Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Castles Made of Sand

So I've been sending some of my essays's to C- and he tells me he likes them but that they are too academic, that they sound like term papers.  He gives me a web sight, "A&L Daily," and he tells me that's where I should post my work cause its so intellectual.  Then he tells me my writing obscures my "real" story telling voice.  "Its too dense," he says. "Most people don't like reading when it takes too much thinking."  My friend J- would say similar things about my work; that when I edited my essays I tended to lose "the me" in them.

Look, I don't give a shit if I ever publish a thing, but I do want to reach my reader.  That's what blogging is about right?  To get feedback.  Like a comic, you do your thing in clubs, moving town to town, night after night and you discover all the things that make em laugh and you cut out the other stuff.  You perfect your timing, your punctuation and you finally become a main liner.

Nowadays people want words that they can drive a truck in between.  They want to be able to read them while they are watching TV.  Nice and SIMPLE but with character!  I tried to write country songs.  I think I wrote some good tunes but the President of the Nashville Country Music Association told me they weren't really country.  Why?  Because "they ain't simple enough," that's why.  You can look at country lyrics on a sheet of paper and if the paper is 9/10ths blank you just might have a hit on your hands.

I want to communicate.  I want to share meaningful things with my reader and I want them to enjoy the experience.  But I'm not going to sit down in a diner and try to explain DNA replication to a moron by using a five year old's language, even if that's what a real genius can do.  I guess I'm not the kind of genius who feels that "War and Peace" should have to fit on one side of a napkin.  

So C- is saying to find a middle way.  Is the writing I'm doing now, at this moment, the middle way?  No editing... talking about life like you're on the telephone... is that what its about?  

I don't know.  But I'll tell you, the very first person I write for is me and when I go back to my unedited pieces I see flaws that I want to change, so I end up re-working them and that's what starts to make them dense, or as C- said, "too perfect."  I am the same way with the stone walls I build.  I put up a new wall and I want to make the stones lay perfect. But most people don't understand that sense of perfection, they don't get it.  They want a "thrown wall";  one that looks like its been in the process of decay for the last hundred years. But it probably hasn't been.  Its probably just built like shit.  Its like the "distressed" look of fake antiques or the un-walked miles in stone washed jeans.   I hate that kind of stuff. I build real walls not crumbling imitations. You want it to look a hundred years old, wait a hundred years. I image its a little like a classically trained musician trying to write a three-cord pop tune; to create things with an untrained and undisciplined ear... to de-evolve.     

When I went to the Picasso museum in Barcelona I got the impression that is what he was doing; like he moved up to Paris and saw all the "pop" painters doing pointillism and impressionism and he said... "ah, that's what's fucking happening... I can do that...!"  and so he started throwing all those styles together on the canvas.  It was pretty stupid stuff, but he got it down and cleaned it up and then took it to a new level and came up with (or stole from Braque) cubism and he was off and running at the head of the pack of the moderns.  

Picasso then started deconstructing classic paintings and made them cartoon like and everyone called him a savant.  First artist ever to become a millionaire from his own work in his own lifetime.  Yeah, no doubt, he was a genius.  I looked at his paintings in Barcelona and thought they were stupid.   When I mentioned that to a few people, they sort of agreed, hinting that his best work was in Paris or in the private collections of millionaires.  Cool.  But who the fuck am I to say anything about Pablo Picasso?  Beside, Jonathan Richman already nailed it:   "He was only 5'3" but girls could not resist his stare and...  Pablo Picasso...  never got called an asshole."

Think less.  Re-write less. Use simple metaphors and similes and don't expect your reader to do any work or have any background in the subject you are discussing.  Fuck, I read a four hundred page history book and turn it into a two page essay and C- tells me my writing is "too dense".

I get positive feed back as well.  Ms. D- expressed appreciation for my work and I have a reader in Puerto Rico who digs my stuff.  So I'm jumping up and down at this point because that exactly counterbalances J's and C's "I'm too heady' criticisms.  Two for two!

Okay, life is all about growth and change but you know what, I'm running out of time. Hemingway started the "The Sun Also Rises" on his twenty-sixth birthday and finished it in two months.  He was well on his way to cirrhosis by my age.  I know, I know, never compare yourself to anyone, its defeatist.  But success sometimes seems like destiny.  It usually doesn't appear to be earned, but maybe that's just an illusion.  A guy in the arts working hard and thoughtfully all his life seldom sets the world on fire.  Either you've got the gimmick folks want or you don't.   All other effort falls short of the ribbon. That's who I identify with in the race, all those fuckers who worked out so hard and didn't snap the ribbon; who stand with hands on knees panting their lungs out while the winning dick-face is all smiles and cheers and photos.  I hate competition because I hate failure!  Failure is a mistake. 

