Teeming Black Scrawl

by Steve

Last week I read W.G. Sebald’s A Place In The Country, a collection of essays on his favourite writers. Within I found the beginnings of a roadmap for writing:

The art of writing is the attempt to contain the teeming black scrawl which everywhere threatens to gain the upper hand, in the interests of maintaining a halfway functional personality.

And also…

Less heroically, but certainly no less correctly, one could also see writing as a continually self-perpetuating compulsive act, evidence that, of all individuals afflicted by the disease of thought, the writer is perhaps the most incurable.

These struck me as pretty peerless explanations, alibis, excuses even, for writing, for trying to write. I’d like to write these messages on a wall somewhere.

There is something nagging, something trying to get out, or something to be untangled.

I often understand what I think through the act of writing, rather than it being a simple act of transcribing my conclusions. Sometimes, often, what I read back isn’t necessarily what I meant, but holds some kind of truth anyway. It is a failure, but it gets me closer to some sort of truth, it articulates something.

One of the writers Sebald explores is Robert Walser, so I’ve been reading him too. He adds to the roadmap:

We don’t need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.

There is so much in these few words – a distillation of what I like to read and what I want to write. It is all there, all there in the ordinary.

I feel like I should continue gathering these clues, these fragments, as some sort of instruction and some sort of consolation. And act upon them.

I stare out of the window, then scribble some words, tame that black scrawl, purge that disease of thought, all while looking out at the ordinary, so much there, too much to articulate, the train moves so fast. But I try anyway. I have my guides, will keep gathering their thoughts, their reflections, their help.

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