***This was originally posted 8/25/2015.***
I’ve been meaning to write this for a few weeks now, but I remain a procrastinator.
A couple of months ago I was asked for advice on writing. Being horrible at giving advice my answer was long winded, and could be summed up as, “Just wing it.” Of course, there wasn’t any other advice I could give really, since the only way I’ve ever been able to be productive myself is to just let the story take over and carry me where it wants to go. As with every time I am forced to think about the process of writing, this got me fully contemplating it and myself in regards to it.
Since no one asked just where this led my brain, and since I’m sure just as many of you care where it led me I’m going to share. I’m horrible at summing up my thoughts in that vein, but thankfully other writers are not so in the interests of (relative)brevity and laziness, I’ll just use their words with slight notes on how they interact with myself.
First off we’ll start with my favorite, a bit from Peter S. Beagle’s short story “Oakland Dragon Blues”. Anytime I’ve heard him speak about his writing process its been apparent to my that he at the very least also seems to just let the story carry him where it will, so I can’t help but feel a bit of kinship towards him regardless of the fact that I will never write as well as him. If you get a chance you should read the actual story sometime, its a wonderful bit of meta about storytelling, but for now here’s the particular exchange which I will begin quoting at what is most likely a confusing point for anyone who hasn’t read the story, so read it.
“But you didn’t finish it,” Guerra said.
“He will. It’s his fairy-tale world, after all – he knows it better than I do, really. I just showed him the way back.” The author smiled with a certain aggravating compassion. “It’s a bit hard to explain, if you don’t – you know – think about magic.”
“Hey, I think about a lot of things,” Guerra said harshly. “And what I’m thinking about right now is that that wasn’t a real story. It’s not in any book – you were just spitballing, improvising, making it up as you went along. Hell, I’ll bet you couldn’t repeat it right now if you tried. Like a little kid telling a lie.”
The author laughed outright, and then stopped quickly when he saw Guerra’s expression. “I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you. You’re quite right, we’re all little kids telling lies, writers are, hoping we can keep the lies straight and get away with them. And nobody lasts very long in this game who isn’t prepared to lie his way out of trouble. Absolutely right.” He regarded the ruined strip of lawn and winced visibly. “But you make same mistake most people do, Officer Guerra. The magic’s not in the books, not in the publishing – it’s in the telling, always. In the old, old telling.”
I’ve already covered the obvious way that relates to my own thoughts, but the ending hits on another point of connection for me. That being that the truest point of magic for me, that time when I feel my absolute most pagan, most connected to whatever gods and goddesses have decided to turn their eyes upon me, is the moment when I’m first scribbling down words in my notebook, hoping my pencil doesn’t break at the worst moment. I still enjoy the stories after, but they just don’t feel truly alive to me after its all been written down. After that point, while I’m revising and pondering just how I can try to convince people to buy my work, it feels more like I’m chronicling a dead history rather than birthing fully vibrant beings. So yeah, the magic is most definitely even in the telling specifically the initial telling, even if you’re like me and have no knack for verbal storytelling.
Moving on from that always brings me to contemplations on how much I’m influenced by that urge to write, and more specifically on how it affects my interactions with everyone, most obviously friends and family. This brings me to a quote that a first read while reading a book on theoretical physics(“New Theories of Everything” John D. Barrow).
In the preface while commenting on the miserable business that writing a book can at times be, he quotes Sir Peter Medawar: “… it is a proceeding that makes one rather inhuman, selfishly guarding every second of one’s time and becoming inattentive about personal relationships; one soon formed the opinion that anyone who used three words where two words would have done was a bore of insufferable prolixity whose company must at all times be shunned. A danger sign that fellow-obsessionals will at once recognize is the tendency to regard the happiest moments of your life as those that occur when someone who has an appointment to see you is prevented from coming.”
For the most part that should be self-explanatory, especially to anyone who knows me, but a moment from just this past Saturday pops into my head as illustration of just how fully I relate to it. My brother had made plans to come up and visit me on this day, but on the day he was to come up he let me know he was gonna take a nap first. This combined with the fact that both of my roommates where going to be out of town until late that night to make me wish he would nap longer than intended and decide not to come up after all so that I could spend all day in solitude working on one or more of my various projects. I felt slightly guilty about wishing so, but more excited about the possibility of getting more done.
Usually these two elements are enough to satisfy me in my contemplations, but this time I stumbled upon a new bit of writing on the nature of writing/being a writer that I fell in love with. I can’t relate fully to it on account of being too much of an introvert to fully test all of its assertions, but it certainly illustrates well how bi-polar my personal eccentricities make me feel at times, most of which I feel stem from the fact that I feel the need to constantly be creating something, even if it is just in my head. Not to mention my tendency to chop people up and put bits of them into stories in often incongruous ways. It’s from Mik Everett and can also be found here: http://karenfelloutofbedagain.tumblr.com/post/14327141634/what-happens-if-you-fall-in-love-with-a-writer
The fact that I didn’t know about it sooner considering that it had been making the rounds of the internet for a while before that just shows how out of touch I tend to stay. Anyway, here it is in its entirety for anyone who didn’t feel like clicking on the link.
“What happens if you fall in love with a writer?
Lots of things might happen. That’s the thing about writers. They’re unpredictable. They might bring you eggs in bed for breakfast, or they might all but ignore you for days. They might bring you eggs in bed at three in the morning. Or they might wake you up for sex at three in the morning. Or make love at four in the afternoon. They might not sleep at all. Or they might sleep right through the alarm and forget to get you up for work. Or call you home from work to kill a spider. Or refuse to speak to you after finding out you’ve never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. Or spend the last of the rent money on five kinds of soap. Or sell your textbooks for cash halfway through the semester. Or leave you love notes in your pockets. Or wash you pants with Post-It notes in the pockets so your laundry comes out covered in bits of wet paper. They might cry if the Post-It notes are unread all over your pants. It’s an unpredictable life.
But what happens if a writer falls in love with you?
This is a little more predictable. You will find your hemp necklace with the glass mushroom pendant around the neck of someone at a bus stop in a short story. Your favorite shoes will mysteriously disappear, and show up in a poem. The watch you always wear, the watch you own but never wear, the fact that you’ve never worn a watch: they suddenly belong to characters you’ve never known. And yet they’re you. They’re not you; they’re someone else entirely, but they toss their hair like you. They use the same colloquialisms as you. They scratch their nose when they lie like you. Sometimes they will be narrators; sometimes protagonists, sometimes villains. Sometimes they will be nobodies, an unimportant, static prop. This might amuse you at first. Or confuse you. You might be bewildered when books turn into mirrors. You might try to see yourself how your beloved writer sees you when you read a poem about someone who has your middle name or prose about someone who has never seen To Kill A Mockingbird. These poems and novels and short stories, they will scatter into the wind. You will wonder if you’re wandering through the pages of some story you’ve never even read. There’s no way to know. And no way to erase it. Even if you leave, a part of you will always be left behind.
If a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.”
Well, I think I’ve done enough rambling and showing just how much better at writing other people are than me. I’m gonna go worship the sky gods now or something.