Sunday, January 27, 2008


Years ago a friend from a writing class scared the hell out of me with a problem of what seemed like insoluble distance. Like this: when you write you draw on specific images that should be evocative. And they're evocative to you. I remember his example was something like this, "And by my childhood bed was a thick blue book with gold leaf lettering. Its spine was cracked 2/3rds of the way through and it smelled like coffee."

And you present that to a reader for whom that has no association whatever. Or blue book equals blue book. No emotional content. They can tell it's important to you but there's no reason for them to make the leap. So, on the next draft, you go on, "the dustjacket was long gone, the cloth of the cover was worn at the edges so that hanks of fabric hung down and the cat batted at the threads. The text was in German for some reason. I never read the book, and it had no pictures in it." And -- well, for you, that's it, no one has ever evoked a specific feeling so well.

And no one gets it. Why should they?

I am currently sweating that little spark between God's finger and Moses's. Is there one? And if so, can I have some? I read (or I'm making up) that analogy is one of the best measures of intelligence. By that, I think they're counting those tests that say "Catnip is to a kittycat as Politics is to ________" and you put in "the disenfranchised" or "chocolate Easter bunnies" or "Amy Winehouse" and then food pellets come down a slot or something. But it also speaks well of the human desire for metaphor and seeking to close an open thought. "Electricity is to stereo equipment as Gatorade is to __________" Shriners? Sallie Mae? Utopia? The rebel alliance? Stereo equipment?

How do you trust that gap? I know: you just DO, but still, it's a mystery. Every so often, you throw yourself into a heartache of an image and it ends up being that blue book by your bed. You know, the one with bunny rabbits on it and no one ever felt about it the way you did. And, apparently, you aren't very good at explaining it yet.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Trust the gap. Better yet, "Mind the gap" ;) (too many trips on the London Tube)

Love this entry - I always try to write from a place of truth - from something you know to be true. If you do that, then eventually SOMEONE, some reader is going to reach across that gap and connect...