I was thinking this morning. It was quite a strain I can tell you because, let’s be honest, it requires some effort and you rarely get any reward, well I don’t anyway. It often leads to confusion rather than the kind of clarity one may hope for, which in turn might lead to action, perhaps, or at least an arrival at a decision.
I should have thought more before I began writing this. I should have made notes and formulated a tightly-controlled theme that could be expressed concisely, perhaps. But then, I love Jazz and, in the back of the box where Thinking takes place there’s a small voice which persists in encouraging me to try and ape my improvisational heroes in word form. Most of the time I do that unconsciously because I’ve found over the years that to be too self-conscious can lead to the immobilisation of all faculties. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to think too much.
Incoherent, rambling manifestation of continually evolving thought can, however, have a lot more going for them than finely-tuned writing. For starters, they express the reality (or something akin to it) of what’s going on in the writer’s head. This, I know, cannot be allowed in professional publications. There is an editor whose job it is to curtail such tendencies, or simply reshape the mess into something publishable. And many (most?) folk don’t want to read the workings of a mind. As Martin Amis once said, when quoting his father, I believe, readers of novels like the author to be in control of what he’s doing just as they do the captain of an airplane. I’m paraphrasing, by the way.
Back when I thought more about Henry Miller than I do now I used to love the way he appeared to improvise on themes. To others, he needed a good editor. The most obvious example might be Jack Kerouac, who took great pride in the ‘First thought, best thought’ idea and the results are there for all to marvel at, or reject. I marvel, mostly, or used to, when I read him, which I no longer do. I no longer read Miller either. Both were big in my life at one point, and partly shaped the way I approached writing, despite the fact that I neither lead a wild Beat life of late-night bongo-playing, poetry-reading, and drug-fuelled chin music, nor live in Paris (or Big Sur) and publish novels containing raw expressions of sexuality mixed with philosophical musings of Life and Art.
I live a quite life; a fairly ordinary life, you might say. And common advice to writers is ‘Write what you know about’, but I’m not sure about the wisdom of that, considering how many of us lead very ordinary lives. Perhaps this explains the amount of dull novels on the racks. It’s quite possible, however, to write about an ordinary life in an extraordinary way, I suppose. But that is not the kind of literature I wish to read.
In another life I’d be off across Europe having adventures, meeting interesting women, have affairs with them. And men, dangerous men who get me embroiled in life-threatening situations, and taking loads of drugs, perhaps, and making loads of money then blowing it all at a casino – whilst taking notes that would lead to an action-packed yet philosophical, true-to-my-life novel.
Oh well, here I am, writing this...