: "This idea is the first item in his artistic testament addressed to all the arts, to all artists, and which I shall state thus: the composition (the architectural organization of a work) should not be seen as some preexistent matrix, loaned to an author for him to fill out with his invention; the composition should itself be an invention an invention that engages all the author's originality." (p. 172, Testaments Betrayed)
I write novels. That is what I do. Reading Kundera I feel there is a place for me; I haven't felt that in a long time.