Blog 29 November 2021
Earlier today (11-21-21), I finished typing the first draft of my latest novel, the fourth in the Quarry crime series set in rural North Carolina. In the original writing, as well as the process of entering the manuscript into a computer, I experienced a phenomenon I would describe as a “wondering.” Specifically, I found myself wondering if the quality of my writing has, perhaps, lessened around the edges. Has there been, is there, a diminishment in my capacity to express effectively and fully that which my mind imagines?
I recalled reading Witness to a Century, a memoir of a lifetime of journalistic experiences by George Seldes. I believe it was 1987 because Seldes, who was born in 1890, was ninety-six the year of publication. This was an individual who’d spent the bulk of his life traveling the world, reporting on major events involving larger-than-life personalities. He’d lived history while reporting on it.
My point in raising this memory is that I found Seldes’s writing spare, not just journalistically lean. It was as if there were empty spaces in his descriptions, as if something was missing. I sensed a diminution in his capacity for fullness in his writing. I found an absence of layering in the composition, the difference between a modern, smart phone photograph and the flat image of an old Kodak Brownie.
This should not be viewed as a criticism of Seldes. The man was, again, ninety-six. (He probably should have received an award recognizing his accomplishment.) Rather, citing this memory is part of my “wondering” as to the quality of my efforts at seventy-nine.
As an aged writer, are there detectable changes in my writing? If so, am I capable of detecting them? My wondering emerged from reading my latest effort at a novel. I suspect there may be changes and they’re likely not favorable. In part, it had to do with what I found to be a more prosaic aspect to my wording, a triteness of expression about something original emerging from my mind. Was I in too much of a hurry to get the story out of my head and onto paper or is my concern, again, reflective of changes in capacity?
The awareness of time left to write effectively was a major factor in my decision to retire as a Clinical Psychologist at sixty-four. I wanted to take the plunge to writing full-time while I possessed my faculties, rather than continuing to search for time niches in which to write. Regrets about that decision? NONE!
My response to the above concern: I plan to tear as vigorously and rigorously into the editing process as I ever have. This manuscript will abide in active limbo (is that an oxymoron?) until I’m satisfied I’ve applied whatever I have left qualitatively to the enhancement of the product. For me, hope (as it always has) lies in the trying.