To Be Prolifig in an Emergency

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Quantity is Quality’s alternatif—and suffers by comparison—in proverbial thinking. Self-editing, restraint—these are as essential to greatness as they are injurious to output, while a neglection of self-editing—a lax curatorial process—is essential to mediocrity. At least where I’m from, abundance smacks of compulsion, of excess. And it is so intuitively understood as preclusive of quality that sheer volume of output is sometimes used as evidence unto itself of a writer’s hack status—I’m thinking of dismissive arguments I’ve heard or read against Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, William T. Vollmann, Megan Boyle, Steve Roggenbuck, et al. (No one dismisses Emily Dickinson anymore—but they used to!) A similar type of contempt is afforded those who operate in an abundance of styles or media—like Bill Knott or James Franco. Two-disc rock albums, high-page-count novels are all of them vulnerable to being labeled indulgent. As much as we Americans fancy ourselves gluttonous materialists—good consumers—we yet hold many taboos against abundance—more than against austerity. This is all to say that prolificity—of works, styles, whatever—is easy to despise.

When I think to myself, I want to be prolifig, what do I mean—operationally—in the moment? Ostensibly, prolificity is a function of longevity and speed—it’s the attainment of some unstated minimum quantity. It can only describe a writing practice or body of work in the aggregate. But translated to the moment, its essence is URGENCY. There’s no time to hem and haw over every little clumsy phrase—hem and haw, for example—you have to get it out. It has to flow. To be prolifig in an emergency is to perform less self-censorship, to fret less over my disapproving angels, to write. This PROLIFIG URGENCY bears on the inward-outward struggle, which figures in “Some Notes on Orgasmig Form” and which dogs me still. The prolifig writer can’t afford to hate objects, just as she can’t afford to hate herself, because being prolifig means reaching into the depths as well as scraping from the surface—getting it anywhere you can! Self-acceptance, a lack of caution, an emphasis on movement, are all key.

source: To Be Prolifig in an Emergency by R.M. O’Brien


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