Monday, May 31, 2010

Writing Rituals

Because writing is a sacred and mysterious art, its practice should be accompanied by certain somber rituals.  This is mine:

Before I sit down at my battered and well-used typewriter, I like to pour myself a nice glass of bourbon, the real kind, aged in sturdy oak barrels. I only use ice made from distilled water, so as not to introduce impurities that can taint the nose or the flavor.

I prefer to enjoy it out on my porch in late afternoon, or at least in a room with lots of natural light, so I can appreciate the fine deep caramel color of the whiskey, and watch it turn amber as the ice begins to melt into it.

Good bourbon speaks to me of warm spring breezes and old-growth forests, of rich Kentucky soil and clean, honest labor. The taste and the smell of it grabs hold of me, shakes me, and presses me close against the bosom of a profound and irreducible truth.

That's when I'm ready to craft a sentence of perfect prose; something unambiguous and authentic, in muscular, economical language. That's when I approach my workbench. That's when I begin hammering.

"Did someone fart in here?" she asked, wrinkling her nose with disgust.

I read it, afterwards, at least three times. I can barely believe I've written it, and I am filled with pride and awe. My God, I think. I've torn out the very soul of the thing, and committed it to the ages.

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