What Am I In For?

9 03 2011

Yesterday I began work on a novel…again. I spent over a year writing on this idea back in the aughts, and it clearly never became of anything. So what possesses me so much about it that I feel compelled to give it another go? Well, it’s almost that it won’t let me go, much like music, which I am ecstatically bound to until the day I die. Every time I thought I had put this silly novel stuff behind me, some new revelation to the story would come my way. I started taking notes, and the elements almost put themselves together. I would have visions during meditation or at the end of a yoga class. But, as always, the hang up was the sheer volume of work required, and the discipline not just for that work, but for working through all the mediocre prose that would inevitably be discarded to unsheathe the final work. How is this all going to come about?

We can blame my ever deepening relationship with WordPress. I wanted to have a blog for a long time. Just for the joy of having the words come out of me again, and seeing them on the page, however digital. The problem was finding a subject that would interest me long enough to maintain an almost daily blog (I love the idea of writing everyday, in fact, I am nearly there, and will have to be to complete the novel!). What happened? I got fed up with the tedium of photography on Facebook. Sure, photography is creative, an incredibly important art in our lifetime, but in the hands of everyone, it’s just like anything else. So I had the idea of taking that image that I might post to Facebook and writing a haiku about it instead. I would do this everyday for a month. Well, I about to hit two months. The plan now is to go a full year, then print up a little flip book with 365 haikus.

This adventure has been a success, so far as catalyzing my creativity. Haikumatic led me here, which I originally wanted to update everyday, but do to work in December, that became harder than I was able to maintain. But alas, I shall not concede to the demons…I’m still here. ENHM has allowed me to stretch my legs, to experiment, not to wander into esoteric lands, but to find a new diction, to test my ability to write clearly, all the while shedding skin to find a new true voice. And it’s there. I found it. My words may read that way or not, for I have no idea of knowing how they come off, but inside, I feel it. And I feel I’ve found the tools I need to write everyday, to work through the ennui, and come out the other end with something complete, something I can hopefully be proud of.

For more on writing everyday, check this:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/

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Tardy

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.





The Stretch

22 01 2011

I started reading Gravity’s Rainbow last night: 700 plus pages of dense modern English, where every paragraph is a poem, and every line a segment of code that demands every synapse available to decode it. Pynchon’s writing reminds me of Rushdie, Midnight’s Children in particular. Thus, I know it will take an overwhelming commitment to make it all the way through, like all novels of this opus, but fifty pages in and I am already infected, so I am cool being in bed with this one for a while.

Earlier, I referred to blogging as yoga for my work ethic, as a slow and meditative training to restore and realign my mind and body, writing-wise. I would like to suggest another fitness analogy, one that came to me as I was not even to the final resting pose of my last proclamation. Seeing as how the ultimate goal of all my verbal jockeying is a work of longer breadth and deeper magnitude (read: screenplay/novel hybrid), blasting out short, pithy blogs is akin to running sprints when training for a marathon. It may be the same activity, but the approach is vastly different. Here I insert a small amount of assumption; for, I have never run or prepared for a marathon, but in my scholastic days I ran sprints for days. They both require the runner to subject himself to pain; yet, one is clearly extended out over longer periods, progressively so until the full segment is completed, while the other still revolves around short bursts of activity, however many of those bursts you chose to subject yourself to in a sitting, so to speak.

As agave can do the job but will never as good as sugar (although not in the case of margaritas), there can be no substitute for the real thing. Maintaining a running narrative 500 words at a time every day does not empower someone with the skills to complete a novel, let alone a novel that’s readable, just as someone who runs a 10 k everyday may not necessarily own it when it comes to a marathon, but they are great skills to have, experience to fall back on, and while blogs may not be novel quality writing, ever, the practice of doing it every day is quintessential to your discipline.

I laid awake for awhile after putting the book down, but it was not due to the lusty, supernatural intrigue of the introduction: I found I was completely shellshocked by Pynchon’s ability to keep up the pace for over 700 pages. If reading takes an overwhelming commitment, what kind of demonic possession does it take to actually write a novel of this scope?!





Chew On It (Four Micro-Vignettes)

22 01 2011

The value of meditation does not present itself outright. It works underneath its own surface, in a slow, quiet revolution. It takes patience to cultivate patience. For those wanting to see immediate change, this can be the hardest hurdle to success; but, it is also arguably the most crucial.

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The body that lends a helping hand can have two faces. It is this simplest of paradoxes that makes it so difficult to listen to politicians, who act like they are in it for us but really their actions are unified behind the central purpose of staying alive politically.

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Somewhere there must live a man who has it all figured out. It’s fun to tell myself this, even though it seems like a passé subject from one or two decades ago. Maybe that’s because I spent nearly that long trying to figure “it” out. Now I realize that there are people who don’t need to to figure it out, and maybe, from a certain perspective, that IS having it figure out.

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The will to complete a massive undertaking, the will to see it through, this is what has escaped me until now, what has kept me from creating something that I myself would consider great. That’s what this blog is for. It’s work ethic boot camp, or maybe more like yoga, as I find myself taking lots of deep breaths and considering the moves (but not too much) as I make them.