Monday, 27 April 2015

What happens on the other side of an interdiction?

Spending so much time preoccupied with the surplus of the predecessor, the need to annihilate the ancestor, and the abusive superiority of the precedent, made me think of interdictions. All of the above are – aren’t they? – founded on things prohibited in a past that I am compelled to observe without questioning, since that past (along with its multitude of predicaments) belongs in a tradition that is my home, my identity, my Self.

By the judgment of this tradition, not allowing the antecedent to lodge in the present tense is an act of rebellion, and therefore it must be prescribed under the rubrics of the verboten.

Cycles, circles

We take interdictions to be denials, and this assumption generates desire packed-up with a lot of pressure: the pressure of temptation. The biblical apple tells precisely this story of the will to act posed against the directive to halt agency. And as there, the least permissive the interdiction, the more we want to be there, on the other side of it: to be part of the elite that is allowed to roam freely on the other side.
But then there’s something about that interdiction that’s not quite denial but precisely the contrary of it: permission, invitation, authorisation. This is what causes the enthusiasm and the pleasure that come with the forbidden fruit. We bite into it and we close our eyes in bliss. That's the positive side of things, the beautiful dream of ours. But that's not where the problem is. The problem is precisely on the other side. Once we’re there, once we’ve been granted access, the initial attitude changes. The initial euphoria turns, quite quickly, into habit. The habit of being the possessor of a formerly interdicted object dilutes the object’s value a great deal. That’s how ancestors become issues of little interest. When, virtually and practically, anybody can be the ancestor, there’s no point trying to defend the axiom of uniqueness.
Miracles are no longer miracles if they take place every day. Imagine a world where everybody has acquired the ability of walking on water. The fact, while certainly providing everyone with a much-cherished skill, will, at the same time, downplay the same skill. There will be no more excitement in a world of Jesuses strolling on the surface of a river on their way to work. I’d take this hypothesis even further and say I’m quite sure most of us would return to catching a bus for the same purpose. There would be more excitement there: at least the surprise of meeting forgotten friends or seeing the intricate unfolding of life in real-time.
On the other side of an interdiction we would reconsider the limits of rebellion. Every revolution requires a focus, but every focus requires objects of desire. When the desired object has been acquired, out goes the revolution too. And most inevitably, every revolution is followed (or so history is teaching us) by long massacres, when the most viciously executed victims are the most fervent among the former supporters. So, on the other side of an interdiction a gap is created, where new insurgencies become possible, indeed desired.

Source: Wikipedia
In other words, on the other side of an interdiction there will be another interdiction. The story goes full circle; it will never reach a point of no return. Like Ouroboros eating its own tail, there is never an end to our desire to want.

Desire without fulfillment

Maybe the acquisition of a desired object is, then, not the best thing to do. In any case, not the one to guarantee satisfaction. Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière, in their conversations on the past and future of the book, point out this thing about collectors: many of them are not interested in the enjoyment that comes with possession. They’re more excited at the thought of the acquisition itself. As soon as a new entrant occupies a place in their collection, they are willing to sell it, and for a price sometimes lower than the initial payment. Such are the pleasures of those who see their desires fulfilled. And such is the extent of the desire to desire: the need to be forever short of something crucially important.
Jacques Lacan was able to develop (via Melanie Klein, via Freud) an entire theory of the so-called objet petit a. The unfulfillable desire that comes with an object that, once lost, will never be acquired again (ever!) – this is what the theory is about at its most basic. There is always an object (degradable yet renewable) that requires our immediate wish to possess. There is always an object, that is, which appears to the subject as an expression of the Other: exterior, independent, exceptional, different. This object is not static. It is not given as an absolute. On the contrary, it is subjected to a perpetual process of transformation – a process of becoming.
Interdictions fit very well this attempt at a definition, insofar as interdictions are always conceived of in relation to objects that cannot be attained – that mustn’t be attained. So that all the work the subject is capable of doing is reducible to a continuous projection towards a fantasy, towards a fiction that tantalizes the self.
Production of a surplus, generation of an event, redistribution of the once-known/once-had, invention of a predecessor…


