The Path

path

Your most difficult challenge as a writer will be one of motivation–why do you write?  Every serious writer must ask this question, in that dark night of the soul, as Rilke once advised to a young poet, and every writer must face the answer.  What you’ll find when you ask this question (slowly you must ask yourself into a mirror and quickly you must answer) is that there is some sort of goal involved–fame, fortune, publication, recognition from other published and/or artistic writers, love, lust, power, a job, etc.  When we begin treading the path, we have a focal point in the distance that motivates us–a tall tree, a mountain, even climbing up the mountain itself.  But here’s the thing–you’re never going to get to that tall tree, that mountain, or even the top of that mountain.  Not the way you think, anyway.

~

On a run today, I noticed that the sidewalk which unfurled out ahead of me for almost a mile resembled a tall, skinny pyramid.  I reminded myself that both sides of the sidewalk are parallel, but that, as my own eyes saw it, it seemed that both its sides met at a point. Right away I knew I would never reach the point of this pyramid, that this pyramid would be the same shape no matter how fast or how hard I ran towards it.  I then thought how pitiful it would be if someone were deluded enough in thinking that they could reach the top of this pyramid if only they believed that it could be reached, no matter how insane or crazy the idea was.

~

Because what’s the first thing mountain climbers do after they reach the apex?  They prepare to climb another one.  There’s nothing wrong with climbing mountains.  Just ask yourself why you do it.  The motive behind our actions is everything.

~

External objects or ideas aren’t going to make us happy.  Setting goals will only lead you to despair.

~

Physical, psychological, and spiritual, the path is one of the oldest symbols of our psyche.  When we look at pictures, paintings, or even crude child’s drawings of a path winding through the woods, our first instinct is to want to tread it. It’s one of the oldest, most primitive parts of ourselves.  Tread your path.  But tread it honestly.

~

Don’t look up too much except to see where you’re heading.  Don’t look back too much except to see where you’ve been.  Keep your head up, your spine straight.  Breathe deep and full, feel your feet connect and push off from the ground, step by step.  Pay attention to the sensual textures of the world around you along the way–the scent of asphalt, the skin of a tree, the whine of a car.  Write every day, read every day, be the best person you can every day.  That’s it.  Every single day, try your best.  Until you die.  Tread the pyramid’s path with honesty.  Don’t quit the path in despair knowing you’ll never reach the top, but also don’t wander off the path in distraction thinking, since you’ll never reach the top, you’ll have all the time in the world.  Yes the top of that pyramid will always be there; you, however, will not be.

~

You must have urgent patience.  It sounds contradictory; but then, fusing two opposing sides of yourself–the rational mind with the emotional heart–is something we do as writers every single day we work.  Being two different people is who we are.  It’s about balance.

~

Motivation is essential because the reason you do something will be an important indicator of how you’re treading the path.  Questions of motivation can be addressed every single day, but may take years or even decades to answer truthfully.  And every single time we answer the question of motivation truthfully, our point of view changes and with it, our style.  Keep working at it, cutting away the unnecessary parts of your self, your mind, and your spirit, like trimming a lusciously wild tree.  It’s a switch in motivation, from THAT to THIS; from the THAT of mass publication, book tours, your photo on magazine covers, readings, millions of fans, and movie deals to the THIS of creating and nurturing an art form to its most fullest and most honest potential.  If for only a few lines of THIS type of literature, it would all be worth it.

Once you’ve understood why you write, you can focus then on who you are writing for.  But that, my friends, is another post…

Clarity

 

All literature is about being as clear as possible.  This is an art form of smoky images and emotions, of myths and legends.  Deciphering from a written language, we conjure in our minds the setting, the characters, the actions; and within all of this is its either plain or complex style of language.  Every piece of literature that has been produced and ever will falls prey to being boring and bland to the casual onlooker.  Literature doesn’t have the advantages of the visual to show itself right away–it must be worked for.  And because it can always be whittled down to just blocks of words, it is clarity that separates inspiring, meaningful, and artistic work from the rest.  If a work is clear, it rises out above the page it is printed on and catches us in the dream it is weaving.  Then we miss our train stop and love the book for that.

The genius of Woolf, Nabokov, Faulkner, Joyce—hosts to some of the densest, most complex literature ever imagined and produced—is that it has clear, strong threads of clarity weaved throughout the abstract, the symbolic, the obscure, and the poetic.  I remember when I decided to give ‘The Sound and the Fury’ one more try.  Up until that point, I had thrown it across the room in frustration about five times one summer (a habit keeping me from buying a Kindl).  ‘Stupid writer, just trying to be vague and artsy.  Forget it.’  But there was something there that made me reconsider.  It was nothing important, really, just a smidgen of something, a streak of familiarity.  I’m a man who loves puzzles, and so, when I read stuff like this, I look for patterns.  In Part I of the novel, there was something there, something I could feel more than know.  Swirling within that mass of past and present, swirling within the mind of this character, there was meaning. Then I found it.  I can’t tell you what it was, I don’t remember, but all of a sudden, I’d seen the pattern, and it made me skip all the way back to the beginning of the novel and reread it.  Everything made sense after that and it became a thing of beauty and wonder.  If that novel didn’t have at least that little something, that thread of clarity, I would’ve put down the book and never picked it up again, and Faulkner would never have gotten it published.  And it’s there all the time, in great works–that something that lets you know that it is all part of a pattern.  When you find it, swirling within the mass of words, the whole piece changes.  And, at first, when you said, ‘I can’t stand this obscure, wordy crap!’, now you say, ‘I adore this treasure!’  The Sound and the Fury is easily one of the greatest American novels ever written and it’s because of not only his complex writing style but also his attention to clarity that keeps us reading.  We do this with obscure, complex things because it challenges us.  And every reader, deep down, loves a good challenge.

