Monday, May 19, 2008

 

Salinger, Excerise, Writing

I'm only halfway through Joyce Maynard's memoir, At Home in the World, but already find it contains a few gems in regards to writing. Among my favorite quotes, Salinger has this to say when young Maynard tells him that playing music looks like more fun than writing. (Note: the italics are mine).
"Fun!" he explodes. "Not much fun in writing, I'll grant you that. No notes on a page for us to fall back on. No amazing, orgasmic rhythms to make the audience melt. No heroism that anyone is likely to detect. Not one goddamn thing to do with the body, except to try wherever possible to ignore one's own cursed immobility. God, the unnaturalness of writing. And unlike performing music, it never gets any easier, no matter how much you do it. Every damned time we sit down to work, it's that same blank page again. A person could have a better time at a Doug McLure retrospective."

(Don't worry; I had to look up Doug McClure too).

I think he exaggerates, but I did take his point about the immobility of writing. I had a conversation with a friend this evening about the whole notion of exercise and writing. I don't know many writers who love exercise, Haruki Murakami notwithstanding. But it is true that when we write, we completely ignore our bodies. When I forget to exercise--when I fall in love with my computer/manuscript/story--too much, I find that I don't want to even leave the apartment. I just want to stay put until I'm done. And yet, this isn't healthy.

"Exercise," said my friend, "teaches you that you can overcome things." I think that this is true. Knowing that you can overcome things is essential in writing, where, at times, things seem insurmountable (the fraking chapter, the fraking voice, the characters, the structure, blah, blah, blah). We spoke further of the need to teach children to love exercise.

The truth is, I hated sports as a child--team sports in particular. I was always deathly afraid my parents would get inspired by our neighbors and send me to Little League. I underestimated my folks. Dance class tricks me into exercising. I can go to class 5 times a week and find myself fit! Hooray! And I didn't even know I was doing anything but enjoying a piece of fluffy music and being with friends. And yet, I agree, if you don't exercise when you are a writer, the brain doesn't work as well.

I'm glad to be back in class.

One more thing; it's ludicrous to think that JD Salinger is anything but a hero to so many writers and readers. He should know this himself, whether he likes it or not. The protestations are disingenuous.

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