Ideas

On Rilde and Uncertainly

“A letter must happen to one like a surprise, and one may not know where in the day there was room for it to come into being.“

The quote above from a letter by Rainier Rilke speaks not only to letter writing, but writing in general. To the incessant uncertainty writers experience; of what will come to the page, and once it is there, from where it might have arrived.

This kind of looseness, this slippery footing, is a boon and a bane. A boon when it arrives, complete and unexpected from work done earlier and in other ways. Rilke describes this process so well in the same letter:

“For the many experiences and impressions are still heaped up in me in such disorder and chaos that I do not want to touch them. Like a fisherman who comes home late at night, I can guess only vaguely at my catch from the burden of the nets and must wait for the morrow in order to count it and enjoy it”

When, however, our day’s catch isn’t offered up to heap upon our pages, manna for our editors, we so often think we should just sit down. Just do it. Do the work, make it happen, make it good: rejection hits fast and bruises, criticism cuts quick, deadlines beat about us like ducks in a squall. “Publish or perish” voices tell us. These are the sirens: beware. But also be aware of them. Uncertainty can be a tricky temptress. Embrace her and succumb to aimlessness, eschew her and drown in the pools of mediocrity.

Good Read

In the Winnipeg Free Press today, writer and historian Alan Levine writes a great article on Publishing in Canada and elsewhere. Check out the link here. It’s an interesting read.

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Did Douglas and McIntye succumb to the power of the Big 3 Publishing Houses, which themselves are soon to become the Big 2 ?

Will this undermine publishing even further? It seems uncertainty still reigns.

Our writing lives just got a lot more uncertain

On the day of my first blogging foray into the uncertain world of fiction writing, preeminent Canadian publishing house Douglas and McIntyre announced it is filing for bankruptcy.

Obviously this news defined my first blog.

Uncertainty in writer’s lives looms larger with every publisher that stops publishing, every bookseller that stops selling and every writer who can no longer bring their work to audiences.

Is today’s news serendipity for me? Food for Blog? A cosmic underscoring of the multitude of manners in which the writing life is less than certain? All of these? None of them? No matter. It is profoundly sad for Canadians, readers, writers, booksellers and editors, and for all who know that the fabric of a country is enriched by the diversity and abundance of literary threads that run through it. From Belleville’s Susana Moody to Montreal’s Mordecai Richler to Calgary’s Aretha van Herk, Canada has been observed, defined and created by those who have chosen to wade deep into the long uncertain field of fiction writing.

I “liked’ one Facebook post that noted if Douglas and McIntyre was a bank or an oil company it would be bailed out. I wondered to myself, do bankers, executives, rig workers and tellers lead more certain lives than we?

Heads up.

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