“Maybe it’s the last thing we are meant to know,” the askee answers.
Writing is like that.
In each work—in each day’s effort—is an end-point. A passage that sings, maybe. Or an emotional logic that is whole and round and complete. Or the point in a character’s life in which he/she discovers something exhaustingly right. In each instance, there is a point in which the passage can go no farther…at least, for now. In each is contained the last thing we are meant to know.
My taped nighttime readbacks are a seeking of that place. Such satisfactions have been hard to come by, lately: In reworking a continuum of previous segments I pretty much guaranteed that I would never want to hear the damned passages again. No readback there. But last night, in bed, by moonlight…the exercise of listening-as-a-stranger…a few hitches, yes, but a content and flow that found its resting place; that said “done for now.”
When I can lay the tape recorder down as I did last night and tell myself “Not bad”, I know I’m where I want to, need to, be.
Sometimes, even a passage-in-progress offers up elements of The Last Thing.
I am facing a section of terrifying difficulty right now. The inner experiencing of something so vast and cosmic, so spiritual, so much the fulfillment of the main character’s journey that I am scared even to think about it…deeply and literally fearful of the place the section will ask me to go.
I face it with commitment; a soul-deep belief in the realization that the character and I share. And I face it with questions. Does it have enough “science”? Have I seen this somewhere before? Is the sense of depth and reach nothing more than me deceiving myself? My head is a racket of questions. And when I can at last find the courage to descend into the writing-space, I have entered, as my favorite poem describes, “the silence that turns the silence off.”
When I am there…oh my. I have touched something eternal. I have found the Last Thing I am meant to know.
My friend Mary called as I was coming down from the high place. I was shaking—without a muscle’s movement. I fizzed and sparkled in my head. I was exhausted…the way one is when one unburdens herself of a heavy and wonderful weight. I chattered like a windup toy—I couldn’t help myself.
Not a manic moment, this. Not even close…and with no downside payback. This was an experience very like what a reader feels: the transport to another place. A very particular satisfaction. The spiritual climax that is, we hope, the last thing we are meant to know.