Beside, you know there's a whole lot of cheatin' goin' on in the arts.  Take this "uno, dos, tres" Pit Bull fella;  He can't sing, he can't dance, he's freakin' ugly and during the New Year's Eve Time Square telecast he had the nerve to steal James Brown's line and be introduced as the "hardest working man in show business".  Come on, one look at his white suit and those aviator Ray-Bans and you know why he's in the line up.  Two words:  cartel coke.

Okay, I'm venting.  My apologizes to The Bull.   Back to writing. 

There are phrasings I use just because I like the way they sound, or they evoke a character voice in my mind, but they aren't written in "dialogue" so someone might think..."Oh this isn't the real Ron Boyd, he doesn't talk like that."  No I don't talk like that, but I think like that.  I think in voices that aren't my speaking voice.  My speaking voice is far trashier, full of the day's cliques and swear words, where inflexions and facial expression take the place of word structure.  When I write I often use the ten dollar words Hemingway so abhorred.  I read Hemingway style writers and they make me want to puke with all their mini-sentences and single syllable words.  It worked for Hem cause Hem was Hem... he'd been through the war, he'd seen the horror and was an old man at 25.  And his style didn't change much from that point on.  A Hemingway book is a Hemingway book...like it or leave it. But if he was such a fucking great a writer, why couldn't he have written a dozen books that you didn't know were his?  Why couldn't he have changed it up a bit?  I should ask, "Why didn't he?"  I would assume cause he wrote the way he wanted to.  Thats what he thought was good and he liked it and the literary world happen to share that opinion.  

I've been thinking about applying to the Iowa Writer's Workshop.  It turns out a lot of great novelists so they must either know how to pick the applicants (which I think is probably a huge part of it) or they really teach some good stuff.  In the meantime, I read and I write and I do it a lot more than most people who don't get paid doing it, just like I did music for tons of years with empty pockets.  And I enjoy it... at least until somebody says something like C- said today.  Why is it that when somebody gives my sand castle one little kick and it all comes tumbling down?  Am I that unsure of myself?  Just this morning I was thinking how I was really getting better, how my last post "Kitsch" was really fine;  really hitting some things.  Now I feel like, "Well, so much for that... maybe next time."

Anyway, just for C-, I won't edit this note (liar,liar pants on fire!) but I will add a tag just to let the world know I can take a punch and still come out swinging:

"There's no success like failure and failure is no success at all." B.Dylan (childhood hero and wordy mutha-fucka)   


  1. Instant coffee, instant communication, fast food, quickies, don't even bother me with a phone call just text me, don't want to hear your voice, just give me the bottom line... super highways, expressways, forget the scenery... who cares just get me there.... But, where is there there? It is a sad, sad world when we focus no longer on exploring our senses and feeling the feelings and thinking and... analyzing.... Just today I found out from a writer I like that the ego will never be cured from the wounding it gets from life-- that is why it becomes our dark side. The only thing we can apparently do is to get involved in a life mission bigger than our egos in order to become humble and tame the beast. You Ron, seem to be on your way, you said it, you do not even care if you get published... For some writers life is larger than the ego, that beast has to be tamed in order for the true self and sublime to emerge. Hesse wrote Siddhartha when he was 45, Steppenwolf in his 50's and finally got the Nobel Peace when he was 66 for Magister Ludi. I have read Siddharta about 4 times, Narcisus about three and I am trying to finish Steppenwolf now. I can not find a soul who can discuss any of these books with me. Everyone says, "Oh, yeah, read it but can't remember a thing." I wonder what that means... If you read any of these books, and they take time to read and time to understand, you will remember what their meaning is all about. I've read 100 Years of Solitude 5 times and I will read it until the day I day over and over again. It took Marquez not long to write-- about a year and a half writing every day. The story is that he sat down and did not stop writing until he finished it. It took him many years of writing other things before and thinking and analyzing and dealing with the fairness or unfariness of life and his own life story to write this masterpiece which started the whole magical realism movement, which also got him a Nobel in literature...

    The life of a reader that searches for meaning is the same life as the writer who expresses meaning in her or his words... It takes time to write with meaning and it takes time to read something meaningful. We-- reader and writer-- are mirrors to each other... It is my opinion that there are no shortcuts when thinking is involved as well as creating and realizacing and having empathy and humility.

    Judgment is futile, who cares, really... "other peoples' behavior have nothing to do with you/me..." same as other people's thinking has nothing to do with you/me... That is true whether we like it or not. But probably it will take some people a lot of time to understand that thought... so they might not even put their brains into it... It is a sad, sad world when what has true meaning is compared to microwave timing... Not sure if anyone can read any of the great books in the time it takes to eat a big mac... Lil

  2. When I write for pay, it must fit the pattern the buyer dictates. But when I write for me, it's my dance, and I call the steps. And the only one I must please is myself.