I’m at the point in writing a book where I dream the story when asleep, and continue to dream it when I’m awake. And sometimes the story dreams me. Or the story and I are dreamed together.
I’ve written before about how ego is as toxic to art as it is to life.
I remembered this recently when a person struggling with fear told me, “Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to be a writer.” Not wanted to write, but wanted to be a writer. I think perhaps wanting to be something and wanting to do something are antithetical, and we must choose one or the other. I’m certain no peace can be found in the former.
I keep saying that what I want when I write a novel is to get as close as possible to a blank page while still having a story. When I watch Bresson’s films, I think he was trying to get as close as possible to a blank screen while still having a story.
A couple days ago I watched the Criterion Collection DVD of Pickpocket. Among the extra features is a short film of Paul Schrader talking about the influence it had on him. He mentions his screenplay for Taxi Driver, but for some reason doesn’t mention that the ending of American Gigolo is almost identical to that of Pickpocket.
There are also interviews with the actors, including the elusive Martin LaSalle, who had settled in Mexico City and taken refuge behind a huge beard.
Pickpocket is obviously influenced by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But, at 75 minutes in length, it is stylistically the opposite of that huge, meandering book. It contains only what is necessary, which is why Bresson insisted that there be no acting.
In English, when asking for a description of an experience, we usually ask, “What is it like?”
Perhaps it would be more useful, in writing and thinking, not to automatically fall into comparison, but, instead of showing what it’s like, aim to show what it is.