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InsideOut



insideout
Banksy: Shop Until You Drop [Street art, Mayfair, London] (2011)
"I wonder if there's much of a market for that."

As my Authoring effort has focused my attention on the product of my writing, I've been spending afternoon hours actually reading what I've written. I finally submit to this work—and it genuinely feels like work to me—after procrastinating on significantly less important activities. I hesitate before reentering the Proofing space, and I consider this reluctance to be part of the experience. It's information. I'm not merely proofreading, of course, but also for the first time experiencing what it's like to be one of my readers. I sit in the chair across the room from myself and observe with great curiosity and almost equal dread. It seems somehow unnatural for someone to so closely observe himself. I sense that I might be toying with one of the inviolable boundaries like a space/time continuum. I feel concerned that I might alter an earlier self or glimpse from perspectives that I was never supposed to suspect, let alone perceive. I'm only wondering how I might describe this manuscript. Is it Little Red Riding Hood or The Boy Who Cried Wolf? What makes this different from its many siblings?

I sense that I'm dabbling in an InsideOut, for my writing seems to echo my ongoing internal narrative.
I recognize my voice in it. It's all my voice, phrased just the way I speak to myself if not always to anyone out in the world. This makes reading my writing so different for me. I take a break from Proofing to read something, anything, by a different author. Jeffrey Archer this week, whose prose does not even distantly resemble mine. My mind stands down from its full on alert when I set aside my manuscript and pen to scan the newspaper, which, too, I notice, seems to have been written in a different kind of voice than I employ in my writing. Not better or worse, but definitely different to my eye, to my ear, my inner ear, which hears every word I read. When I read my manuscript, my inner ear hears my voice coming off the page and I find this experience moving and strange. Unsettling.

Unsettling but not necessarily off-putting. I yesterday afternoon, caught myself enjoying my efforts. I kept glimpsing a me I rather warmly remember, one who inhabited a different world, pre-pandemic with no notion that a cataclysmic contagion would soon overtake his world. I could finish my sentences, an intimacy rarely granted even between myself and I, a powerful property and sense. I knew this guy. He was not precisely as I might have remembered him unbidden, but I recognized his speech patterns, his sentence constructions, his word choices. I caught on, eventually, that I was experiencing what it might be like to interact with me, a great and disorienting gift. I was not interested in dressing up my performance to meet some external standard. I was not attempting to copyedit my life to improve its attractiveness. I had apparently accurately chronicled my experience, for there it was, there it still is, voice intact, meaning terribly inexact. What were those stories about? Nothing specific, just everything and nothing. They really seemed to have captured my manner of living.

I sensed that I was glimpsing myself not merely walking around naked, but moving around the world with my insides out and on display. Not guts and bones inside out, but my inner dialogue inverted so that it was as if I'd blurted not just what I really thought but how I was thinking, how I was decomposing experiences into meaning. In the part I was reading yesterday, I was repainting the front of the house, but I spoke little about actually painting. I chose instead to capture how I was considering the effort, what the preparation work might mean in deeper contexts. My history with that house face showed up and so did my aspirations and my reactions and my complaints. The result was a vivid description that included very little action. A paint job without paint, which I did not even mention. The color didn't enter into those stories, either. This perfectly represented my internal experience of painting a house. It's never about color or the process for me, but about those internal dialogues. At one point, a passer-by asked the protagonist (me!) what kind of paint he'd used. He was dumbstruck and couldn't answer except to confide that paint had nothing to do with the final appearance, or very little. It was as if he'd broken my trance and I flunked the final exam. I had not been painting for a fortnight, but engaging in an intricate conversation with myself. That's how the manuscript read to me.

"Hey, mister, that's me up on the jukebox," James Taylor once sang, and I can relate to his experience, for that's me between the covers of that manuscript, too. I'm uncertain that, even when I finish Proofing this one, I'll have developed a crisp and coherent elevator explanation of what this story's about, just like, with decades of practice, I'm still mostly speechless about what I'm about. I'm still emerging, still evolving, still in abject conversation whatever else I might seem to be doing. Is it this way for everyone? I wonder because I don't know. For me, my internal life seems primary, but then with This Damned Pandemic, nobody seems to have that much of an external life these days. I remember, though, back into my distant and murky past, when I was employed full time out there in the mysterious so-called real world, that I'd have to escape sometimes to take a walk in the Park Blocks just to hear myself think, where my foreground wasn't overwhelmed with listening and giving impromptu status reports. That world deafened me, lived largely externally. When I came home at night, I wanted to hide in the basement until I could hear my tiny, almost insignificant internal voice again, whispering, whimpering. My internal voice, no longer almost insignificant, dominated that manuscript. I wonder if there's much of a market for that.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved







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