Once it has been published and packaged and read, literature can look like an ego machine of whoever made it––like one of those glossy advertising inserts of all-about-me, particularly an all-about-those who are believed to be most amenable to the marketplace. In this literature is also an ego machine of a society or era. The writers who get noticed are representative persons allowed to exhibit a carefully cultivated subjectivity used as shorthand for an (utterly misrepresentative) all.
The process of writing, however, depends on the ego’s depletion. To write is to be full of error and struggle and doubt and revelation and shock, to make a record of thinking but mostly a record of being thoughtless, to be shipwrecked in a watery expanse of derivation and imitation and only (if you are lucky) to wash up onto surprise uncharted islands of whatever is original or previously unknown. So much about writing is beautifully eviscerating, too, like sex and dying and history and big landscapes are beautifully eviscerating, in that it doesn’t matter who you are inside of it when you are completely inside of it. The Alps, orgasms, and sentences are indifferent to who we think we are.
Writing is a vacation in the mistaken. It is what it is because it is so often wrong. It is a mode of emptying time of action and filling it instead with letters, words, syntaxes and grammars that are never yours to begin with and only rarely can be. To write is to be submerged in the common materials of language and always feel half-drowning there, only rarely getting to come up for what might finally be a perfect breath.
[Anne’s most recent book is A Handbook of Disappointed Fate (Ugly Duckling)]