I hate it when things aren’t working right.
Last week was a doozy.
It looked the same as always. Nothing rattled. But, busted. Gone.
I spent 3.5 hours online with a tech service trying to see what was wrong with my computer.
Turns out, it was the microphone.
Then, our refrigerator started making an annoying rattle.
$850 later, we had a new compressor. (I can’t show it to you; it’s tucked inside the refrigerator now, doing its job).
The next day, one of the flaps in the dryer’s tumbler thing came loose. Whump-whump-whump.
The credit card took another $208 hit.
(Bob Dylan was ringing in my ear …. Broken lines, broken strings, Broken threads, broken springs…)
What else breaks?
Sometimes, it’s our words.
A word. A sentence. A paragraph.
George Saunders (Lincoln in The Bardo; many, many killer short stories) has a terrific piece in The Guardian about writing. It's called 'What writers really do when they write.'
He talks about evaluating the words he has written “without hope and without despair.”
George Saunders says he imagines a meter mounted on his forehead as he reads his own stuff, with “P” on one side for positive and “N” on the other for negative.
“Accept the result without whining,” he suggests.
There’s a lot of good stuff in this piece.
It’s long but entirely worth absorbing.
I won’t come right out and say a sentence is “broken” or a paragraph is “broken."
I mean, you’ve got something work with--that's a huge accomplishment.
Those words on the page. You can’t edit thin air.
But there might be a way to make those words work better.
To make them, well, work.
There’s P, there’s N.
Final thought from George Saunders: “Any work of art quickly reveals itself to be a linked system of problems.”