To follow literary fashion, to write for money, to censor your true feelings and thoughts or adopt ideas because they’re popular requires a writer to suppress the very promptings that got him or her writing in the first place. When you started writing, in high school or college, it wasn’t out of a wish to be published, or to be successful, or even to win a lovely award like the one you’re receiving tonight. It was in response to the wondrousness and humiliation of being alive. Remember?
I’m listening to the audio book of Donald Barthleme’s Sixty Stories collection. As I walked into “the news factory” where I work today I was tickled by the following line and felt compelled to look it up to perhaps tweet it.
“And when the sculptor Aristide Maillol went into the printing business he made the paper by chewing the fibers himself. That’s dedication.”
Searching as many of the words as I could remember in the above quote, I found an entire .pdf of a collection titled “Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts,” that contains this plus a bunch of the other stories I’ve been trying to wrap my head around while walking about town or riding the bus or laying in bed or making cookies and listening to the audiobook.
Some writing can just be listened to casually; other writing needs to be seen with the eyes. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to see what I have heard.
But first… the other kind of work.
Nathan Englander on writing “what you know”:
“When I was dreaming of being a writer from suburbia, I thought, what am I going to do, write novels about going to the mall? It took me a long time to think it through and I should’ve rethought the advice of write what you know. That doesn’t mean write what you experience. It’s about emotional knowledge. Like have you ever known sadness? Have you ever known longing? Have you ever wanted for something? Have you ever felt loved? You know, I don’t think there are any stories that you can’t write.”
Artistic revolt, innovation, experiment should not be met with hostility. They may disturb an established order or an artificial conventionality, but they may rescue us from death in life, from robot life, from boredom, from loss of the self, from enslavement.
Like this idea… been rethinking a lot of things I thought I knew or had made my mind up about lately only to discover they look different from here, from now. -ag
Munro is interested in how we get things wrong. Age she says, changes your perceptions “of what has happened – not just what can happen but what really has happened”. One of the ways her stories “turn out” is simply “different to what the main character thought all along”.
If this passage by Jeanette Winterson doesn’t make your heart quiver for even just a second, you’ve probably ceased to be a human being.
Thanks Utne for the recommendation.
in 13 points
composed/compiled by alicia Lynn grega
as performed at the Mudball Festival at PMS Farm in Lakewood on Aug. 25, 2012
(I considered writing a second draft but there’s something about the raw emergency of just getting this done on the car ride to the farm that I’d like to preserve with all its faults for authenticity’s sake. This is this piece- a product of its time and circumstances.)
no more stalling
Age is a state of spirit.
Play Simon Says with the cat.
Borrowed time; borrowed money; borrowed luck.
Time called, it wants the loan paid back with interest.
Waiting sucks. Especially when it’s starting to look like you’ve been stood up.
Oh 2012, you are the age of no commitment.
The No Call; No Show.
No matter how old I get I will always be five years old again every time someone fails to show
in ruffles and curls crying for the daddy who didn’t come again.
for the wicked.
For the recovering workaholic I say, NO.
Because you do not have to prove yourself to me.
Get your head out of your art.
On the way to the Pacific Ocean I melted in a puddle of tears.
Standing in the waves washing over my toes I saw all that had happened to me since I last stood on that shore.
Only a girl then
And since, so much loss.
So much hurt.
So much joy, too.
Be so tolerant that your heart becomes wide like the ocean.
The ebb and flow of novelty in the universe…
Achieve not stagnation,
but the stillness of the lake in the evening after the boats have docked.
I want to live so deep in the woods, it’s like a fairy tale.
The air of a different texture- magical.
It takes 15 minutes for our brain to record short term memory.
This is why when you come out the other side of a traumatic car wreck, there is no memory of the accident.
In Zen we realize the river is not there. Stream of consciousness.
You can’t hold on to a thought.
Consciousness is unfindable.
No hard feelings.
But do sweat.
Sweat a lot.
Exceed your self-imposed limitations.
You are your own greatest enemy.
Be come bound less.
What are you afraid of?
No pain, no gain.
No one wants to hear you complain.
Just suck it up and deal.
You think you’ve got it bad? Ha!
It’s not a contest.
Just get over it already.
When are you going to grow up and learn to take your medicine?
You’re not a princess.
You are not in line for the throne.
You think you’re special?
Shut up bully.
Mean girls are ugly on the inside.
I am not solid.
I fill up the empty space you leave like a liquid or gas…
The liberal downfall is being too flexible.
Hacking your soul
It was never me he wanted at all.
I let him squish me into a fantasy.
There is no boogeyman.
But don’t sell out.
“Even the moon is frightened of me,” said The Invisible Man.
Apocalypse i’s not destruction so much as a cleansing.
NO HARD FEELINGS
Love is the answer.
The shame of not getting it; of not being good enough.
What have I done to qualify?
What has she got that I haven’t got?
Condemning news stories judging other people.
Every person has the struggle of good and evil within themselves.
I should have listened.
The best ideas are born in that La La Land between asleep and awake.
Mustn’t force these things.
Need to make (breathing) room,
room for daydreams.
What do you know about love?
All I ever wanted wast one loved for all my awkward imperfections.
Perhaps because of them.
Isn’t that what we all want?
To know that we’re not broken?
That it’s not our fault?
Don’t wait to see what he got you- buy yourself something this Christmas. Save 15 percent with this coupon.
The people who love you want you to be whole,
Need you to be healthy.
Suffering is the norm.
Less is more.
There is no one size fits all solution.
The genius of Jack Benny- a coworker told me so – was getting the audience to make up its own joke.
John Bromberg quoted Washington Allston: “Never judge a work of art by its defects.”