Past, present, and future are bound together when Henry Miller is writing. “The past is the springboard, the present the melting pot, and the future the delectation.”
The past is the springboard because it is from the memories of his own experiences that he writes.
The present is the melting pot because it is in the chaos of the moment that he must transform these memories into art.
The future is the delectation: Henry describes the enjoyment he gets from writing. “For instance, when I write something I like extra well I smack my lips and look over my own shoulder. I am already the man of 2500 A.D. or 5000 A.D., enjoying this great guy Henry Miller who lived in the 20th century.”
“Writing is its own reward,” Miller tells us. You receive this reward in the reflective moment of achievement that comes once the work is done. Even one good finished sentence and you can revel in the delicious future in which admiring eyes will be upon your work.
These admiring eyes don’t need to ever actually exist. What’s important is that you can imagine them. “The men of 2500 A.D. will enjoy reading this little passage, I am sure.” You’ve created work that you are pleased with, and so you can imagine others, even in some distant future or parallel universe, feeling the same. Others like you. This is why you write after all: to find others like you.
And along with the delectation of the future: the melting pot of the present, the seething chaos from which you can’t expect anything perfect to emerge. Life, after all, isn’t perfect. And life is the most important thing: you’re trying to bring into the world something that lives and breathes. And that will live on and speak to others, and say new things and even give rise to new ideas that you’d never thought of in the moment of writing.
For this reason, perfection is never the goal. What is perfect is finished with, and nothing new can arise from it. What the best readers want is the flawed, contradictory, and chaotic. Which when released into the world can mingle and find strange new uses in the hands of others.
Miller is saying: write for yourself, and not for any preconceived notion of beauty or truth. The whole purpose of life is to enjoy yourself, and writing should serve that same purpose. And in serving yourself in this way you will produce exactly the kind of lively and provocative writing that your future readers will need.
(I’ve been reading “Writing Is Its Own Reward” by Henry Miller, which can be found in his Henry Miller on Writing.)
(Image is from Pixabay.)