The commonsense, conventional understanding of writing is as follows. Writing is a two-step process. First you figure out your meaning, then you put it into language…First try to figure out what you want to say; don’t start writing till you do; make a plan; use an outline; begin writing only afterward. Central to this model is the idea of keeping control, keeping things in hand. Don’t let things wander into a mess….
This idea of writing is backwards. That’s why it causes so much trouble. Instead of a two-step transaction of meaning-into-language, think of writing as an organic, developmental process in which you start writing at the very beginning – before you know your meaning at all – and encourage your words gradually to change and evolve. Only at the end will you know what you wnt to say or the words you want to say it with…Think of writing then not as a way to transmit a message but as a way to grow and cook a message.
The monopoly of the doubting game makes people think the doubting muscle – the sensitivity to dissonance – is the only muscle in their heads, and that belief is nothing but the absence of doubt: the activity of believing something consists of refraining from doubting it; or better yet, trying to doubt it but not succeeding.
But there is a believing muscle and it is different. It puts the self into something. (p162)
The individual is tending to allow words to mean anything – just as he allows dream images to mean whatever he builds in….but the speech community is constantly curbing this looseness…The history of meaning in a language is the history of this power struggle between dream characteristics and math characteristics.
One by one, each sentence takes the stage. It says the very thing it comes into existence to say. Then it leaves the stage. It doesn’t help the next one up or the previous one down. It doesn’t wave to its friends in the audience Or pause to be acknowledged or applauded. It doesn’t talk about what it’s saying. It simply says its piece and leaves the stage.
Revise at the point of composition. Compose at the point of revision. Accept no provisional sentences. Make no drafts. And no draft sentences. Bring the sentence you’re working on as close to its final state as you can. Before you write it down and after. Do the same for the next sentence. And right on through to the end.
297: You՚ll notice that he doesn՚t assert ownership over his ideas. He՚s in some kind of Artaudian condition where all the ideas are unoriginated and unsourced; that՚s how he can claim anybody else՚s ideas as his own. Really all he wants to do is acquire everyone՚s inner life.
215: A character is either “real” or “imaginary”? If you think that, hypocrite lecteur, I can only smile. You do not think of even your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it, fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf – your book, your romanced autobiography.
307: There՚s no longer any such thing as fiction or non-fiction, there՚s only narrative (is there even narrative?)
311: Forms serve the culture; when they die; they die for a good reason: they՚re no longer embodying what it՚s like to be alive.
315: While we tend to conceive of the operations of the mind as unified and transparent, they՚re actually chaotic and opaque. There՚s no invisible boss in the brain, no central meaner, no unitary self in command of our activities and utterances.
319-321 Conventional fiction teaches the reader that life is a coherent, fathomable whole that concludes in neatly wrapped-up revelation. Life, though–standing on a street corner, channel surfing, trying to navigate the web or a declining relationship, hearing that a close friend died last night–flies at us in bright splinters…Story seems to say that everything happens for a reason, and I want to say, __No it doesn՚t__.
515: Renata Adler's Speedboat, George W. S. Trow's Within the Context of No Context, Ross McElwee's Sherman's March… Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia, Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing, Denis Leary's No Cure for Cancer, Rick Reynolds's Only the Truth Is Funny, Chris Rock's Bring the Pain, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Anne Carson's "Essay on the Difference between Men and Women." What is it about these works I liked and like so much? The confusion between field report and self-portrait; the confusion between fiction and nonfiction; the author-narrators' use of themselves, as personae, as representatives of feeling states; the antilinearity; the simultaneous bypassing and stalking of artifice-making machinery; the absolute seriousness, phrased as comedy; the violent torque of their beautifully idiosyncratic voices.