Occasionally students will ask me about my writing process, and like many fiction writers I'm obliged to lie about it. "I wake up early, sit down at my computer," I tell them, "and don't leave my desk until I've written 10,000 words. I always write a story from its beginning to its end, and only then go back to revise. As I continue to draft, anything that does not move the story forward must go!"
I'm certain such disciplined writers exist, and that as a result they are a great deal more prolific and successful than me. And if I sound jealous, well, it's because I am.
Here's the real truth. I was cursed by a one-eyed diviner, condemned to devise byzantine structures on which to hang my stories, alternate physics to govern my fictive worlds, elaborate schemes to represent time, logically sound yet flawed philosophies to guide my characters.
English, for me, is a malleable language that invites chaos; I can infuse it with vocabulary from other languages, impose alternate syntaxes upon it, make it speak in tongues. Who can stop me?
And if I drag other genres and mediums of expression into the whole mess, what of it? I confess, in an uncharacteristic moment of truthfulness, that I had never written a proper sentence until I took a graduate poetry workshop. As a failed musician I know all about cacophony, volume, and discordance. My brief stabs at painting and sculpting have taught me the rudiments of composition, how to position narrative elements in a scene, what to highlight and what to leave in shadow.
I'm obsessed with the process of writing, the revision, the sense-making of it. When I was a grad student, one my workshop mates habitually told me my stories were unfocused. "Here's the real story," he would say, identifying one of the tangled narrative threads. "All the rest is clutter!" But it's the clutter that interests me. How is it all connected? What does it mean? I'm like a bowerbird, hopping about, collecting shiny things and arranging them just so. It's a contrary and time-consuming way to write, and I imagine it's often frustrating for people to read. But if I've learned anything from all this, there's no breaking a one-eyed diviner's curse, even if I wanted to.