January 24th, 2002

Yo Maniacal Tang

Thank You, Toria...

She and I chatted the other night about writing. Writers are NOT normal people, period...we think differently. Before I get attacked for being an elitist asshole, not that I said DIFFERENT...not necessarily better. In fact, the argument can be made that writers, particularly good ones, are tortured souls who sometimes only barely maintain a sense of functionality in the "real world", with a tenuous grip on the very reality we try to explore.

That's the catch...no matter how far afield our imaginings can become, writing can never be accessible unless it relates to themes people can relate to. That's why avanté guard attempts can fail so horribly: If you succeed at completely disconnecting from reality, it becomes meaningless noise. Yet, inject a thread of the human condition, and you get "Being John Malkovich", or most of Laurie Anderson's work. Yeah, I know a lot of people would disagree with me on those examples...but the point is, there's someone out here that can see the relevance, and thus dare to say "Wow, I really understood what they are doing there".

Anyway, back to Toria. Writers communicate in interesting ways...since you don't have to explain what it's like to be in the mind of a writer, you can complain about (to paraphrase something she actually said) your goddamn protagonist wanting to settle down and have children halfway through the story arc. Richard Bach tries to explain in in his preface to "Illusions", when he describes how an idea can pick you up by the neck (gently, but firmly), forcing you to write it all down. Characters are like that as well.

What started this line of conversation was my assertion that I wanted to gather together a bunch of us (read: writers), go off for a month somewhere with no net access or other distractions (music is ok, of course!) and WRITE. She disagreed, saying she didn't think anyone who wasn't already able to work on something, as in consistently and daily producing something that could be considered an actual book, was unlikely to do so under the conditions I had set forth.

Oh, she could see my point...writers can talk with other writers. Not writer wannabees (who can set the teeth of a saint on edge), but actual writers. The ones who were born to the talent. A writer can pretend to be a hack, dumb down the quality of the work to feed himself. A hack will NEVER rise to the level of actual WRITING, except by accident. Look at Defoe. Name any book OTHER than "Robinson Crusoe". Go on, I can wait. No fair using "Google" to look them up.

I sometimes can give the impression of being completely intractable when it comes to my opinions. I know I can present them so forcefully that I frighten off any dissent, rendering opposing viewpoints stillborn. This is unfortunate, because, just as in this case, my mind CAN be changed. The problem is that I won't express an opinion unless I really believe it to be true, and therefore you have to be able to convince me, without trying to force me to change my mind, that perhaps my thinking needs adjustment.

I can blame a lot of things for that: My step father for being such a tyrant, my experiences in public education where I often spotted inconsistencies and had the temerity to point them out, and especially my formative religious experience as an irish-catholic -- not exactly a spiritual path for the restless mind.

But blame is bull. Ultimately it's up to me to decide that I must try to allow some input, express myself with greater grace toward others. Not that a good rant doesn't have it's place -- exactly the opposite. However, I need to integrate the needs of others into my writing in ways that shows respect for their boundaries. A good writer can be utterly honest and straightforward. A great one can bend the truth just enough to protect those that he loves, while still being able to tell the story that carries the message to the "real world" he's trying to contact. Surprisingly, this also gives him a far greater freedom. Who was it that once said "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story"?

I'm going to change the names to protect the innocent, though I reserve the right to keep some for special occasions. I fully intend to wrack my writers wrath against a good George (my grandfather) while vilifying another (a certain cretin who should NEVER show his face in the bay area again), probably in the same book (just to confuse everyone. Why not have a good guy and a bad guy with the same name? I think I can make a strong case for it exemplifying the duality of...er, but I'm digressing again).

So here I am, trying to find my voice again. I don't know if this is why I've felt so thick the last few days, overwhelmed by sheer inertia. What I do know is that, even though this room is FREEZING (it gets damn cold in those darn mountains!) this is the best I've felt all week.

Toria pointed out that a lot of people don't write the books that they have in them for fear it won't be THE great novel. Of course, art can never be perfection, for humanity is imperfect, and (as I pointed out earlier) the humanity is what makes art good, great...or sterile. Yet all writers, and the parent class "artist" are almost always screaming perfectionists alternately arrogant and pitiful in their self loathing and doubt.

Ultimately the difference between the dilettantes and the "real" writers is that writers HAVE to write, or they suffocate. Lack of oxygen makes anyone sleepy and lumpish...I'm starting to suspect that my self-denial as far as actually getting those thoughts down is having exactly the same effect.

