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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

James Wright's Letters...


For some odd reason I have neglected to tell of my late-night readings of "The Letters of James Wright." I have been savoring these kernels of writing know-how for a few weeks now and I have forgotten to write about them here. Right now, James Wright is struggling with a massive depression that sent him to the hospital, and finished off his first marriage. It is often said that to be a poet one must really know suffering (sort of like singing the Blues, I guess). If this is so, I say James Wright paid the price three or four times over the norm. But his suffering was also our gain; his most moving poetry comes from this time. I love reading his letters to Robert Bly, they are full of such optimism for the writing process and so much belief in it. I often struggle with this idea. I abandoned efforts midway through because I didn't yet believe in my "voice." Even after publishing a handful of short stories in publications that went bankrupt the moment the issue hit the bookstore stands, I never considered myself a real writer. I have to believe like James Wright believes in those letters. They are full of love for the craft, and I must work hard to develop my own belief as well. The picture above is of me the day I crossed the 50,000 words mark making me the winner of NaNoWriMo on November 24th. It was the day when everything stopped for me as a non-believer. It also allowed me to go back to my Moleskines instead of writing on a blank screen with a pulsating cursor. I am not a Luddite, but script makes me remember those long days at Crocker Park writing like the end of the world was coming, week after week, so much material. And then the day that I suddenly stopped, lost all my faith in what I was doing, closed the Moleskine, and walked away. Incidentally, I was looking at some of those notebooks today and I realize that after my long stretch of revisions with the draft in front of me, I am going to definitely hit that other hard-driving plot again. But right now it is all and everything about the present project. Revise, revise, revise... this is a craft, and I love it and no matter how terrible I really feel inside about other issues, I will struggle against all odds and finish this. I believe in it and I believe in this new lease on life writing has given me. God bless you, James Wright, wherever you are... I always knew your book would enlighten me and teach me.

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2 Comments:

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

I want to know what your book is about!! congrats on reaching your goal. I haven't been blogging very much lately due to a heavy workload but I do hope to get back into it soon. I've been doing some fun reading lately so I have a stack of book reviews I need to post.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger Jacob Russell said...

I clicked to your blog from Litlov's Tales from the Reading Room. These posts brought back experiences, nearly twenty years now, when I began to write... that is, to take my writing seriously, an obligation I owed myself. I certainly hadn't forgotten, but the emotional intensity--the effort to keep at it, and the concurrent struggle to justify what I was doing... your posts brought that back to me.

When you come to this late--as I did (I was 46, it may not be harder, but it's bound to be more irrepressibly part of your conscious life--you cannot not think about it, what you're doing, what it means, is it real?

I felt what you were going through.

I wish you well.

Jacob
Jacob Russell's Barking Dog

 

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