*This short essay comes from the book “Pure Writerly Moments.” You can read the book for free on Wattpad. Click this link to read more: https://www.wattpad.com/504349120-pure-writerly-moments-the-best-of-goodreads-blog
I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to be a columnist or a TV writer, some job with a deadline. Everything would be a thing about to be finished. The pressure of deadlines would thump against the back of my skull with every whack of the keys (of a classic newspaper typewriter of course). There would be a paranoid fever right before submitting my work — Is it any good? Is it any good?…Oh God, please let it be good. But, beyond this paranoia perhaps there would be a kind of catharsis in letting things go…you would have none of the neurosis of the constant novelist and his twenty-eight drafts. If there is any regret, it would soon be quashed by the ever-present tyranny of the next deadline.
I tried to have some of the mentality of the columnist or TV writer as I wrote this book — write, publish, repeat. Let go of regret. Find a kind of purity in imperfection.
Haruki Murakami, in his book Dance, Dance, Dance, had this main character who wrote for newsletters and corporate pamphlets. And he said that his job was like “shoveling snow”. He would write material. It would be published somewhere. And he could never tell how serious it would be taken or how necessary it was to the world…but somebody had to shovel the snow. And there was always more snow to shovel.
There was no deadline for any of the material written for this book and there is no deadline for any of the material that may or may not appear after. It’ll be hard to tell whether it gets read more or less than some article in the “Forklift Operator’s Weekly Newsletter” or “Private Jet Stewardess Monthly”. If I am shoveling snow, then I am sure that the sidewalk will never be completely clear. More snow falls, and I keep shoveling. Without Nielsen Ratings or letters from my column’s readers, I find a way to construct my own understanding of better, of what counts as progress — and I keep going.
No text in this book is ever final. Everything is at once complete and incomplete. Like a backpacker in a strange land, I wander, and I make “good time” in the sense that every word is the best word I can write within the moment– the emphasis being on “good” instead of “time”.
But rest assured every bit of the snow shoveled for this book was a good time. And since Pure Writerly Moments can’t help but be a good time, I suspect this book will remain eternally in progress.