The problem is not in finding my muse...it's in letting the poor girl do her job.
  • Current Music
    Nine Inch Nails - Things Falling Apart
Yo Maniacal Tang

A Quick Waste of Time

It was just good timing that I ran into this on a friends Journal...I happened to be re-reading book two of the series because I wanted to picture Kenneth Branagh in the role of the Defense of the Dark Arts teacher (he'll be Perfect for the part...just imagine him playing the same character from "Much Ado About Nothing", only with less redeeming value).

Get Sorted!

I turned out to be a Hufflepuff...

"...You're sweet, hard-working, and loyal. You believe in justice and you're not afraid of sticking with something for a while. You're determined; once you set your mind to something you'll work as hard and long as you have to to achieve that goal."

They had me up to that last bit. :-P
Yo Maniacal Tang

Strange dreams...

Ok, that was REALLY weird. I mean, I understand the imagery for the most part...after all, I WAS making noises last night about finding my voice...but it was WEIRD.

I was in a theater with my family (most of whom I find completely useless, ESPECIALLY my sisters), and I get the feeling that this is actually some time in the past. This is confirmed by the presence of my Grandma (who died in the mid-nineties) and the fact that my sisters seem younger. Mom (one of the only people in my family I want to have anything to do with) is walking by my side. As we enter, a very strange press conference is going on, where some rude reporter with Asian features is singing the "Porpoise Song" (from the Monkee's movie "Head"), and Micky Dolenz (the one who actually sings that particular song) is standing to my right with a pained expression on his face...as well he should, because the guy could induce howls in dogs miles away. He picks up the tune, much to the audience's delight, which seems to irritate the guy no end.

I walk over to the podium where the guy is trying to sing down Micky, when finally out walks Dennis Miller. Apparently I'm in the old Ed Sullivan theater. My mother comments about how it looks like the theater is bigger than it was the last time she was in it, and someone says "That's right, it's been RESTORED". This is a celebration for it's re-opening.

I walk up a flight of stairs, stepping past this aluminum scaffolding with an amazing array of patch panels and cables, gaffers tape, and lights. Upstairs, it's me and a bunch of people standing on the edge of a balcony...it looks like my sisters, dressed in pastel tights. It's an upper balcony, and as I look over from the back I see four people jump from the lower balcony. Since I can't see the floor, for a moment I think they've done something REALLY stupid, and I catch my breath. Then I realize it's a stunt.

Looking up, I see the stage...it's completely bare, without even those curtains in the back. If you've ever seen the beginning of the Talking Heads "Stop Making Sense" movie, where you see how far back a stage really GOES, it was like that. There was a stair case by the back wall, and my Grandmother was walking off the stage down the steps.

I start to comment on being startled by the trick to a guy who's still on the balcony on my left and behind me. He interrupts, saying he needs to concentrate on his trick...I apologize, abashed, and hunker down next to the balcony.

I head back down the same staircase I came up, this time pondering how much I would like being a sound guy. I literally hear the words as I would have written them: "You still have to work hard, but at least you get to hear the event without having to run around as much".

As I re-enter the main floor and take my seat near the front, Dennis Miller is making some comments. At some point he mentions someone needing to take a pee, and some older black gentleman goes off on a tirade on how he objects to the use of the letter "P", because it's the letter that begins the word "prejudice", the word of oppression. Out of no where I feel myself go "Oh PLEASE...not more of that non-consensually shoved down my throat PC CRAP!". A crowd of people applauds. The old man sputters and starts to try and shout me down, but I rise up and start to shred his arguments apart. "What, are we supposed to just THROW that volume of the encyclopedia out? Tear out the pages of the dictionary? All because those subjects and words have the unbridled lack of consideration to start with the letter "P"?" (more cheers) "I'm sorry, but ANY letter, ANY word can become evil in the wrong hands, just as any tool can be. Take a perfectly honest word like solution...are we to condemn it for all eternity because some nazi fucks stole it and put it behind the word "Final", rendering it into the most evil phrase of the last hundred years?"

I awoke to the sound of cheering still ringing in my ears. Damn it, why can't those kinds of dreams LAST?

I guess it was appropriate...there was a saying back in the UseNet newsgroup days: Any argument or debate was considered over the moment someone mentioned Nazies.

    • "And Sharkey says,
      'There was this man,
      And this woman,
      And if only I could remember these dreams
      I'm sure they're trying to tell me
      Strange dreams..."
    • Current Music
      "Sharkey's Day", Laurie Anderson