For over thirty years I taught high school English. Much of the time it was my privilege to teach the Advanced Placement English class. These are the cream of the crop in English from the senior class. They are bright, high achieving, literate kids. At the same time I was teaching, I also worked on my own fiction. I found it interesting how often what I presented to them impacted me.
On of my favorite poems to share was "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," I didn't realize it could be seen as a description of writing, from the "Let us go then, you and I," as an image of the writer talking to himself about what the story will be, to the essential problem in plotting, which is will I "Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?"
The poem is filled with writing-relevant observations. What is writing, after all, if it isn't "time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions"? When I'm contemplating a story, I wonder, "Do I dare?" and "How should I presume?" and, of course, "How should I begin?"
Like Prufrock, I believe sometimes that "I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker," and how often have I written a line where I immediately thought, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not it, at all"? I have felt at times that my writing is "Politic, cautious and meticulous; full of high sentence but a bit obtuse; at times, indeed, almost ridiculous" because, after all, "It is impossible to say just what I mean!"
And if the mermaids are the muses, is it possible that "I have heard the mermaids singing each to each. I do not think they will sing to me"?
Thank goodness, though, that I am not Prufrock, because he asks all these questions of himself and concludes that he will not force the moment to its crisis, that he will not dare to eat a peach.
He will not disturb the universe, while I always try to.