Ever have one of those days when you realize that the words you write will never equal the world in your head? I just spent the entire day sweating out one scene of dialogue. It’s a good scene, but I know that it’s not the scene I wanted.
I think every writer goes through this–and there are times I have the same moment when I see a particularly beautiful picture,
or read an amazing piece of narrative:
At the suggestion of the abbot I will explain for the benefit of barbarians that my country is Chung-kuo, which can mean Central Country or Middle Kingdon, whichever one prefers. The point is that it is the country in the exact center of the world, and the only country that lies directly beneath Heaven. “China” is a barbarian invention that was coined in awe and honor of the first Duke of Ch’in, who took over the empire in the Year of the Rat 2,447 (221 BC). He was a remarkable reformer. Mass murderers are usually reformers, the abbot tells me, although not necessarily the other way around.
Beautiful, and cause for despair. Confronted with words like that, all the kudos and positive critiques of ones readers are as dust. Sound and fury, signifying nothing…
And then sometimes, sometimes, I catch an echo of far music off Plato’s mountains of ideal forms. Then I feel like Coleridge, touched by a vision in a dream, with the same outcome:
- A damsel with a dulcimer
- In a vision once I saw:
- It was an Abyssinian maid,
- And on her dulcimer she played,
- Singing of Mount Abora.
- Could I revive within me
- Her symphony and song,
- To such a deep delight ‘twould win me,
- That with music loud and long,
- I would build that dome in air,
- That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
- And all who heard should see them there,
- And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
- His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
- Weave a circle round him thrice,
- And close your eyes with holy dread,
- For he on honey-dew hath fed,
- And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Ever have one of those days?