Friday, July 20, 2007

The Best Thing

Oh, I love this! I love what Mary Gaitskill answers in response to the question, "What's the best thing about being a writer?" And, okay, this is from O magazine. Whatever. Go ahead and make fun of me. But now, on to the answer...

"The best thing about writing is being able to clearly express things in a way you can't express in conversation. This is especially true if you are socially awkward and a little inarticulate, which I was when I first started to write seriously (at age 23) and is still how I occasionally feel. In countless conversations I have had, someone has said something and I have had several responses at once, sometimes responses that were nonverbal, coming to me in confused masses of feeling, images, and half-formed thoughts that I could not refine into words until, say, sometime the next day. Anything I did say would feel partial to me and often sounded just plain dumb.

Writing is in some way being able to sit down the next day and go through everything you wanted to say, finding the right words, giving shape to the images, and linking them to feelings and thoughts. It isn't exactly like a social conversation because you aren't giving information in the usual sense of the word or flirting or persuading anyone of anything or proving a point; it's more that you are revealing something whole in the form of a character, a city, a moment, an image seen in a flash out of a character's eyes. It's being able to take something whole and fiercely alive that exists inside you in some unknowable combination of thought, feeling, physicality, and spirit, and to then store it like a genie in tense, tiny black symbols on a calm white page. If the wrong reader comes across the words, they will remain just words. But for the right readers, your vision blooms off the page and is absorbed into their minds like smoke, where it will re-form, whole and alive, fully adapted to its new environment. It is a deeply satisfying feeling."

It is with much regret (and no doubt hysterical laughter from you, my people) that I declare I am no Mary Gaitskill (have you read Two Girls Fat and Thin? Holy schmoley!), but I hardly have to be, do I, to feel as if everything she says here has been floating around in my head all wispy-like for years and years? I can't tell you how often I've wanted to scream, "I'm really not an idiot! I'm just helplessly inarticulate! Here, let me write you a long letter!"

Speaking of writing, we have added a delightful new person to our writing group, which brings our total to the ideal number of five. She has a lilting accent and full-throated laugh and silver-tinged hair. And she has an agent. Which I won't hold against her. Hahahahahahahahaha!

P.S. I have no idea why that quote is in yellow. Why is that quote in yellow?


kiita said...

great quotation, no matter the source!

thelastnoel said...

You know, I like to believe that I think fast on my feet, but sometimes, I go all tongue-tied. Thank gawd for words.

kmargrett said...

I stumble over my words all the time in conversation. Thank gawd indeed for words. =)

And your quote is probably yellow because that's what the setting is for quoted items. I think you can check that in your settings. =)

bino said...

i NEVER travel without a mary gaitskill; she's with me in brazil too.... she writes like a goddess. ah, 'because they wanted to . . .' i can read this book over and over. thanks for posting about the goddess mary.