#113: Seeing

Black and white, hairy mountain, clouds, dabs of light.
Catskills, NY

I remember reading in a book years ago about how one particular synesthete experiences the number pi. I’m not looking it up because it’s the memory that’s relevant here; it’s the memory that I’ve been working with in this week’s writing.

I remember it like this: to him, pi is less a series of individual digits written on a mental chalkboard than it is the line of infinitely long and varied curve, the edge of a rolling hill stretching across the horizon. He needs only to zoom in on a part of the line to see the microcurves that intimate the digits themselves. The way I see this in my head, this description, it’s less a mere unpinch zoom and much more fractal and plenoptic, more the way your eye can hone in on something without losing the whole, the way that detail is suddenly there, and not only that, it’s ALWAYS been there.

As you know from my letters I employ a range of metaphors for the writing process and it’s at this stage, close to the completion of the third draft, that the pi analogy fits best. I’m looking more closely, seeing more of the microcurves of that larger line: the way the mental reader’s mental image of a place or person emerges with each detail; the way characters’ motivations change in dance with each line of dialogue. Writing a novel is an act memorizing the novel, and memorizing the novel helps more vividly seeing. The challenge, as with all seeing, is slowing down enough to do it well.

Eight days till deadline, and a few lacunae are inevitable. But that’s why we have early readers. And editors …