Tag Archives: Wallace Stegner


While there is plenty of room in the world of Words on Paper for therapeutic, ranty, jabby, disjointed stream-of-consciousness freewriting, I generally think the best writing comes from a place of control.

As a reader, I appreciate feeling that the words I’m absorbing have been crafted deliberately, have been given time to gel, have undergone some review, have purpose and ration propelling them.  This is why I adore writers like Philip Roth, who wrote, with masterful control, “The only obsession everyone wants: ‘love.’ People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you’re whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You’re whole, and then you’re cracked open.” This is why I adore writers like Alison Bechdel, who wrote thoughtfully of her family’s dynamic, “It was a vicious circle, though. The more gratification we found in our own geniuses, the more isolated we grew. Our home was like an artists’ colony. We ate together, but otherwise were absorbed in our separate pursuits. And in this isolation, our creativity took on an aspect of compulsion.” This is why I love writers like Wallace Stegner, who wrote, with admirable intelligence, “You can plan all you want to. You can lie in your morning bed and fill whole notebooks with schemes and intentions. But within a single afternoon, within hours or minutes, everything you plan and everything you have fought to make yourself can be undone as a slug is undone when salt is poured on him. And right up to the moment when you find yourself dissolving into foam you can still believe you are doing fine.”

Alternately, it is the lack of craft, gel, and purpose that sometimes makes me screech at Facebook updates.  The spontaneous brain vomit behind such social media often forces me to smear my fingertips, sludge-like, across the monitor.  When I read an update from a high school “friend,” and it reports “Cute puppy!” above the photo of a dog that apparently strikes this “friend” as–what is it again?–cute, I am annoyed.  Similarly, I have to rub my temples slowly when I read a post consisting of the words “Pull! Hit!” and wonder how this revelation of a nebulous personal past time is supposed to provide readers with a whit of satisfaction.

So there are writers who work and rework their words before releasing them to an audience, and there are writers who spew thoughtlessly, slime-ing their readers with a thick green coating of verbiage, and although I prefer writing that exhibits restraint and discipline,

currently, I find that I want to write about a topic that has me so keyed up my opening line on the subject reads, “ARghaghadlfkafdaglkhaghghghghghghgdsklfdsjlkfjdfsdlkjdsaaaaaagggghhhh.”

I know you’re thinking that I lifted that line from Portnoy’s Complaint, but you’re wrong.  Quite proudly, I tell you that I just composed it, right now, all on my own–with no deliberation, forethought, or care.  In fact, any time I try to start typing anything on this topic, my fingers naturally pluck out yet another bit of jarring scream-babble that reads, “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHwoeriweoizzzcxlkcvjlkjaharrraghahghghghghgh.”

My lack of control on this subject has been convincing me I’m not ready to take it on.  Because my emotions run high on this topic, and I am tacking towards it from coordinates of judgement and condemnation (and, thus, unfairness), I’ve been telling myself to give it time, to let my thoughts gel, to let my emotions settle–until I can beach myself on a more objective island from which to consider my subject.

On the other hand, writing from a place of high emotion could be cathartic and exactly what I need to do to release some of my pique and get rational again.

Hence, I’m balancing on a fence called Hmmmmm.

What is this topic that has me fluffed with umbrage?

Turkish men.

Even after much revision of BWAHAHAHAHAHAHwoeriweoizzzcxlkcvjlkjaharrraghahghghghghgh, the only polished opening sentence I’m able to come up with is this:

I am so fucking over Turkish men.”

That opener indicates I’m in complete control and ready to turn out some fine thinking, right?

Hmmmmmm.  Or maybe I need another couple of days.

Or years.

Maybe a decade or two.

What do you think, Readers?  If that opening sentence gives you an indication of my level of control on this subject, am I ready to write?  Or do I need to go up to the pharmacy first and have the nice man behind the counter give me some mood-numbing pills?

And, hey, wait:  if the man behind the counter at the pharmacy is nice, and he helps me feel better, doesn’t that undermine my thesis that Turkish men are crazy making?

Climbing back up onto my Hmmmmm fence now.