What if my leaves are falling like its own?
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone, 60
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,
Like wither’d leaves, to quicken a new birth;
And, by the incantation of this verse, 65
Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? 70
Fiery stuff. Way too fiery to be dull convention, a mere nod to Homer. Nope. Shelley’s asking for something real here. He’s on to something about writing. In her amusing book on writing, bird by bird, Annie Lamott claims that she doesn’t do the writing at all. It’s really composed by little men in the attic of her house; she’s just the stenographer. Well, that’s a paraphrase. As I said, I’m not a scholar and I did not chase down the quote, but you get the idea. She’s talking like Shelley, only without the flamboyance.
Discovering the muse, or the west wind, or those little men in my own attic was one of the finest and happiest surprises about writing. There have been moments—many of them—in the composition of every one of the dozen novels when I go on autopilot. Oh, I’m present, in a way. I’m concentrated and focused but it’s as if I am a mere conduit, the means by which the words appear on the screen. The fingers fly and for some time I am sustained in a kind of happy trance. And when I return to my right mind and look back on what I’ve done, it’s usually pretty good. (Which is not to say that it doesn’t need patching. The writing always needs patching. The patching is endless—and a little boring—compared to singing with the muses, or the wind, or those odd little men.) The trance times come usually once a story is established, which occurs somewhere near the middle. It varies; it’s unpredictable. As I am not a scholar, I am also not an athlete, but I suspect that my “musings,” let’s call them, share much of the quality of mind experienced by athletes in the midst of play or dancers given over to movement, or perhaps musicians lost in sound. I think James Baldwin is talking about this experience at the end of his fine story “Sonny’s Blues.” At any rate, these musings, while not the only reasons I write, are surely a large part of what keeps me at it.
Some of the novels are available as Kindle books. The link is: