Thursday, December 06, 2007

Depressive Relapse; Writing and Personality

I wrote this the other day but forgot to post it, so forgive any redundancy at the mention of depression or the anachronistic reference to a lack of comments. --CE

The rainy season has begun, and here in coastal northern California, once it begins it seems never to end. It is the price we pay for redwoods and berries and mushrooms and all the lush vegetation that surrounds us in this emerald paradise. But you don't want to move here; it's much to damp and drizzly. And the economy sucks. And we locals treat tourists like lepers. (Actually our economy depends on them.)

To come clean, I have been in a bit of a depressive relapse since Thanksgiving, when I took a medication for pain for the trip to SF, a medication I know presents risks as soon as I go off of it. My brain screams: "Don't take it!" My back urges, "How can you drive four hours without it?" Truly my brain must win this argument, since the pain in my back can't compare with emotional pain. Strangely, though, when I now become tearful at my usual times, 11 AM and 4 PM, I think of Rachel. The sadness comes first (I am convinced the affect precedes the thought) but now, at least, I have a focus that feels healthier. She was my heart; she broke my heart in life; she shattered my heart in death.

I apologize to any who feel I sometimes ask too much of the reader, for some feeling of connection, usually when I reveal something extremely personal. I must remind myself that the medium of writing renders things impersonal; the writing is the show and the audience is the reader, and if it's a good show you don't think about the writer, you just enjoy the show--that's good writing in a nutshell. Eliot was partially right about this, how the personality must get out of the way for poetry; in confessional prose, the act of writing does change the personality into a persona; it is unavoidable. How I come across in the meat world is far different. If my mood is euthymic I tend to be a gregarious clown, something you might not guess from my writings.

I suppose what I most prize in writing, besides clarity and substance, is the virtual disappearance of the writer. Often we run into heavy-handed exposure of the writer, even in fiction, if the writer is not careful (Mailer and Thompson come to mind). One example of great writing is that no one really knows squat about Shakespeare from his plays; his sonnets are the only real record he gave us, and even they are somewhat stylized to please a patron.

The meaning of "Patron" (of the arts) has changed over the years. It used to mean the one guy you worked for to amuse, the same guy who paid you. You had to amuse him, and if he liked your stuff and paid for its printing, it added to the patron's reputation. Now "patron of the arts" seems a generic term for people who attend opera and donate now and then. In place of the old patronage system we have the grant system, where committees weight the investment of a foundation's money. It's not easy to get patronage in either case, but it sure would be nice to know for whom you're writing. Shakespeare was lucky in this regard; his audience was made up of all society's classes.

All art is for someone; initially for the artist, then for an audience, then for the critics. In my best writing, of course, an audience is never a consideration; it is all about the writing. If publication follows I feel slightly vindicated in my own judgment, but that is more frosting on the cake than the labor of the cake.

In view of the above, when I complain about a lack of comments, I deserve the criticism I get. Writing that does not objectify the writer into a voice may rightly be attacked by those who are repelled by the writer's personality and actions in the "real world."

Thine at 2 Kilorats,


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