Sunday, March 22, 2009


I appreciated Jacques' comment with his "red rubber ball" imagery. I had never thought of it that way before, but Laura picked right up on it.

Writing is fundamentally a mysterious process, just like life itself. Where do the ideas come from? Is there more involved than just an overfermented brain telling the fingers what to do? It's remarkable that the words of a long-dead writer have the power to touch the heart of a reader today. It's as if the intervening years don't exist.

Some of my earlier stories were "given" to me more-or-less whole, with only minor editing needed. But these days, my aging "meat computer" is a more imperfect vehicle, and a lot of editing is usually called for.

Music is a good example of the illusory quality of many artistic endeavors. Consider the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper album. It sounds like the band just sat down and played, but in actuality the album was painstakingly pieced together over a period of months. Some of my articles are like that -- I read them over dozens of times, and every time, without exception, I find ways to improve it. Maybe I substitute one word for another, or insert a connecting thought so things flow better. Or I edit stuff out. If I set the project aside for a day or a week, I can read it with fresh eyes and find new ways to improve it.

"Who" wrote it in the first place? "Who" is reading it? "Who" is improving it? Questions for the mystics among is to ponder. "I am a committee." These days I like to speak of "Gordon of the past" or "Gordon of the future."

As a scientist, I like to call the Muse an "automatic synthesis function" in the brain. That captures part of it, but I know there's much more involved than that. It's the Mystery manifesting itself.

See? That one flowed pretty well and I was just spewing with a minimum of editing. But sometimes the original flow is very spotty, and I've got to go back and work on it a lot. This tends to happen on a bad day. As Norman Mailer said, "You can tell you're a pro when you can write even on a bad day."


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