The acquired object suddenly becomes redundant. What was once the apple of paradise is now peanut butter on any preschooler’s sandwich. The object reaches this stage of democratization through a moment of crisis with a double ramification. On the one hand, the object is found be on a deviant course, advancing farther and farther away from its centre of significance (i.e. it is less and less important). On the other hand, the possessor of this object discovers that the world of interdicted objects is much larger than it was believed to be, and that the appeal of that new world is as great as it has always been, if not catastrophically greater. This awakening is the revelation of one’s fundamental ignorance. But it’s tempting to be there, where one is embarrassed by one’s own lack of knowledge, because being there promises the acquisition of some knowledge: one’s knowledge of one’s own lack of knowledge. The Socratic paradox: scio me nihil scire.
That’s how interdictions work. They promise and, by promising, prohibit. They make room for error because it’s in errors that the desire to try again resides.

Source: Jeroen van Honk
Saint Augustine, the guardian of interdictions, once said that if a man were able to rise above humanity he would find himself in an even more horrible situation, being alone in a stratosphere where the universe reveals itself to be even larger, more threatening than it was while he was among his fellow humans. In a sense, this is a metaphorical pronouncement of the same principle: what lies on the other hand of an interdiction is an even larger set of interdictions. Only Saint Augustine wanted this to be the mother of all interdictions. He wanted it to persuade us of the futility of all things human. He posed the temporal imperfection of humanity against the eternity of the divine. And, for many centuries, we believed this to be the case.
Gradually, though, we have come to see that the pleasure acquired from challenging interdictions is just as infinite as the paradise that lies untouchable beyond the borders of our world. That’s how we ended up writing to acquire a sense of accomplishment from words, the most elusive objects of language.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Writing and a necessary divorce

Whatever the angle from which we choose to look at the problem of the predecessor, one thing is certain: in order to be, in order to speak, the predecessor must be sacrificed. Otherwise life with him/her is impossible.

Living with the predecessor is like dragging yourself through an impossible marriage. Like a spouse who wouldn’t let go, the antecedent comes as a compulsion as well as an interdiction. Their work needs to be known in order to avoid tautology, but at the same time it needs to be avoided - and for the same reason. As such, he/she parasitizes the present act of writing to the point where it causes the writing self to be stuck in a state of mute inaction. Some forms of the legendary writer’s block are caused precisely by this fear of the words already uttered. The writer who fears this, fears the look of the words on the page because the appearance of those words will be the confirmation of the forbidden repetition.

Source: Wikipedia

Divorcing the forebears

As I have been insisting for some time now, the precedent has to be annihilated. This is not only an imperative; it is also the way things are.
Take the cult of the ancestor. The immense respect the thinking/writing subject appears to pay to those who came before them is in fact an attempt at removing said ancestors from the immediacy of life.
The concreteness of life is refused to the dead; it remains the exclusive domain of the living. Think. Nothing in life is venerated. In life, things happen. They happen without significance. In order for significance to be attached to them, these things-that-happen need to be looked at in hindsight. At the moment of the encounter they were nothing. They started being (and becoming) once they were removed from the realm of the unconscious and the trivial.
The ancestor is in a similar situation. They exist now because they have passed the test of significance. They are now venerated. They mean something. They have, indeed, an excess of meaning. But it’s precisely this respect with which they are regarded that pushes them aside. Through veneration, the ancestor is delegated to the domain of the special. There are festivities dedicated to them; there are special marks in the calendar to remind the living of their pre-existence.
This is the crux of the matter: in order to exist, the ancestor needs to be brought into existence; they need to be remembered. Membered again, piece by piece, the bones put together again so as to recreate the skeleton, the flesh pasted onto those bones to generate the person whose veneration is the object of the cult.

Of parasites and cults

The ancestor can only come to be through an effort of the living. This effort, this energy spent in bringing about an object of veneration that no longer exists, transforms the predecessor into a parasite.
In medical terms, a parasite is an organism that lives upon another organism, which is chosen as host because it is a functioning organism - an organism that produces. A parasite, therefore, is an organism that doesn’t produce; it only consumes, and it consumes that which the host has brought into being through labour.
So the parasite feeds on the host’s labour. In order to allow the parasite to live, the host needs to work twice as hard. Therefore, the nonproductive parasite is really, in the most medical of senses, a burden.

