Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The pleasure and misery of writing

I’m sitting here trying to plot out a zippy press release (it’s not so much writing as it is juggling all the phrases that you have to include into coherent sentences), while thinking about how I’m going to fit together my review for Iain M. Banks new Culture novel: Matter. Life has become by turns simple and wonderful----most of my waking life is now taken up by reading and writing---and laden with guilt and anxiety---writing is no longer a leisure activity, and I, a well-known procrastinator, has been given the flexibility of enforcing my own deadlines.

It takes me time to write. A blog entry or a fomal email will bring me the same amount of headache and nervousness as a book review or a term paper. There was a point in my life where I hated every sentence I produced. I tend towards complex sentence structures that will crumble with a misplaced comma ( see last sentence of previous paragraph---I doubt it's even correct; oh how I love the dash). It doesn’t help that I’ve always had sloppy grammar.

Reading is therapeutic, but writing, especially writing something that someone will read, fills me with dread. I think part of the reason is that I can never quite catch the internal monologue that’s running through me head. No matter how many times I revise my work, it never or rarely turns out the way that I have envisioned it. It’s frustrating, but it’s also a challenge that I want to overcome. Blogging helps; sentences are coming easier---I find fewer objections to what I write. Thank goodness that I have started it again!

Paradoxically, when I read something that I'm really proud of, I get depressed because I feel that will be the only good thing I have ever written. Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Arrival and my father

David and I read Shaun Tan's The Arrival today. It's a beautiful graphic novel that will resonate with anyone, but especially those of us who are immigrants. It is the beautiful, strange, and wordless tale of a man leaving his family behind and traveling to a foreign land in hopes of a brighter future.

The book would make a perfect gift for my father who immigrated to this country in the 1980's leaving behind his family---my mother and me. Living on a student's stipend and trying to save up money to mail home, my father would eat cabbage and onions for weeks on end. He tells one story of slipping and falling down on ice, again and again on one of the many steep and hilly roads in West Virginia trying to get somewhere on foot, when people with cars had even chosen to stay in. The story meant to be a funny anecdote always breaks my heart.

It would be the perfect gift, yet I fear to give it to him. For it's strangeness and whimsical, wordless qualities---something that I have cultivated a taste for---may be something incomprehensible to him. He may laugh at the novelty, shake his head at what he perceives to be a book for children. He hasn't had the time in his life to cultivate such tastes. So much of his time has been spent on providing for us, making sure we have a good future, and that I have the creature comforts that was denied him when he was young. Perhaps I give him too little credit.

I'm grateful for this book; for it's beauty and elegance, and because it reminds me of what my father did for me.
Here's an excellent interview with Shaun Tan on the book.