Search for Purpose Yields An Answer: A Footnote

3 02 2011

I feel kind of bad. Well, not bad necessarily, but maybe a little dishonest. You see, I believe when started this blog I was quite adamant about the subject matter being about not one thing in particular, and as of late, my writing has been overwhelmingly music-centric. Those who really know me will not be surprised at all, and anyone else with a heartbeat, after learning that music is my true passion (writing, a skill by education), will find nothing out of the ordinary about someone writing about what moves them. I understand this too, and also subscribe to the notion that one must follow his or her muse. I should’t feel too bad. Indeed I should be ecstatic at the outpouring on the subject, considering how long I remained silent.

Yet still I wonder if I should alter the course a bit: either 1) decidedly narrowing the scope of this blog to only music, or 2) intentionally taking up a different subject just to mix it up. And now I guess there is a 3) go with the flow, because you have already made steps to mix it up, just let the ideas come to you for that will be most genuine. And that too was a promise I made from the very beginning.


25 01 2011

In college, I had an instructor who idolized Raymond Carver, who worked as a janitor (among other occupations) and would do twenty or thirty revisions of his stories, sometimes writing in utility closets on his breaks. With a family to raise and support, he was not known for belonging to one scene or another, like so many other artists, though he did serve as an instructor at various points in his life. Following an all too familiar path, life’s pressures led him to dependance on alcohol, which he would never shake. It wasn’t until after his death that his work achieved wide-spread appreciation.

Carver’s story is a sad one, but also inspirational. He had a meticulous work ethic (pre-alcohol) all writers should all strive for. Painstakingly crafting stories in a dim dust and ammonia filled closet! That’s the point my instructor really tried to convey. A brilliant writer can arise from the most unlikely of environments. As a student, with no real life experience comparatively, I found it hard to convince myself that my own writing could ever contain the same clarity, such eloquence and authority. Obviously, I missed the point (revise, revise, revise, revise), and continued to miss it for over a decade.

The one thing in your favor when delaying a career in writing is life experience. But is it worth writing about? Going out on a limb, I would say, yes, any experience can be worth writing (and reading) about. The success depends on the skill of the writer to make it interesting. This goes beyond the Composition 101 lesson of show don’t tell. As I reader, I want writers to cast a spell, to concoct an intoxicating brew that you can smell, touch, and feel, not just see. It’s a painfully high expectation that leads to many disappointments. (Context, as well, is important. I don’t expect such wizardry from a staff writer at the AP, although I have read a story or two in the New York Times where a writer took the meat of the facts and glazed it with some artistic license).

As a writer, I hold myself up to these same standards, even though the record itself will show my words to be frequently less than magical. With age, I have warmed to accepting this. Yet, young and still fresh out of college, I could not live up to the unreasonable standards I had set for myself, some due to certain literary circles but otherwise self-imposed, which is why there is missing from a ten-year period of my life a single cohesive written work. But now that time has passed, and my anxiety and insecurity has softened, I can look back on that time away not only as a period of growth, but also as pure, raw material.


21 01 2011

Last night Julia and I went to see Russell Brand at the Improv in Hollywood. We got the tickets free from one of Julia’s friends. I jumped at the chance because it seems to me that he is as the zenith of his fame, more or less, and I think it’s great to experience acts and artists like that. Imagine Zeppelin circa 1973 (although, of course, Russell is a comedian and Zeppelin was ZEPPELIN!!).

What I expected was some goofy, raunchy, half-wit humor; I also expected to laugh…a lot. While we did get all of that, Russell brought a whole other game to the table that I did not see coming.

The entire performance was filmed with five cameras and will be used as the narrative thread for a documentary Russell is making about happiness. The raunchiness (frequent references to masturbation, anal sex, and sex with Sarah Palin to name a few) was flanked by comedic dissertations on sub topics such as depression, why certain countries are statistically the happiest in the world (neither the U.S. or U.K. make the top ten), children’s priorities as to what will make them happy (being a celebrity ranked 1st), and the craziest reality show titles, which at the time seemed relevant enough even if it doesn’t the day after. The point he made regarding the latter was, with so little time on this earth, why do people invest so much time into watching these shows.

He wove all of these topics (and more), including multiple forays into the mental and moral gutter (which were really fun), into an succinct, well-rehearsed and (gulp) intelligent 90-minute routine. What surprised me most was Russell’s eloquence and diction, and the speed at which he spat it out at us. I had nothing alcoholic to drink last night, and it’s a good thing, because I needed all my clarity to keep up, and I laughed more than I have in years.