Source: Kevin Sloan
The ancestor is a burden because it forces the living to deploy twice as much energy than what would have been needed in a concrete, day-to-day life sequence. The ancestor is a surplus that needs to be taken care of. To ease this burden, a techné needs to be developed. A techné, i.e. a craft, as well as a trick. This techné, with its operations and affordances, consists of a radical separation from the ancestor. The holidays that result from the compulsion to venerate, the offerings, the special dishes one cooks in order to please the ancestors, all these things are operations of this techné. Repetition, which is the principal mechanism in the machinery of a cult and at the same time the function of a techné that works, is at the same time remembrance and reassurance.
By repeating the ritual of veneration, the subject sighs in relief knowing that the parasite is well fed at low costs. Doing things the way they need to be done means, in reality, reducing energy to the minimum. If the cult was well put together and well implemented among the subjects, one does not need to labour and come up with ways of venerating. Those ways have already been devised.
Tradition is built on shortcuts.
The ancestor is fed on leftovers.
Their very image is replicated on cheap paper.
Venerated ancestors generate more kitsch than any hated predecessor.
Hatred would have required, indeed, originality - homelessness, unrecognizability, perpetual renewal. See how many ways we are still devising to hate Hitler, to reject Stalin, to accuse the Devil. But how little we really do to love Christ, Mahomed, the Buddha.
The ancestor that demands respect demands in fact the simple techné of repetition. And repetition is simply a way of putting the ancestors to rest.
The fact that repetition is so simple, perhaps horribly easy to perform, is the reason why institutions, discourses, ideologies have been devised. They have come not as aids to the ancestors but as ways of imposing the authority of their own memory. They don’t complicate things in any way. On the contrary, they simplify them, in the sense that they estrange the ancestors even further, by hiding them behind rituals that are more important than the ancestors themselves.

An end to love?

So the festival commemorating the ancestor is a reminder of the separation created between the living and the dead. The ancestor must go, must be hidden behind ritual and felicity in order to be present at all; in order not to come as a perceivable burden (which would radically change their status from something cherished into something loathed).
Yes, the annihilation of the predecessor is embedded in things. It comes with veneration itself. Without reducing them to the status of special events (i.e. things that don’t occur very often) the predecessors would be too much to bear.
Without this annihilation, the predecessor would be a cause of perpetual anxiety. An ancestor too present would transform the worshiper into a depressive.
So now it should be quite easy to see that the rejection of the precedent that comes with every act of creation (with every renewal) is the natural, organic way of things. The world should not rage against the original, since the original (that which belongs to the source) is the only way out of the aporias perpetually created by traditions.
Tradition is, indeed, a state of being stuck, of being immobilized by the pressure of repetition. There’s nowhere to go. There’s only here to stay: a here that is perpetual (the here of the ritual).
But this being-stuck is, funnily enough, the way out of the problem I have described as the surplus of the precedent. If the predecessor is kept within this repeatable cycle, he/she is no longer a threat (if by threat we understand the threat of the original, of the unprecedented). Hence prayers that demand love, ceremonies that promise bliss.
Love, the easy way out of the problem...
Love, the unconditional compliance...
Love, the desertion of reason...
Love, the barrier to questioning...
Love, the acceptance of dogmas...
Love, the end of strife...
Love, the beautiful but oh, so permissive...
This is true insofar as a loop is only one loop, one of the many possible loops, one of the particles of sand in a vast desert.
Love is not one Love but many loves – particular, regimented loves; they make sense in closed (and enclosed) systems and cannot migrate into other systems. The Christian principle of agápē annuls these particular loves; but, generous and promising as it may seem, it proposes a utopia, a quasi-impossibility, since “love of all” is impossible in the world.

Source: Raichel Williamson
When Gilles Deleuze spoke of deterritorialization (this complicated, barbarous term that makes tongues twist), he spoke of a necessity to dissolve the borders of territories, to break the cycle that creates those loops, to open the world. To do so one needs to accept the challenge of being homeless again, of being barbarous like the word that describes the situation, of arriving at things by a back alley, furtively, like petty criminals who steal what’s not their own. Like thieves, like plagiarists.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Writing after the precedent

In academic environments, for instance, the precedent is given as bliss; a surplus, yes, but one that must be embraced as a literal source: a spring, a birthplace, a cradle, a home. Being with the source (and at the source) is, here, a being-home. And indeed, it is only in the formulation of the precedent that one can find one’s home. According to this logic, to be without a precedent (which is to say, to be original) is to be homeless, in the most fundamental sense of the word.

