Friday, June 12, 2009

WRITING IS WAITING: Distemper of Our Times

(NOTE: Most human interaction is not a lot of fun. There are few people you can impress while wearing tattered jeans and a tee shirt, but their numbers increase thanks to social networking. Appearances need no longer be a worry thanks to the new killer apps. Hooray! Go wild and slip into the slinky, daring, and revealing before you approach the keyboard. No one will ever know, especially after you close the blinds against the creep across the street that has his telescope trained on your window.)


WORDS COLLIDE ON NEURAL PATHWAY, ADJECTIVES UNHARMED

Writing takes patience. The computer has to boot up, the coffee be ready, and the neighbor answer his or her annoying alarm clock before any work is started. Confronting the blank screen with a blank mind only makes for a longer delay. What do I say? How do I say it? Should I darn socks instead? The answers come while you are waiting.

John Gardner got stuck when writing his MICKELSSON’S GHOSTS (NY: Knopf, 1982 and if you haven’t read this novel yet, shame on you). Jessica, his heroine, was offered an hors d’oeuvre at a party and John had no idea whether or not she accepted it. His equivocating over the scene showed him that he knew nothing about her. Instead of soldiering on, he stopped and went into his workshop to build furniture. He waited until Jessica became a fully realized character and decided about the hors d’oeuvre, left his workshop for his study, and began writing again.

Waiting is not the same as writer’s block on account of writer’s block is used too often as an excuse for substance abuse. Either you want to write or you don’t. If you do, nothing will stop you, not sciatica, a pile of rejection slips taller than your stack of manuscripts, bad weather, good weather, the rash that refuses to heal even with prescription ointment, blurred vision, past due rent, hangnails, and broken pipes. Writers write, or think about writing.

For those under deadline, waiting is not acceptable and action must be taken to shake off the mental torpor. Here a few tricks to help re-start the words.


TAKING UP THE PEN

Go to the kitchen table and open the windows and doors for lots of air. Take a pen (that stick you use to sign checks) and paper and copy out the last paragraph you wrote before getting stuck. Now start scribbling. Being away from your laptop is kind of fun, right? Treat writing by hand like finger painting, with swirls when you need them and harsh lines blocking out the color. After you fill five or six pages, return to the computer and keyboard the stuff. Now you are better.





HUNT AND PECK TO SUCCESS

Okay, the handwriting made your fingers cramp and you did not like the results. Return to the kitchen table and this time bring along a manual typewriter. You should have one in the back of your bedroom closet or next to the case of 40W oil in the garage. Take the machine out of its case and clean with a toothbrush and rags. Roll in a fresh sheet of paper, stare at the keys in post-modern wonder, and type. Think of how many fat novels and wild, intense treatises have been knocked out in such a manner. Samuel Clemens lost a fortune investing in one of the early typewriters; Dashiell Hammett used to walk Market Street in San Francisco, picking up flyers to use for his first typed drafts. Join the tradition.


BLAME THE MUSES

When the words still refuse to show themselves, this may be the result of forces outside of your control. The nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne known as the muses are messing with you. Calliope takes care of epic song, Clio is history, Euterpe inspires lyric song, Melpomene does tragedy, Terpsichore is the dance, Erato fills the dirty mind with erotic poetry, Polyhymnia cleans up with sacred song, Urania looks to astronomy, and Thalia gives comic relief and the poetry of sylvan glades. Homer asked his chosen muse to sing to him before starting THE ODYSSEY. You can sing to all of them for not handing out their gifts in a timely fashion:

Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down and mess me around
And then worst of all, you never call, baby
When you say you will, but I love you still
I need you, more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart

"I'll be over at ten,” you told me time and again
But you're late, I wait around and then
I went to the door, I can't take any more
It's not you, you let me down again

Baby, baby, try to find
A little time and I'll make you happy
I'll be home
I'll be beside the phone, waiting for you

Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down and mess me around
And then worst of all, you never call, baby
When you say you will, but I love you still
I need you, more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart

You were my toy but I could be the boy you adore
If you'd just let me know
Although you're untrue, I'm attracted to you all the more
Why do I need you so?

Baby, baby, try to find
A little time and I'll make you happy
I'll be home
I'll be beside the phone, waiting for you

Why do you build me up, Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down and mess me around
And then worst of all, you never call, baby
When you say you will, but I love you still
I need you more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart

I need you more than anyone, baby
You know that I have from the start
So build me up, Buttercup, don't break my heart

“Build Me Up Buttercup” by Mike d'Abo and Tony Macaulay
Copyright © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music Inc.


You can also read a swell book titled, THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET:AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO PUBLISH (Cypress House, $13.95), available at fine independent bookstores everywhere.



NEXT: Whimpers on the Doorstep

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1 Comments:

Blogger Ramesh chauhan said...

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4:36 AM  

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