Sunday, November 21, 2010


What do we read about when we read about love?

More precisely: What do writers read about when writers read about love?

Expertise in a domain comes with changed perceptions.

Chess masters don't see individual pieces on a board, they see chunks and clusters, dance moves of unfathomable complexity, a fast battement of exhilaring possibility perhaps, or a slow slump towards near-certain defeat. (Chase and Simon did that work.)

Painters aren't just better with the brush -- their visual grasp on the world is quicker, more secure; their mental eye roams around objects at will, zooming in on details hidden to all but them. What pleasure they must derive from the ballet of colors on a simple walk through the park on a fine autumn day! (Aaron Kozbelt did that study.)

Musicians, we are unsurprised to learn, have a keener ear for emotional expressivity: They need only a whisper of a hint to tap into a player's moods, they hear much quicker where all this is going. The very good ones, it turns out, also understand us, mere listeners, better: They play with just the right touch, with just the right amount of variation in tempo to make it work -- anything less would have been dreary, anything more would have turned deliciously spun sweetness into a syrup-soggy mess. (Dan Levitin's experiments.)

So too, it seems to me, has the writer's eye and ear been twisted; his sense of rhythm sharpened: Sounds seep more sweetly in his soul.

And stories! We've read them all, we know their twists and turns, all characters are sisters and brothers to us now. Oh and do we know authorial intent!

So when we writers read about love, we do not read about love: We read a story about love. It could become our story, were we to choose to write it, or were it to choose us. And even if we don't, it does.

This is the moment I know I am ready to write: When resonances sing; when whatever I read is in tune with my voice; when harmonies ring from (written) page to page (to be). This state of joy is also a curse: I cannot turn her off, this impertinent muse perched on my shoulder, tugging at my ear with apert impatience, except at my own peril: Were her dictation to go ignored, wouldn't she (shouldn't she?) flutter away, never to return?

Here is the clincher: To write means to have entered the great Hall of Stories (Hall, that too, of Fame and Shame) -- the peril is no longer yours alone, but that of a World for which you have rashly crassly brazenly and foolishly assumed responsibility, by the mere touch of a finger on a key, by the lighting of an eye on innocent lines.

My word!

(And, no, that research study has never been done. And may it never be.)


Anonymous said...

I'm really glad, that she's back on your shoulder - and, no, she will not flutter away (or only for a while) 'cause - she knows damned well who she has chosen and why.

Jhon Davis said...

you are absolutely right, I hope to see this in line .

- John Devis
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