October 10th, 2010 / 3:14 pm
Craft Notes

Padgett Powell gives a little writing advice

This was just posted to Unsaid literary journal’s Facebook. Reposted here in case you don’t do the Facebook. (If you do do the Facebook, you should click on the link: “like” the post, “friend” the journal, &c.) There’s also an interview with Powell in the new issue of the New York Tyrant.

Keep in mind what writing should do:

1) Be alive.

2) Be surprising.

3) Obey tenets of economy, verve, etc.

4) Amount to something (usually, in terms of having “something at stake”).

5) Payoff (i.e., resolve).

Any three of five is worth spoiling paper for. It should be remembered also that:

6) Brave wild failure is applauded.

And that:

7) You should be less comfortable if you’re pretty sure of what you’re writing about.

And that:

8) You should ignore, at all times, all sense of authorial narrative obligations, and, certainly, your own preconceptions and ideas.

This is more preaching than could possibly be salubrious. So, some more: Obey only the logic of immediacy, from word to word. Or, obey only its obverse, the illogic of immediacy, or the logic of inimmediacy, as you prefer.

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  1. Padgett Powell gives a little writing advice / HTMLGIANT « word pond

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  2. deadgod

      I think the privative of “immediacy” is ‘mediation, the presence of a mediator or other interposed factor’. The obverse of a logic of immediacy would be a logic of mediation. ??

      Say, what is the “logic of immediacy”? – that two things next to each other are connected? or that “immediacy” is what aesthetically catalyzes stimulation into effect?

  3. Kyle Minor

      I like the intelligence of this, and I like the fluidity (or non-rigidity) of this, and I like the way it nonetheless asserts that there are certain articulable things that make a piece of writing interesting at least some of the time.

  4. MEM

      It could be that I’m an impatient and/or easily distracted dunce, but I found Mr. Powell’s last novel to be a nearly legendary example of #6 above (and probably #8 as well, I assume, but also probably not legendarily so). But I guess this is to be applauded.

  5. Janey Smith

      Dear deadgod–I thought the same question, too. It’s strange to consider a “logic of immediacy” in relation to a medium that employs words. Then again writing here may also mean something altogether unimaginable, something beyond words, irreducible, bizarre. Still, imagine such a logic? I keep dreaming that in a perverse way such a logic might belong to ideology–immediate, always there, conditioned, operative, but not really known, just sort of hunched at, leaned against, breathed. But, I’m not sure about that–and I’m glad I’m not sure about it. At the same time it haunts me.

  6. JScap

      To me, the “logic of immediacy” makes sense. I read it as encouragement to self-immersion in process. To, when you’re writing, blot out other forms of “logic”– the “inner critic,” pre-conceived concerns about structure, meaning, “symbols”– and to follow the intention of the work, from word to word, as it pours out, in the immediate moment of pen-on-paper and finger-on-keys.

      I am not saying that you shouldn’t revise, and I’m not saying that Padgett Powell is suggesting no revision, either. All I’m saying is that it’s helpful for me to privilige immersion.

  7. Brendan Connell

      Really silly things said here. All so vague and rather cold.

  8. dm

      I don’t know what salubrious means.

      But I hope to be a brave, wild failure.

  9. JustinTaylor

      Goddamn, people, step out of CRW101 for five minutes. It’ll be there when you get back.

  10. deadgod

      “Ideology” is good. Language isn’t, or is never experienced as, an inert medium – it’s always already ‘this act of language for‘. “logic of immediacy” being ‘intelligible account of relations of force’. As you suggest with ‘haunting’, a “logic” that interferes with itself, an “immediacy” at purposes cross to itself. (To me, this is what Marx means by political-economic “contradiction”.)

  11. deadgod

      I like this, too. – Not automatic writing, exactly, nor ‘first word, best word’ rigidity, but rather, as you imply, a deliberately less self-conscious immersion in poiesis. ‘Relax, and focus.’ Pretty hard to do, for such an easy thing to say.

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