Saturday, January 01, 2005


A blank notebook, like a new year, is fresh and clean with no mistakes. Also like a new year, the notebook, along with its fairweather friend, the pen, enables one to reflect on the past, as well as look ahead to the future [though in the case of the new year, I suspect the tendency is toward the latter, with the hope that what is to come improves upon what has passed].

So when words are finally put to a pristine blank page, do they chronicle days past, or do they hint at a future as yet unknown? If we are talking about a writer of non-fiction, the most basic manifestation of which is the journal-keeper, then the past is arguably the more widely explored tense. If we are talking about a writer of fiction, the question becomes less straightforward. The answer seems to depend heavily upon genre. A writer of historical fiction obviously looks to the past. But what about the writer of contemporary fiction? Under the assumption that they rely upon autobiographical tidbits, it might be said that the resulting work chronicles the past and/or the present. So when does the future come into play? If writers of fiction practice their craft in earnest, they run the risk of inventing things that have not yet come to pass, and when we think of things that have not yet come to pass, we think of the future. Do writers, then, carry that power? Can their deft manipulation of words be more edifying than previously imagined?

A character in Paul Auster's Oracle Night opines that "sometimes we know things before they happen, even if we aren't aware of it. We live in the present, but the future is inside us at every moment. Maybe that's what writing is all about...not recording events from the past, but making things happen in the future."

I like to think that words are that powerful, and can be wielded as such by a capable writer. With this in mind, I can now embrace the new year, with the knowledge that I can shape it to my will. My tools will be words.

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