From Walter Ong:
“Once upon a time,” we begin. The phrase lifts you out of the real world.
Once lifted, where to, writer?
Ong, WJ 1975 The Writer’s audience is always a fiction. PLMA 90,1:9-21
What is the name of your demon?
All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
From Orwell’s Why I Write (1946)
Note well: Thank you for the books, friend.
A need-fire is a ritually produced fire that reverses illness, blight and malady afflicting a village.
An interesting precondition to an efficacious need-fire is that all other fires in the region must be extinguished. Only in a state of darkness can a need-fire be struck.
We must begin in darkness, writer. If we lack darkness we must create it. Only then can your words have the power of a need-fire for yourself and others.
If you want to strike your own need-fire this is the historical process as described by the well-read J G Frazer in The Golden Bough.
Two poles were driven into the ground about a foot and a half from each other. Each pole had in the side facing the other a socket into which a smooth cross-piece or roller was fitted. The sockets were stuffed with linen, and two ends of the roller were rammed tightly into the sockets. To make it more flammable the roller was often coated with tar. The rope was then wound round the roller, and the free ends at both sides were gripped by two or more persons, who by pulling the rope to and fro caused the roller to revolve rapidly, till through the friction the linen in the sockets took fire. The sparks were immediately caught in tow or oakum and waved about in a circle until they burst into a bright glow, when straw was applied to it, and the blazing straw used to kindle the fuel that had been stacked to make the bonfire.
(Drive your cattle or horses through the smoke of a properly lit need-fire, or, walk yourself through the smoke and put a little ash on your face to cleanse and protect from whatever misfortune is afoot.)
Is there a deep deep down, writer? Is that where we are driving with our words and sounds and paper and scratching?
Thinking on the process of thought, John Robert, the philosopher in Iris Murdoch’s novel The Philosopher’s Pupil says he, “descended into primeval chaos and rose grasping some encrusted treasure which instantly crumbled. He pursued quarries into thickets, into corners, into nets, and at the end found nothing there. … If only he could get down deep enough, grasp the difficulties deep deep down and learn to think in an entirely new way.” (Emphasis in original.)
Is it a folly, or mere romance, to contemplate thinking in an entirely new way? Not thinking ‘about’ but thinking ‘how’. How does the wind think? How does a galah think? How does thinking think?
Are you afflicted with weakness of will, writer?
Do you sometimes suffer the malady of acedia?
What can remedy the bind of listlessness when there is only the want of energy?
Baudelaire suffered acedia. In his journal he wrote,
“In putting off what one has to do, one runs the risk of never being able to do it. In refusing instant conversion one risks damnation.
To heal all things, wretchedness, disease or melancholy, absolutely nothing is required but an inclination for work.”
Can you muster an inclination, writer?
Trust me; it will be enough.
He turned his eyes from her, paced up and down the room, and murmured, “Things cannot go on this way,” between his teeth. Lotte, who sensed the terrible state into which these words had plunged him, tried to divert his thought by all sorts of questions, but in vain.
“No Lotte,” he exclaimed, “I shall not see you again!”
“Why do you say that?” she replied, “Werther, you can, you must see us again, only be moderate. O, why must you be born with this vehemence, this unconquerably clinging passion for everything on which you once lay hold! I beg you,” she continued, taking him by the hand, “be more moderate!”
(The sufferings of young Werther, Goethe)
O, why can Werther not be more moderate? Why must be so relentless? Why does he fall, doubt, hurt, commit?
For the reason that he is Werther.
Let yourself be who you are, writer.
Suffering will come whether you do or whether you don’t.
Ich wandle unter Menschen als den Bruchstücken der Zukunft: jener Zukunft, die ich schaue.
Und das ist all mein Dichten und Trachten, dass ich in Eins dichte und zusammentrage, was Bruchstück ist und Räthsel und grauser Zufall.
Und wie ertrüge ich es, Mensch zu sein, wenn der Mensch nicht auch Dichter und Räthselrather und der Erlöser des Zufalls wäre!
Die Vergangnen zu erlösen und alles „Es war“ umzuschaffen in ein „So wollte ich es!“ — das hiesse mir erst Erlösung!
(Also sprach Zarathustra, Von Friedrich Nietzsche)
Gathering by writing creates unity from the pain and chaos. Zarathustra claimed this as his rescue, his deliverance. Let that power into your words today writer. Turn every fact of the past into the acquiescence of your command. Be brave. Make it so.
“I walk among people as among the fragments of the future: the future into which I glance.
And it is with all my poetry and aspiration that I write into unity, as I gather the fragments and the riddles, and the terrible accidents.
And how can I endure being human, if each person were not also a poet and a riddle-reader and the Redeemer of accidents!
To redeem the past and to change everything from ‘It was’ into an ‘I wanted it so!’—that alone means redemption to me!
(Thus Spoke Zarathustra, from Friedrich Nietzsche)
“To be with the one I love and to think of something else: this is how I have my best ideas, how I best invent what is necessary to my work. Likewise for the text: it produces, in me, the best pleasure if it manages to make itself heard indirectly…”
This is Barthes’ observation in The Pleasure of the Text.
Why would it be the case, writer, that our best ideas come indirectly? What power lay hidden beneath our floorboards, in the back of the cupboard, waiting for us to grope and grasp at another object altogether so that we may say with surprise, ‘Look what I found’?
For Volume IV of his Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire wrote an entry for ‘End of the World’.
The greater part of the Greek philosophers held the universe to be eternal both with respect to commencement and duration. But as to this petty portion of the world or universe, this globe of stone and earth and water, of minerals and vapors, which we inhabit, it was somewhat difficult to form an opinion; it was, however, deemed very destructible. It was even said that it had been destroyed more than once, and would be destroyed again.
Let this set you free, writer. The end of the world will come again, and then again. Let it come. Hasten it with your words if you dare.
Writers need tactics. Tactics is the only known surviving work of philosopher Asclepiodiotus (c. 1 BCE – unknown). The text focuses on the titles and formation needed in the phalanx, including the use of chariots and elephants. Chapter V details the character and appropriate size of arms including the use of bronze shields and spears of varying lengths.
“And the Macedonians, men say, with this line of spears do not merely terrify the enemy by their appearance, but also embolden every file-leader, protected as he is by the strength of five…”
καὶ Μακεδόνες μὲν οὕτω τῷ στοίχῳ, φασί, τῶν δοράτων οὐ μόνον τῇ ὄψει τοὺς πολεμίους ἐκπλήττουσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν λοχαγῶν ἕκαστον παραθαρσύνουσι πέντε δυνάμεσι πεφρουρημένον
The things you fear in your writing, the things you are afraid to write are also the things that give you courage. Your greatest enemy, writer, may be you. Embolden yourself.