mmmm. hot afternoon. sliced up, perfectly cold (seedless! YES!) watermelon to counter the heat. ceiling fan on, too. headphones for the cello instrumentals. fading sunlight melting against the venetian blinds. enlightening conversation. laughter, so much laughter, finding the humor in things because of course that is always the cure, or, if not the cure, at least the beginning to finding it.
foot propped up.
and now, this.
all of this interview is amazing to read, in my opinion. i thought the following excerpts were quite applicable at the moment (not in order, i ordered them at whim):
Joyce Carol Oates, on the art of fiction
What have you learned from Kafka?
To make a jest of the horror. To take myself less seriously.
Do you find emotional stability is necessary in order to write? Or can you get to work whatever your state of mind? Is your mood reflected in what you write? How do you describe that perfect state in which you can write from early morning into the afternoon?
One must be pitiless about this matter of “mood.” In a sense, the writing will create the mood. If art is, as I believe it to be, a genuinely transcendental function—a means by which we rise out of limited, parochial states of mind—then it should not matter very much what states of mind or emotion we are in. Generally I’ve found this to be true: I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything. Or appears to do so. Joyce said of the underlying structure of Ulysses—the Odyssean parallel and parody—that he really didn’t care whether it was plausible so long as it served as a bridge to get his “soldiers” across. Once they were across, what does it matter if the bridge collapses? One might say the same thing about the use of one’s self as a means for the writing to get written. Once the soldiers are across the stream . . .
Do you keep a diary?
I began keeping a formal journal several years ago. It resembles a sort of ongoing letter to myself, mainly about literary matters. What interests me in the process of my own experience is the wide range of my feelings. For instance, after I finish a novel I tend to think of the experience of having written it as being largely pleasant and challenging. But in fact (for I keep careful records) the experience is various: I do suffer temporary bouts of frustration and inertia and depression. There are pages in recent novels that I’ve rewritten as many as seventeen times, and a story, “The Widows,” which I revised both before and after publication in The Hudson Review, and then revised slightly again before I included it in my next collection of stories—a fastidiousness that could go on into infinity.
Afterward, however, I simply forget. My feelings crystallize (or are mythologized) into something much less complex. All of us who keep journals do so for different reasons, I suppose, but we must have in common a fascination with the surprising patterns that emerge over the years—a sort of arabesque in which certain elements appear and reappear, like the designs in a well-wrought novel. The voice of my journal is very much like the one I find myself using in these replies to you: the voice in which I think or meditate when I’m not writing fiction.
Do you feel you have any conspicuous or secret flaw as a writer?
My most conspicuous flaw is . . . well, it’s so conspicuous that anyone could discern it. And my secret flaw is happily secret.
What are the advantages of being a woman writer?
Advantages! Too many to enumerate, probably. Since, being a woman, I can’t be taken altogether seriously by the sort of male critics who rank writers 1, 2, 3 in the public press, I am free, I suppose, to do as I like. I haven’t much sense of, or interest in, competition; I can’t even grasp what Hemingway and the epigonic Mailer mean by battling it out with the other talent in the ring. A work of art has never, to my knowledge, displaced another work of art. The living are no more in competition with the dead than they are with the living . . . Being a woman allows me a certain invisibility. Like Ellison’s Invisible Man. (My long journal, which must be several hundred pages by now, has the title Invisible Woman. Because a woman, being so mechanically judged by her appearance, has the advantage of hiding within it—of being absolutely whatever she knows herself to be, in contrast with what others imagine her to be. I feel no connection at all with my physical appearance and have often wondered whether this was a freedom any man—writer or not—might enjoy.)