On hearing inner music: the pleasure of the written word

January 10, 2016 at 10:11 am | Posted in decluttering | Leave a comment
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As one who has digested and recommended Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up (2 Nov ‘The life-changing magic of Marie Kondo’s book on the Japanese art of de-cluttering), I am pretty good at throwing away old pieces of paper and notes in the rubbish bin. But I do keep some stuff, for example, miscellaneous bits of scribble, other people’s descriptions I admire, and quotations, all of which I think of as ‘compost’ because out of these scraps I can be inspired to create a new piece of writing.

One of the quotations saved is by Truman Capote (McCall’s November 1967):

‘To me, the pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music the words make.’

I loved that description – inner music. We can get it by writing and by reading. The inner music we hear as readers is what is made by a particular writer’s style. It’s a joy to discover different pieces of music and to have the time to rediscover the pleasure of the inner music my own words make as I write fiction again.

And I’m still borrowing unrealistically high piles of books from the library. As Stephen King said once, ‘If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write.’ I think of the wise words of Ray Bradbury: ‘You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.’ I am drunk on the inner music of myself and others.

Another Ray Bradbury quotation is this one:

‘The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies.’

That last category sounds like the job description of the tabloid journalists of the Murdoch press.

Nick Davies told us about the dire state of journalism in his powerful Flat Earth News (Chatto & Windus, 2008). In most cases there is no time to check facts any more. Journalists used to do about three stories a day and now they must do ten a day.

‘Journalism without checking is like a human body without an immune system.’ (Davies, p. 51)

Davies writes that we get ‘the same choice of stories with the same angles and the same quotes and the same pictures. A tiny fragment of the planet’s life masquerading as the truth, much of it invariably shaped by the activities of PR.’ (p. 101)

This is why I don’t spend much time reading newspapers. I get information from The Guardian Weekly and The New Yorker, among other places. Friday’s The Australian Financial Review has a selection of the week’s best writing from English-speaking countries everywhere and this is almost always fascinating and beautifully written.

It’s interesting to see the variation in the use of English and the expression of the different tones and idioms of different cultures, even though they are using the same language. You don’t have to pick up a book or newspaper to see this. When I was travelling on the ferry from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye I noticed a public sign that said:

‘You are respectfully asked to keep your footwear off the upholstery.’

It struck me as comically polite since I come from a country where, for example, in Melbourne there are signs on the public rubbish bins in the streets that depict a weird-looking monster yelling:

‘PUT IT IN THE BIN!’ (or rather ‘PUT IN BIN!’ as I see from Sue Hardisty’s photo of one.)


Melbourne rubbish bin. Photo by Sue Hardisty

I wish I’d taken photos of both these signs to illustrate this blog but I was not thinking so far ahead. Happily, my Melbourne friend Sue just took a photo of the rubbish bin monster for me. Vita Sackville-West once observed:

‘It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.’

Photography is also a way of clapping the net over the butterfly of the moment. My next ambition is to stop taking photos with my phone and master the digital SLR I bought ages ago and haven’t had the time until now to think about learning how to use.

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