the gap

Head hunched over desk, hand cramping, my pen decides where it’ll go next. I start writing with no direction and build a map as I go. I’ll know when I’ve got to where I need to be, if I’m lucky, but not how I’ve got there. I’m a big believer that the biggest discoveries come en ecrivant, while writing.

Recently, I thought about the gap I’m widening with every word. At a push, only I know about the piece blossoming from the end of my pen: the images and the arc, the suspense, the turn of phrase I later go back to change. Viewed alongside the entirety of the human species – the 7.8 billion of them alive at the moment – I’m in a pretty small minority. No one outside these four walls even knows this piece exists. No one knows the journey I’ve been on to get it down on paper. I’m binge-watching the inside of my mind as it plays.

I imagine it’s the same for musicians. How many notes, chord progressions and solos see the light of day only much later when composing something huge like an album? How many never see that light at all? How strange is that gap between creation and consumption? Here we are, walking around with huge cities in our heads, invisible to everyone but our closest confidantes.

Improvised live performance is the closest we get to closing that gap. The saxophone solo, that high note frenzy that might not work. This city they’re building may hit red tape, may all come crumbling down. Catch me in the front row, mouth agape at the drummer who has just gone off on a mad one, mid-song.

I envy the freestyle poets, the jazz soloists, the comedians who take prompts from the audience to build sketches under the spotlight. My writing process has always included a lot of revision. The first word is not always the best word. Looking back through my notebooks, there’s more scribbled out than there is there. Ultimately, I suppose I like that gap. I don’t like to rush the process. I’m still hiring in my architects, still mixing cement at my desk. Nothing, yet, is concrete, and in that fluidity there lies freedom.

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