Well, it seems about right that I haven’t posted in a week. Between the new job (which is ramping up my hours well in advance of August), a weekend in Portland, and the general responsibilities of home, marriage, garden, and grad school applications, it’s remarkable I have time to poop.
I’m still writing—not all of it for publication, even on this blog. I’m experimenting a lot. Personal narratives. Style. Technique. Most of it is gawdawful. Thus I shield you, dear reader, from the worst atrocities. I’ll save it for the late-career retrospective, when I have a forgiving fan base that I trust will buy anything with my name on it. Right now you are that fan base. I trust you to wait—you’ll be richer for it, and so will I.
I’m learning some things about fiction, and about my voice.
The funny thing is, that learning comes from a curriculum of roughly equal parts writing and reading. I hadn’t been doing much of either for a long time, and now I’m wrapping myself in it like a prawn in bacon on the way to a date with Rachael Ray. (I have a destiny, and it sizzles.) Seriously though: I hadn’t expected so many ideas to come from writing itself, as if the simple act is generative. Then there’s the reading, which we all know gives us ideas, but which I had no idea actually made me a better writer. Just by reading it. It’s weird.
OK, maybe it’s a truism so ancient it makes you fellow college-educated readers grown with embarrassment, but I had forgotten it. I had been off in a career that was supposed to get me closer to writing. But I was on the wrong side of that house, let me tell ya. The inside…pfft. Too stuffy in there. Comfortable living, though.
Now I get to amble around the great outdoors that is the writing life, much like a dog exploring its new home. Or its old home, in which it had previously been held captive—I’m sticking to the house simile and will go down in flames with it, if need be.
I just learned the word flaneur: one who idles for the sake of idling, usually on foot; a saunterer, a loafer, a “gentleman stroller of city streets” (thanks Baudelaire!). Though I’m sure there’s more than a smidgen of “dandy” in that meaning, too, I like to think of Walt Whitman or Kurt Vonnegut—two excellent loafers—stretching their legs in a big mid-sidewalk yawn, scratching their stomachs, looking for a free beer or good conversation, or barring either of those, some amusing street scene that might work their way into a poem or story. We’re on this Earth to fart around, said grandpa Kurt, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
Hello—and since when did Vonnegut fall out of fashion? You know what it is: it’s that wet humor. Same with Thurber. Just not in style. Ian Frazier is the closest we get nowadays. Mayyyyyyybe Sedaris.
A couple weeks ago I was fussing over story ideas. I kept shaking Sherry Ellis’s Now Write! upside down hoping a hidden prompt would fall out and inspire me to write a new story that would make admissions committees cream their jeans.
That was a couple weeks ago.
Now I’m a reading dervish. Short story collections, for I know this is the hard currency of the realm to which I seek admittance, but also novels and essays. I’m just soaking ’em up. I’m choosing to have faith in the stories. They’re there. They’ll come out when they’re ready. Hopefully in time for some writing and revision, and hopefully before the winter deadlines.
If not… if I don’t find a few stories to write… well, let’s pull out that house metaphor. Anything we can use there? Somewhere a dog is wagging it’s tail at me. A cocker spaniel of course. Dumb and happy. What’s it mean? What’s it trying to tell me??
Maybe I should pull an Annie Hall: you know, “I got Marshall McLuhan right here…”? Let me see, I need a story, but if I can’t find inspiration, who would I ask for advice?
Kafka: I find giant bugs and giant sewing machines work for me.
Dostoevsky: Murderous college dropouts in cold climes for me, bro.
Austen: Marriage is silly, but it is so important. Don’t you think?
Nabokov: Fuck all y’all. Caulk all fly.
Kerouac: Wine spodyody.
Nevermind. I’m going back to my reading. Until next time—amble on!