Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Metric for Merit

Once free to construct, an imagination serves as the primary source of potential for whatever the writer desires to put forth into the public domain. Yet in this freedom, the creative aspect must operate within constraints of coherence, tone & ideally theme. Writers do not sit at their desks to permit the mind to spin wild & reckless. We are required to work within strict boundaries; intelligence must maintain established structure & this guiding intelligence is honed by experience.

In private worlds we sense what will not work. Experience & a threshold of tolerance will determine boundaries needed for coherence. Through the mechanics of imagination & critical judgment, creative work is brought into manifestation. This tandem of sensibilities, this co-operation bridging different hemisphere of the brain is essential if we do not wish to waste time or energy on indulgence. Concentration filters content which has no place in a developing work.

Writing requires sacrifice. This offering is expected in many varying forms: in time, with focus & perhaps mostly: the scope of concentration. Why is it that imagination will only loosen-up when it knows we are providing its contents our full attention?

With sacrifice comes expectation. Once we have met the inflexible demands of a waiting Muse, it is natural to believe we shall be rewarded. Confidence is born so we begin to write; if ambitious & persistent, several pages of worthy merit may be captured.

There is a sense of relief in this release; our compromises have been worth the loss endemic to them. Yet there is no guarantee that these dribs & drabs will be of any literary worth every time we activate the effort. They might perhaps be the gunk which needs to be drained as the sacred well primes cleaner material.

Feelings of attachment are fragile towards fresh material; a wash of pride can dissolve into a drain of shame in one sitting. These emotions are a major handicap in assembling work of enduring quality. The rush of joy which accompanies perceived quality is no guarantee of overall viability.

There is neither a proportional relationship, nor an inverse one, between a writer’s estimation of a work in progress & its actual  quality. The feeling that the work is magnificent, & the feeling that is abominable are both mosquitoes to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.
                             — Annie Dillard

{Paintings by Leonora Carrington}



  1. I love how you talk about the sacrificing part. Sometimes I think of writing as using some sort of magic or something and we only have so much in our lives. I don't really believe that but I often wonder about that, if writing will ever get to a point where it feels like there's nothing left to offer or create, that maybe even the need or will to create becomes almost pointless, not in general but just to the person I guess. That's how I feel about it, but then again it might ont even apply, maybe I'll always be able tow rite and have that drive to it, but then again maybe one day it will fade, that drive to write the words, but I don't think so. I also liked the part where you talked about how honing that intelligence takes time and experience. I agree with that because when I use to write, even though my intentions and thoughts/ideas were int eh right place, the way I would transcribe them would get twisted and thrown off course. Over the years I have grown to feel that I have more control now than I did. Anyways another great blog post I really like the way you write!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your own experience, Joshua. It is so true - the craft of writing is not something which can be highjacked by a will defined by the accompishments it guides. Patience is the key, I expect and I wish you continued growth in your own creative journey. So pleased you enjoyed the post.

  3. Excellent post. The boundaries needed for coherence is an admirable way to state it. Sometimes the boundaries are more important than anything else. And as writers, we all have to learn ours.

    In my case, backstory is NOT story. :)

  4. Yet it seems to find a way of sneaking in, even if the intention is not present at the onset. Interesting how that works.

    Thank you so much for the feedback, Cathleen. I so appreciate the connection.