April 11th, 2004


Somebody better put you back into your place

There's something comforting about reading these mediocre books on creativity and finding one's bliss. I guess it's that it makes it seem like mortals can actually succeed in the writing business and some of the tips have real bearing on the novice or amateur. Receiving wisdom from Plato or Shakespeare would be great but on the other hand how do you turn that into practice? Yeah Shakespeare had to squat and shit like anyone else (so did Jesus), and he also had to sit his ass down and force himself to write, but his process beyond that was probably quite a bit different than that of the average writer, even the average great writer. Anyway I like the flaws and roughness of some of this stuff, even if I'd also like a more polished work of the same type.

I need to face down two personal demons over the next few weeks.

1) Procrastination. The book I'm reading now, "The war of art" says that the writer must sit down and WRITE every fucking day with no exceptions. Now this guy takes it to extremes, from what he says you'd think that if your child stabbed himself and was bleeding arterially during your writing time you'd be a PUSSY who was GIVING IN TO RESISTANCE (a sin that's worse than genocide and raping 80 year old nuns put together) to stop writing and help him. At one point he actually says that if Hitler had had the balls to paint every day there would never have been a holocaust, thereby proving that resistance CAUSES genocide. Hyperbole aside, he does have a point. I remember hearing once about how Roald Dahl even at a very advanced age used to go to his woodshed and churn out pages every week day rain or shine. I need to get in the habit of sitting down and writing every damned day for a respectable amount of time. This journal has helped with that to an extent but now I need to transcend this bellybutton gazing exercise and start writing the stuff I actually want to write. Right now this is not practical because I have a ton on my plate and I've come to far to throw away my GPA with less than a month left in school (even though in some ways I do feel like I don't really need that part of my life anymore.) I should make an effort to write some on weekends though, something I failed to do this weekend for a variety of reasons that don't add up to being good enough to explain the lapse. Live and learn I guess.

2) I am afraid of failure. This is a two-pronged fear, with the importance of the fears to me in the wrong order. I fear a failure of talent. That I will never produce anything of real value. I think everyone has these fears, but although I've always been considered very bright by my peers I've never written any fiction that has blown anyone away, even for my age. Mary Gordon (a family friend and a fairly prominent author) did say I had promise when I was an adolescent and offer to edit my stuff if I wanted her to but this was just after my father died, so it's hard to know how legitimate that was. Of course that does bring up another pertinent issue, which is that I cling to my failures and tend to discredit and forget my successes with alacrity. The thing that I've always been great at is criticism and analysis. I know there's a need for great critics out there but that's not what I want to be. Furthermore, while theoretical skills do sometimes translate into actual practical ability (Eisenstein springs to mind) but often it does not. Take Roger Ebert, he is perhaps the most famous American critic of the last 25 years, a populist one to be sure but not unrespected by his peers, and the one movie he penned was an absolute disaster. I hope I don't end up the same way.

The other thing I'm afraid of is ending up in abject poverty alone and defeated. This fate is more likely if I pick this career option than it would be if I went for law or some other higher status occupation that my above average mind and academic pedigree would give me a head start in. In truth this is not very likely. I'll have a good college degree soon and should never starve with that. I also have some money that I inherited and will likely eventually inherit a significant additional sum. One of the things that the war of art tells you to do is to give up fantasies about the rewards of success. Focus on being artistically successful because ultimately that is more important and rewarding than any of the fame or fortune that may but certainly is not guaranteed to go along with it. I don't need to be a millionaire to be a success. Besides most of my fantasies of wealth and fortune involve being an outsider and changing the culture of the entertainment industry or using the money to create a variety of foundations (ranging from scholarship funds to a series of community centers.) I have no desire to snort pure Colombian cocaine off the breasts and vaginas of underage (say, around 16) identical triplets. Okay, maybe a little bit of a desire but it's not something I'd ever consider doing in real life.

The thing is, as scared as I am, as much of a neurotic cretin as be me, I'm more afraid of not trying than I am of failing right now. I'm afraid of waking up at 40 a corporate lawyer and not knowing whether or not I could have written or made films for a living. That's what I wanted to do from when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a writer at the age of like 6. To be exact I wanted to be a writer/heart surgeon but that's before I really understood what was involved in becoming or being a heart surgeon. I don't know why I let other people and my own fears get in my way for this long but I'm done with that shit. I've got to dive in now, while I still have the passion, while I still have the tail end of my youth left. I already feel like I'm old, like I've missed my chance, like the window is all but closed, but that's just fear and resistance talking. That's the necktie as a leash philosophy and god damn it I am not going to let it chain me this time.

Also I'm going back on Atkins. This foray into carbs has not gone well. I just get SO freaking hungry it's not worth it. Back on the horse, baby.
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