Present tense

February 4, 2009 § 2 Comments

But all of them are vulnerable and all of them tense.  They are driven by a compulsion to put some part of themselves on paper, and yet they don’t just write what comes naturally.  They sit down to commit an act of literature, and the self who emerges on paper is far stiffer than the person who sat down to write.  The problem is to find the real man or woman behind the tension.

–William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Several weeks ago, after an excellent dinner and a bottle of wine, R. and I talked about writing.  It was the kind of conversation one tends to have only after drinking too much, and I for one was grateful for it.

In his book, Zinsser describes two types of writers: the kind for whom writing comes easily, and the kind, our kind, for whom it does not.  When R. read the quoted passage aloud, I recognized myself in it instantly and was strangely relieved.  I am a type, not a pathology.

So, it seems that my task is to find the woman behind the tension.  If the knots in my shoulders are any indication, this could take a while.

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§ 2 Responses to Present tense

  • James says:

    Unluckily, your task is much more difficult, at least according to Zinsser’s analysis. You must reveal the woman behind the tension through the very medium that produces the tension. To boot, with your current project, you must do so through a form that is uncongenial to such expression. A literary, as well as a literal, massage is indicated. –Dr. James

  • Vila H. says:

    I would gladly procure the services of a literary masseuse if I knew of any. I do happen to have the number of a shiatsu psychotherapist, but he’s way out of my price range.

    So now that they’re completely démodé, isn’t it about time that you resurrected your blog?

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