December 10th, 2012

Blaise Pascal wrote:

When I have occasionally set myself to consider the different distractions of men, the pains and perils to which they expose themselves at court or in war, whence arise so many quarrels, passions, bold and often bad ventures, etc., I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.

I see this as Pascal’s version of Siddhartha Gautama’s all suffering arises from desire. I note Pascal’s discovery because John Llewelyn uses the words as the introduction to his own endorsement of David Wood’s The Lure of the Writer’s Cabin.

My own experience of imagining my chamber began with reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden when I was 15 and may have concluded with reading Anne Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker’s Creek some decade-and-a-half later. For me, my chamber is my desk, inherited from my paternal grandmother who, I believe, had it from her own Welsh grandfather. My fiction, with the exception of work done at workshops, has all been written at this desk and while it may sit someday in a cabin of my own construction, my desk defines my space regardless of where the four legs stand.

Someday I may build (or have built) my own writing cabin, but waiting for the perfect space is just another form of fear too many manifest as writer’s block. The master can write in the middle of Grand Central Station during the morning rush.

I strive for mastery.

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