On the other end, you have the straight-forward writing of Hemingway and Chandler or the 19th-century realists of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Mann, and Flaubert.  Their genius is not in the weaving of the abstract with the concrete, but in the oak tree of the concrete detail casting the shadow of the abstract.  This is realism, the examination of the everyday and the larger questions that evolve from its constant details of people and places.  It challenges us in its own way by seeming almost too clear, making us look closer at what is unfolding in front of us.  Realism fools us with its sometimes overtly clear words, but don’t be fooled: there is more there than meets the eye.

By knowing that great works are clear and purposeful, you can now get to work on being as clear as you possible can in your own work and making sure you are keeping clear that dream on the page.  Be deliberate in your words, knowing that all the while, there is a reader right there nodding their head, and hopefully, muttering, ‘Go on, go on.’

Clarity is always the first and most important–and therefore the most difficult–goal to achieve for a writer.  We are, again, working in an art of smoke.  To lose our readers in these writer-made clouds of thought, emotion, and character is to be indifferent to them, it is also to be cruel.

Lyrics as Poetry 

‘Retrovertigo’ by Mr. Bungle

 

{Before you advertise, all the fame is implied.}

 

With no fortune unseen,

sell the rights

to your blight,

time machine.

 

While I’m dulled by excess

and a cynic

at best,

my art imitates crime.

 

{Paid for by the allies, so invest. 😉}

~

 

Now I’m finding truth is a ruin (nauseous end that NOBODY IS PURSUING!!!!!!!!)

staring into glassy eyes.

(Mesmerized©)

There’s a vintage thirst returning.

“But I’m sheltered by my…” (channel surfing)

Every famine virtual…

 

 

ℜ£ΓℜΦ   VΣℜΓÍG∅

 

A tribute to false memories

with conviction!

(cheap imitation)

Is it fashion or disease?!

Post-ironic remains a mouth to feed.

 

Sell the rights

to your blight

(and you’ll eat).

 

Now I’m finding truth is a ruin (nauseous end that NOBODY IS PURSUING!!!!!!!!)

staring into glassy eyes.

(Mesmerized©)

See the vintage robot wearied,

then awakened by revision theories.

Every famine virtual…

 

 

ℜ£Γℜ©  VΣℜΓÍG∅

 

 

Mr_Bungle_MB

Written by: TREVOR R DUNN
Lyrics © O/B/O APRA AMCOS
Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

RELAX

Relax.

Start that new show you’ve had your eye on, the one everyone keeps talking about.

YOLO

Go back to sleep.

Same old, same old.

Why?

Literally everyone else is doing it.

Calm down.

It’s easier this way.

YOLO

“Cuz fuck that shit.”

YOLO

“It’s fine the way it is, leave it.”

It’s fine.

RELAX.

“What’s gotten into you?”

“Don’t be such a kill joy.”

Everyone’s having fun, what’s wrong?

YOLO

Sit down.

Lay down.

Calm down.

Go back to sleep.

You’re fine the way you are.

Just relax

and don’t ever question them again.

~~

Breathe.

Nod.

Play along.

Say about the weather.

Say about sports.

Say about them and their things-going-on.

(Don’t) say about your/their dreams.

Say about politics (generally, please).

Say about how music is all crap nowadays.

Say about these new beers (drinks) (shows) (restaurants) they got out now.

Play the game.  You know the game.  Play it.

Just…

~

…bide your time.

Blink.

Breathe.

Save your energy.

Suffer these fools gladly.

Gladly,

humbly.

Don’t waste your energy.

You’ll need it.

You’re getting older.

Older every second.

Air rusts metal.

Air rusts you.

Energy will be more expensive than all the money

you’ve ever dreamt of

ever.

In ten more years,

five more minutes

will be worth more than

all the happy thoughts you’ve ever felt in your life,

even just five minutes

of pain.

SEE

Take a tip from da Vinci—

see everything you see in a new way.  Especially things you’ve seen before.  The billions of times on your way to work or on your way back home, the walk up your steps, the opening of the front door, at work or at lunch, or at family gatherings or at a show.  Look for the corner of the image, the outward detail, adjunct and seemingly hidden forever. I like feet or ankles.  These seem innocent and at first glance, nondescript and devoid of anything interesting.  It’s almost as if they serve just a utilitarian purpose.  Don’t you be fooled.  Go for that distant detail.  A person’s feet tell you more than you know. Or hands or hair.  The toughy is anything in nature.  I get absolutely lost in thought if I pay full attention to the things around me–the wrinkled lines of flecked red paint from a garage door frame, a white soda bottle cap being swallowed by a square of muddy dirt where the sidewalk ends, or the tired but happy eyes of the short Mexican woman passing me on her way to the laundry mat again.  They’re all out there.  Remember them.  That’s what da Vinci did too–at night, he’d recall all of the details he saw that day.

So see everything you see in a new way (or try; a person must pay attention to the idiot cars careening down the street too.).

Quote #431

Salineras_de_Maras,_Maras,_Perú,_2015-07-30,_DD_17

 

“Tip #4: Professionalism is not enough; or the Good is the Enemy of the Great

“What is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure, and if you’re professional, your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. Professionalism is a limited goal.”

Milton Glaser