Tennessee Williams: To Honor and Burnish

Photograph by W. Eugene Smith

When I was young, I never thought about the manner in which I approached the writing. I just wrote. I was like the natural singer who goes out, opens his mouth, and shares the song, having no idea that the instrument might not be used properly, that damage might be taking place. One simply sings. I did this with words and characters and locales. I seemed to have no limits. I believed--as the young always will--that there was enough time and enough opportunities to continue writing, to patch over the mistakes, to repair any damage done.

I told you earlier about approaching words as if they were the Eucharist, or the  first breast in the hands of an amorous boy, and I think this honor, this respect, is necessary for good work to come. We not only have to approach the words and the work with this valuable honor, but we must do the same with ourselves: We must take care of ourselves. This I did not do, and the price is steep. We must husband our minds and our backs and our legs and our eyes. We must keep reading and looking and caring--and seeing to it that our fellow writers and actors and artists and musicians have us as their audience.

There is so much to do to get it right, and so little time.

Time was one of the few things I never wished for, and what I most wish I had more of now. There is nothing, I don't think, that I wouldn't trade or give away for a little bit more time. Strong legs. Clear eyes. 

And the ability to honor and burnish the words.

Tenn in Conversation with James Grissom
New Orleans

From the forthcoming book Artistic Suicide

©2013 by James Grissom


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