Richard Bausch #8

by eatonhamilton


Richard Bausch is one of my literary heroes, and he’s told me I can reprint his short advice pieces about writing, which I will do periodically.  The early short fiction books of his that I list below taught me to love the shape and scope of stories; he’s a gorgeous stylist with heartbreaking things to say about our world.  His story ‘The Fireman’s Wife’ dragged me over the coals; I’ve never forgotten it.

Reprise # 8

Work in the perfect confidence that: 1.) it is going to be harder work than you have ever done; 2.) it will not yield its secrets easily; 3.) it will drive you a bit crazy until it surprises you and even then the surprise will have other complications that will drive you a little more nuts; 4.) it will seem to open with perfect simplicity like a flower in sunlight in the first fresh morning of Spring, and then close on you like an iron door manned by six guards of the inquisition—and, 5.) all of this being true, you cannot truly hurt it. You can only make it necessary to do it again, to get into its little dark grottoes and work it, and let the opening and closing and the secrets and the falterings take place knowing that you cannot hurt it. You absolutely cannot ruin it. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You can not permanently harm it. It is not made of glass, but of LANGUAGE, that sweet and glorious possession, that is there like a guiding spirit, wanting to give you everything. Just be worthy of it and try to let go of expecting it to dance on command. It must be courted, cajoled and appreciated even for its inconsistencies. YOU must forgive your own clumsiness and failures of insight in the moment. The thing is tidal. Trust the beauty of it, and don’t over worry it. It WANTS to yield its treasure. You only have to be very, very patient, and quietly stubborn.