I’m reading The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (also House Of Leaves, too, but that one I need moments away from as it is definitely challenging), a book that explores the quiet egos and fraternity among 1970s Air Force pilots (alongside their Evel Knievel-like, veering on morbid, appetite for exhilaration). Later, Wolfe will dive into the physiological effects astronauts experience as they soar through layers of strata, but I have not yet reached that point. Though these professions are clearly far removed from my own, I relate to certain modes of operation on a superficial level, especially when it comes to writing. Part of this is due, I think, just to the way Wolfe writes; his prose feels so immediate. His words are fresh because of the way he strings them together. It’s so unique to him, like vibrant bursts of flames roiling off the tongue, and The Right Stuff reads as if he wrote it merely an hour or two ago.
Wolfe submerges the reader into the realm of air sport through his style of saturation journalism; you feel as though he was camped out in the back of the plane, zooming through atmosphere alongside the pilots he writes so fiercely and intimately about. He transports the reader to the same place, to the deep purple sky ”at the edge of space, where the stars and the moon came out at noon, in an atmosphere so thin that the ordinary laws of aerodynamics no longer applied and a plane could skid into a flat spin like a cereal bowl on a waxed Formica counter and then start tumbling, not spinning and not diving, but tumbling, end over end like a brick…”
He writes magic. If magic could be categorized into types, I’d say his is a shiny, plastic, Andy Warhol-esque magic, and Wolfe is the warlock in the bright white suit (it’s actually his uniform).
Now in no way am I trying to say that how I feel when I write is akin to a state of oxygen-deprived euphoria veering on the sublime galactic experience, but I relate to the isolation; to the being in a chamber all by myself and peering into the dark, star-filled sky before the sun comes up out of the astral black to breathe. It’s the absolute best time to write, the time the pilots go up to fly:
“yes it was beautiful, exhilarating!- for he was revved up with adrenalin, anxious to take off before the day broke, to burst up into the sunlight over the ridged before all those thousands of comatose souls down there, still dead to the world, snug in home and hearth, even came to their senses.”
Writing before dawn is the most peaceful time to write, and it’s when my head is the clearest. It’s the closest I feel writing is to becoming a magical process, because as Neil Gaiman says, most writing is simply putting one word after another. The blips of divine affinity for one’s writing is rare, and so these moments, of course, are to be savored.