Because this homelessness is hard to bear, an entire project has been created for the elimination of the predecessor. Indeed, there is no such thing as poetry without the rejection of the forerunner. As Robert Pinsky has pointed out somewhere, poetry is always what it is not, insofar as poetry can only say something that doesn’t already exist. In order for poetry to be creative it has to formulate something from scratch. Otherwise it is mere epigonism, unproductive repetition, pleonastic nonsense. So here we have the to-be-or-not-to-be of creativity: to be with a predecessor, and therefore redundant, or not to be with a predecessor, and therefore acknowledged as original.
Of course, we are familiar with this project of the rejection of precedence, because we are citizens of postmodernity, and its discourse of demythification is familiar to us. It has given us plenty of space to think of precedence as something we might be better without.

Whacking the forerunner

There is a "contamination anxiety" shaping the artistic choices of writers in general. Jonathan Lethem says it is a symptom of modernism. If what one fears in relation to the source is its ability to contaminate (to impose itself as a necessary repetition), then the source is in truth not venerated but abhorred. The source needs to be buried under the weight of its own significance, never to see the light of day again. If such is the case, then the original/initial is a parasite: one that parasitizes literature – insofar as we think of literature as a domain that renews itself all the time, instead of accepting to be caught up in the continuous loop of reiteration.

Source: Alcalde
The parasitical original/initial stands there, in the middle of everything (whence it can radiate its venom) like an inconvenience. It upsets the natural flow of things. It grows like a boil about to burst. And because of that it needs to be evicted, excised, operated out; removed like a gangrene. Any discussion of precedence needs to employ this language of repugnance if the writer were to be liberated from the terror of antecedence.
This aspect becomes apparent when the predecessor has grown to a size where it cannot be avoided. When it has become an automatic reference, a mental trick the role of which is to sort out the inconvenience of creativity, this source (this precedence that exceeds) disturbs purely and simply. It has no other function than that of inhibition. And its shadow is cast so thickly upon all acts of creation that no exercise can ever come out immaculate, unaltered, un-referenced. Take the example of the Bible, of Shakespeare, of the Classics. When they come up in any context they take the shape of ‘it goes without saying.’ It’s this ‘without saying’ that is troublesome to the writer who is striving to make a name for him/herself. This writer arrives at the feast of recognition already burdened by a name that is not their own. Their very name has already been worn by others, hijacked by them, stolen before the acknowledgment of any presence (their own presence most importantly).
So the ideal situation for a beginner would be to ignore this precedence that obstructs his development. To ignore it, i.e. to make it seem invisible. One would have to write, therefore, with the only intention of hiding the traces of the forerunner. Every instance of writing will have to be an affirmation of one’s originality, even when that originality is a figment of one’s imagination.
But this project would be forever obstructed by the affirmative presence of the discourse that stands behind writing. The discourse, the overwhelming precedent of all forms of creative action, poses the precedent as necessary. Only someone growing in the shadow of a precedent can be counted as significant to a discourse. They would have to acknowledge the shadow even in the most original of their moments. Because there is no situation worse than that of a poet without precedents. That’s what the Academia will argue.

The foreigner that speaks better

The fear of the one-without-precedent is the typical fear of originality, insofar as the original is terrible. Let us say it again: the original is impolite, distinctive; in other words, the original is truly foreign.
The antidote to barbarism is subjection to familiarity. And here is where the precedent is in its most powerful state. The precedent is a guarantor. Without it, the city may crumble. Without it, there will be no rules. Without it (to embody a seventeenth-century fear of John Locke), humanity is likely to return to its state of pre-humanity: a state without laws, without governing bodies, and therefore without foreigners.

