If you think you can write, try this one on for size
April 4, 2014
I won’t provide a spoiler for my own post. A blind sample works better.
I think of critique groups, how they invariably punch holes in whatever writing comes their way, and I wonder.
Do they judge based on preconceived notions of the quality of the writing a person in the group may attain? Do they use objective standards to apply to each work they see? Would they recognize greatness if it came their way, or excoriate it? Would they ask for clarification, correct commas, if a work as pure as snow fell in their laps?
Reviewers also come to mind.
Is any book exempt from their attacks, immune to the comments that bite and sting?
The quick answer is no. No work pleases everyone, and even those authors who once in a great while scoop up genius and sling it on the page like dice from a gambler’s fist are subject to the punches and jabs of those whose opinions override their love of words.
I don’t mean to sound harsh.
If I were discussing my own halting attempts to express thoughts on paper, I would stand ashamed at such observations.
However, I hold to the silly notion that some writing can transcend the politics and pettiness of two-bit critics.
Okay, I know that is a naive and idealistic notion.
The reason for being of reviews and critiques is that nothing is perfect, that each sequence of words can be improved.
I have my doubts.
What if an author wrote these words as a winding down of his work, a last thought before leaving?
Neither sleep nor late-night thunderstorms bring them back now, and I rise each day into the sunlight that breaks through the pecan trees in my front yard. But sometimes at dusk, when the farmers burn the sugarcane stubble off their fields and the cinders and smoke lift in the wind and settle on the bayou, when red leaves float in piles past my dock and the air is cold and bittersweet with the smell of burnt sugar, I think of Indians and water people, of voices that can speak through the rain and tease us into yesterday, and in that moment I scoop Alafair up on my shoulders and we gallop down the road through the oaks like horse and rider toward my house, where Batist is barbecuing gaspagoo on the gallery and paper jack-o-lanterns are taped to the lighted windows, and the dragons become as stuffed toys, abandoned and ignored, like the shadows of the heart that one fine morning have gone with the season.
If a person needs better writing than that, she may have to ascend first to heaven, the only place home to perfection.
And if anyone wants to know who ended a novel with those words, she can make a guess in the comments to this post, and I’ll let her know if she got it right.