Sorry I’m late….
Exalted passages. We all have moments of writing them, as we have reading them. They glow from the page. The I-Wish-I’d-Done-That moments. The breathtaking moments that we look back on and ask ourselves, wonderingly, “How the hell did I do that?” The stuff that writes itself. Beautifully.
As writers, we try to bring 100% to every word—we hope to, strive to—but let’s face it: There is a noticeable difference between the exalted special passages and the ones that simply take us from here to there; the difference, throughout the course of a book, between the well done passage and the writing that fulfills a function?
We use rhythms. Repetition. Punctuation. Paragraphing. Unique ways of seeing. These come together in the alchemy of language, or leave us unsatisfied, sometimes for reasons we have a helluva hard time deciphering. What’s the difference between the glowing and the workmanlike in what we write? What’s the intention? What is the substance of how we prepare for the work…how we approach it, how we conquer it. What is the instinct that tells us what must sing and what need not?
The greater question is this: Must ALL passages be written in the voices of angels? Would the reader be exhausted, presented with line after line, para after para, chapter after chapter of that richer stuff? Would we?
This isn’t a dissertation about the sloppy vs the sublime; the clumsy vs the commanding. It is an attempt to quantify the greater and lesser in something that is already good. Is there an acceptable balance between the bright tops of waves closest to the sun, and the murkier places closer to the ocean floor? If the internal structure of the universe is contrast (that unique human-imposed condition) shouldn’t our work contain it, too? Everything ebbs and flows. Shouldn’t our work do the same?