In the land of the precedent everything must fall under the rubric of domestic familiarity. The whole family, down to the newborn, needs to know perfectly well the extent of the precedent in order to reconstruct the entire genealogical tree of the family’s ‘romance.’ And so, the problem of the precedent isn’t quite a problem of the poet alone, but one that transgresses professional or artistic boundaries.
But the poet is the figure we are interested in, because in the poet it is easier to trace the trajectory of thoughts; because the poet writes or memorizes, and therefore, brings along with him/herself the specter of the predecessor. With his (inherited – how else?) ability to inscribe, a poet materializes this specter better than any other sign-maker, because it’s in the case of the poet that the dependence on the precedent appears in the form of an artistic culpability. I take this from Harold Bloom, who mentions “the only guilt that matters to a poet, the guilt of indebtedness.”
A poet cannot speak without speaking the language of someone who spoke before. And the antecedence of this speech act is sure to (im)pose the precedent as a guest: a foreigner, someone who comes from outside the current event, like a specter that haunts.
So the precedent is a foreigner who speaks. And one whose speech is taken to be a better form of expression. The cult of ancestors depends on this better-saying in order to assert a tradition whose sole purpose is to salvage the future from its straying away from the source.

A battle against redundancy

The project of writing-after-the-precedent takes shape under the spasms caused by the fear of tautology. Tautology, i.e. the thing already said and which can't be said again because saying-again is punishable by law (the law of grammar or that of logic, it matters not).
Tautology comes about as an interdiction in its own right, one rhetorical in nature but which poses precisely the problem of the precedent as a necessary absence. In order for the precedent to be acknowledged it has to be obliterated. It has to be acknowledged as non-presence. Pure absence, as Jacques Derrida has pointed out, is not exactly the way to put the problem in relation to the trace. A trace is not a lack. A trace is always already present, always already formulating the present event, the present utterance.

Source: Write Right
A trace, i.e. a presence of the precedent as an absence-that-matters, is something akin to inscriptions, where what is being inscribed is always already there in the form of a discourse that returns. Of course, this discourse is pushed to the margins all the time, minimized, reduced to an apparent absence, in order to maximize its efficiency. Discourses are productive only if they are well hidden; if their subjects don’t get a glimpse of the game that is being played in the background. That’s why Derrida insists on the absent presence that characterizes a trace. With the trace in full sight, the discourse would be exposed (and therefore lose its efficiency). Without it, the discourse would thrive, because it is the absence that articulates its power, its very possibility to be. So in order to avoid discursive suicide, the trace (the precedent) has to go; it has to be as though it had never been. But this is far from being a killing of the precedent. On the contrary, it marks the consolidation of its position. A precedent that isn’t perceived as present is a precedent capable of influence. One can see this in the case of truisms, where the impossibility to locate the precedent is truly frustrating, but where one knows that the precedent exists because one can see its effects.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Writing and the surplus of the precedent

It is in the process of re-production mentioned in my last week’s that one encounters the anxiety of writing. This re-production makes apparent that the predecessor is always a deterrent, insofar as he is, chronologically as well as conceptually, the firstborn.

By acknowledging the fact of the re-production of ideas, one becomes aware of what I would like to call the surplus of the precedent. This is an excess impossible to escape, since writing is, by its very nature, an act of production. As production is progression from nothing to something, producing means bringing about a surplus: an object that didn't exist before. And so, every inscription is an excess. But the surplus I started to talk about last week is that of the predecessor. And this is what I'm going to talk about now as well, even at the risk of producing dreadful repetitions.

The difficulty of freedom

The fact that ideas have a history means, of course, that there was a time when they did not exist. But locating that time, that paradise of signification where one could pick and choose from a range of virgin ideas roaming freely the green pastures of pre-meaning, is an operation hard to perform. Not only would it take endless effort to identify that time of spotlessness, but arriving at a conclusion (provided such arrival is possible at all) would bring little satisfaction to the finder.

Wenceslas Hollar, The Sword of Damocles. Source: Huffington Post
What is more important in this equation, though, is, once again, the awareness one acquires of the pre-existence of their own ideas. With this major breakthrough, one comes to the realisation that there is room for one’s own idea in the world; that the world is permissive insofar as the absorption of concepts is concerned. But at the same time one finds out, quite brutally, that the way concepts work has little to do with the falsely glorified assertion of freedom. The spirit that roams freely is a myth that goes nicely with all the other romaticisms related to writing. That is, it goes straight in the basket of busted myths. If anything, the individuality that creates grows extremely anxious at the acknowledgment of patterns. One finds out, for instance, that there is a form in which ideas need to be put, be they beautiful or glorious or absolutely novel, as the case may be. While this is supposed to provide reassurance and to calm the spirit that doesn't know what to do with the so-called freedom, in reality the recognition of patterns causes doubt, degringolade, anxiety. When many can do one thing, and when that thing is so well delimited that little escapes from the confines of possibility, the likelihood of another's doing it better looms over the entire project like the sword of Damocles.
The way out of this impasse is the way of originality. But in order to be original one needs to be without patterns; one needs to work outside genres, outside communities, outside recognition. Unrecognized, one's work is without value, in the sense that there is no axiology in place (yet) to assess the worth of this work without patterns. Originality eventually leads to more anxiety, since to be original means to be in a void, to be where nothing or very little has existed before. And unless one is never anxious in a situation of freedom, the creative act cannot be enjoyed; there can be no jouissance in writing.

