Currently, I’m reading Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, a biography of David Foster Wallace. Reading this book has been very strange for me because, as it turns out, DFW and I had several pretty substantial similarities (for instance, both of us studied philosophy and only fell in love with fiction after we realized that logic really was the fool’s gold for the bright). It probably sounds really self-important to compare myself with DFW and perhaps a bit delusional; so I should probably confess that I have zero appreciation for DFW’s work. Zero. Really. I’m trying to give it a chance, but I guess I’m just a slow learner.
But even for those of us who don’t like DFW’s work, I think we can all empathize with some of what he says. This quote is to his editor regarding his book, Infinite Jest:
“The whole thing may be incoherent for all I know. At this point I have no idea. It’s like not knowing what your family looks like: you live right up close to something so long it blinds you. I just want to be done.”
This next one is to his friend Jonathan Franzen, also about Infinite Jest:
“I don’t think it’s very good–some clipping called a published excerpt feverish and not entirely satisifying, which goes a long way to describing the whole experience of writing the thing. I pray [my editor] doesn’t want major changes, mostly because I don’t want to have to be engaged with the thing again, not at all.”
I love these quotes so much because they are entirely honest about what it’s like to write a book, namely, sometimes you are just damn sick of it, and, honestly, you kind of think it’s an incoherent mess. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve written the seminal books of the 21st century. You’re so close that you’re literally blinded. In order to keep writing, in order to improve as a writer, you have to believe in yourself and your work enough to be okay going in blind. And running like hell if you have to.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and write your hearts out!