Yesterday our friend Tetman posted a comment in which he referred to Denis Donoghue’s three levels of writing: self-expression, communication, then exploring the form of the language itself. I’m not sure this is a linear path, but I do think there are times in writing when you meet an obstacle that can only be overcome by a great heaving effort, after which you find yourself suddenly with a better view of the landscape. Blackbird was one of those obstacles for me. It taught me about structure, and perseverance, and the surprising malleability of a story. It’s given me a better view of the form.
The new book is presenting a different sort of obstacle. Because the story is so simple, it seems to be inviting some other complexity that I’m not seeing at the moment. It’s something to do with tone, with maybe moving my writing from the body where it usually resides to the head or the heart, or some combination of the two. Which all sounds so fucking pretentious and artsy that I can hardly stand to leave the previous sentence in place. But I just mean that we all have to make choices about where we’re going and what would be most satisfying to write; at some point, Anne Rice decided against a Twilight tone and wrote Interview with the Vampire instead. And Stephenie Meyer did the opposite. There are times when those decisions seem to mark a turning point, and this is one of them for me.
What have been the big over-and-up obstacles in your writing life?