Ignorance is bliss

Re-writers need to be oblivious of precedence if they were to operate at all within the field of writing.
It is precisely this oblivion, this need to ignore the fact that a text was written before, that brings along a very powerful element of hope.
Writing in full awareness of the precedence of those who did it before transform the writing process into something like a phobia of repetition. The anxiety of influence, to use now the term so frequently used by literary critics, is the phobia of coming again, of arriving at a text already formulated by a predecessor. That, in the field of creative writing, where success is measured in terms of originality, is doubtlessly problematic. If saying it again is not permitted, then the very act of saying is fraught with a fear of repetition. Hence the anxiety.
The anxious writer who seeks emancipation from this fear perceives the act of inscription as something that has to be without borders. But borders, when it comes to writing, are impossible to ignore. And so, the desire to write in a creative manner is constantly faced with this frightening reality of the other who is always a surplus, in the sense of being a parasite intruding the process of writing not in order to participate creatively but in order to deter. This third element is the reminder that precedence is a fact, and, more significantly, that it is a fact present at this particular moment, while I, the writing individuality, am trying to proceed with my own writing.
Moreover, because the precedent cannot be located with any degree of exactitude, it appears to the subject as a plurality.
To put it in more practical terms, every awareness of the precedent generates a further awareness of an entire plane of precedence, where ideas pre-exist, and along with them the signs that one could use in order to build one’s own idea.

Domenico Feti, Ecce Homo. Source: Zinzendorf Jubilee
And so the creative writer has the privilege as well as the terror of knowing the extent of precedence. To be without this terror, writers have to be able to forget the obvious. They have to be well trained in the art of not recognising a precedent when they see one. This is not unlike the Christian principle of kenosis: Christ's purposeful forgetting of his divine nature, which is the only way he can die on the cross, like a mere mortal. Had he remained divine, he would have never accomplished that most humane act of bleeding to death; conceiving that dying was his utmost gesture of creativity, his point of distinction, his originality.

The eternal game of pain and pleasure

I don’t believe in the myth of the talented writer. But to use this myth as a figure of speech, I would say that a truly talented writer is not one who finds it easy to write but one who finds it easy to perform a slalom between the texts that precede their own text. And this is a form of wisdom rather than one of talent. A wise writer, rather than a talented writer, is capable of seeing the signposts left in the field by their predecessors, and by being able to see them they also become capable of eschewing those signposts before committing the crime (drastically sanctioned by the creative environment in which they operate, and which is founded on the principle of originality) of repetition. Of course, in order to acquire this habit one needs to train oneself. One needs, first and foremost, to learn the conventions of writing. Conventions which act not as aids but as constraints.
“Don’t go there” is the maxim, indeed the warning, that guides a creative writer. The writer who is aware of the possibilities left in the field after everything (or almost everything) has already been said is one who, then, can turn strictures into possibilities.
It’s like in the quasi-absurd joke about the guy who masturbates using a hammer. He bludgeons his sexual organ with all his might and screams in pain every time he hits the target. A friend who sees him asks: Hey, as far as I know, masturbation should cause pleasure. Where is your pleasure?" And the answer is: “I get my pleasure when I miss the target.”

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son. Source: The Masterpiece Cards
The certitude of pain leaves room for very little pleasure. Indeed, pleasure is possible only in an accident, when the hammer doesn't hit the target. The omnipresence of pain that preceded the act has made room for little satisfaction. And one can imagine the protagonist of this anecdote purposefully missing the target, so as to acquire the pleasure associated with the act.

But the point is that restriction (pain) is being turned here into possibility. The pleasure-to-come is worth all the effort and all the (unavoidable) anxiety. Cohabitation with the threat - one of the great truths of writing.