Once you’ve decided that this is your art, that what you’re going to do is try to write short stories that are beautiful and interesting and true, then now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve put yourself in a delicate position. It means you have to think about what’s real all the time. Art almost seems stupid in a way. We’re already living in reality. When you’re in a bookstore listening to a 60 year old man drone on behind a podium, reading a poem about a birch tree outside his window and you want to kill yourself, that’s the beautiful, interesting thing. Not the poem itself, it would seem, because the poem, you know, sucks. The little boy that walks by the window outside and puts his funny face against the glass is more a poem than whatever boring, dead words are coming through the microphone. Why not just walk around with a frame in front of your face and say “look at this tragic, beautiful thing I’ve created?”
Well, I don’t know why. I shouldn’t have asked such an absurd question in the first place. We have to just assume that reality itself isn’t enough. It needs to be recreated.
In writing workshop, we sit around a big scary table, staring at each other, trying to figure out how these characters we made up out of thin air would act, if they existed, which they don’t. They don’t have to do anything realistic as long as what they’re doing stands for something real. Everybody knows what it is, but we don’t know how to talk about it, and we certainly don’t know how to do it yet.
I don’t have any answers. An unpleasant break from “real” writing indeed. Back to the grindstone I go.