So the thing about being in a writing program is it feels like all writing needs to be devoted to making work for my program. I feel less guilty wasting time doing things that make me feel worse about the world than I do about writing here. But reading about how shitty the world is is starting to get to me. I can’t spend time on the internet anymore. It’s just too terrible a place.
All this to say: I’m trying to come back here. It’s better than reading about who hit whom, and who is going to prison for what, and where in the world is on fire, and where in the universe smells the most like farts (spoiler: it’s everywhere. Everywhere smells most like farts).
I am trying to finish my thesis for school (a novel! A novel about a terrible family doing terrible things to each other terribly, but the writing is good, so I got what I came to school for), and another project (a weird, weird sort of semi-autobiography thing, made up of bizarre answers to a questionnaire I stole from a psychologist and an inventory of myself and a gazetteer of the places I’ve lived–needless to say IT’S HOT, SO HOT, AND ALL THE KIDS WILL BE IN THE THEATERS SOON WATCHING A MOVIE BASED ON THE BOOK OF MY LIFE), and I’m trying not to stretch myself so thin I just give up on everything and eat salty snacks. I ate a bag of goldfish crackers yesterday and it was painful to open my eyes this morning. They weren’t crusty or anything, the corneas were just so dry the lids were almost sealed to them, pieces of rubber to glass.
I have no illusions this will last. We shall see.
Glory be. World without end.
I’m not sure today if I made it.
I don’t know. Today feels familiar, like I’ve lived it already, but it feels wrong. Dirty shirt, smells like BO. Gross. Open a box of shoes: there are sweaty footprints on the insoles, and they aren’t mine. I don’t think. Are they? I can’t tell. Why can’t I tell? That’s a simple question. Are these your shoes, Seer?
Is this your life? Well? Is it? I’m asking you a question.
As it was in the beginning.
And I’m in my mother’s house, and she’s got the sutures, and they’re terrible terrible things, looking just awful, but it’s okay it’s okay it’s all okay and everything will be okay and I can forget forget about yesterday yesterday when I was fetal curled up in my own safeness crying because I had to come here it’s okay I can forget that it’s okay to be here forget if you don’t think about it you can’t smell the piss. I have to wash my hair three times to get the ammonia out in the morning. Forget it it forget.
World without end.
Sometimes I wonder if I really died, you know. There were some times I came close. When people shook the very death off of me like I had leeches on my back. And I wonder if I came back to the world I knew I knew the world I knew was born into and of or stepped into a Purgatory version. Am I paying off my debts now? Do I ever get a list of what they are? A receipt?
And ever shall be.
If I were dead, how would I know? Do the dead know? Would I even know.
I’ve been undeniably cranky lately. The past several weeks. It’s been either contagion and I got it from somewhere or I’m Patient Zero and spread it up and down to all the people who are porous around me (sorry, so sorry, I didn’t know I was giving you pinkeye on the Third one. At least is isn’t visible and people will still sit next to you on the bus). People I have noticed it in:
- Little gray asshole cat in the neighborhood (has taken to shitting on the fucking sidewalk, how dickish is that, can’t even be bothered to shit in the gutter or on the bare dirt around here, fucking little asshole cat)
Okay, I had listed three other people here, but I removed them, because I’m trying not to talk about other people. As long as you aren’t grumping at me, which they aren’t, I don’t mind. Have your feelings. Have away! Don’t take them out on me and we’re totally cool. There have been some miscommunications because grumpy people are more anxious and forgetful–this includes me–so I need to take that into account. But it’s more than just me, it’s a lot of people, which makes me think this is an emotional virus.
I think it’s starting to shift, though. At least for me.
I got a huge shift of creative energy the other day. Well, I got a huge burst of toxic energy (I felt like I was dying–don’t worry, this happens not infrequently to me), and then I had to go see Moms. But I was able to push this shit out of my psychic colon and paint this energetic poop on the walls of my own private asylum. I can use it for creative inspiration, is what I’m saying. So I’m onto a new, short-term project.
It’s shadow side, this project is, so I’ll be dipping my cup into the darkness a lot in the nearness. Next few weeks or month or so. That’s fine; it’ll give me a constructive channel for all the yechery. Maybe I’ll be less of an a-hole. Maybe. No promises.
The thing about taking on a new, highly energetic project: it hurts to do this. It’s like shedding a skin. It’s cutting the nails past the quick and bleeding. Losing teeth makes for the tender, bloody, pulpy spots, you know? That’s where the energy comes from. The energy comes from the parts of the body that don’t normally get exposed. It comes from the humors. The bile, blood, phlegm. Growth and creation hurt. If you don’t believe me, ask a pregnant lady. Hella them are fucked up crazy people. But you get a baby/work at the end of it, so hopefully you’re at least satisfied about the whole thing. Not always, but you know, there was at least some sort of payoff. Flu just sucks and then it sucks less and less until you can hold your head up without it feeling like it’s full of dirty rocks and motor oil.
This is good shit, is what I’m saying. But it’s way potent. I’m already having waking visions and sleeping dreams related to this project. I’m not taking more of the project on than I can handle (I guess, but probably not, I’m probably doing too much, letting it eat too much time), and I totally know my dealer (that’s not true, really; I have no idea where this shit comes from. Do you know the Muse? Or the energy of the universe? I fucking don’t. I feel it, and have only a rudimentary understanding of it), but still: creative energy is a helluva drug, man. Crazy-ass trip.
We’ll see how long there’s catshit on the sidewalk. That cat is a fucking nincompoop, really. No decency.
So: one of my favorite words, as it says under the title of my blog, is “Lunch.” I wrote a little exercise for myself. Here are the rules I used (mix and match as works for you–this will work for fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, play writing, or just a warmup):
- Choose a word. Find an image you like that relates to that word.
- Write a piece in response to that image. Focus on the musicality of the piece–all of my definitions are just sorta, to jog your memory; look them up if you don’t really know/it’s been a long time. There’s no shame in not knowing something you have had no reason to learn: assonance (repeated vowel sounds in stressed syllables: knows-owes-goes), consonance (repeating the initial consonant sound with words but changing the vowel sounds: wonder-wander-wader), rhyme, half-rhyme (also called eye rhymes or inexact rhymes: said-maid, love-prove) and alliteration (beginning words with the same consonant or vowel sound, also called a head-rhyme: land-lamp-laugh).
- Aim to have at least one piece of “music” in every line.
- Try to make every word you can interact with another. Just try. It’ll give you a chance to edit! Editing: making good writers better since forever. Ask yourself: what other word could I put here? Why did I choose this one? Why am I in love with this? What else works? Sacrifice musicality? Or meaning? Story? Time? Logic? Or ease in writing? What is my aesthetic? How do rules/structure make me realize what my tics are?
- Take no more than forty minutes.
If anyone uses any of these exercises, I’d love to see what you do. If you post them, lemme know. You can also always email them to me if you haven’t gotten to the point where you’re ready to share your work with anyone. I will look at them and I am always kind. If that link it’s working, it’s the blog name at the Google Mail.
Have a great lunch today!
Lunch–my, I love lunch. Lisa looks lovely like that. See the scar with the scarf on–no. Quick with the picture. For the look book. And her sister and the children. In a photo, you have control. No fights or sighs; all smiles. We wandered until we blundered on this marina and it was a wonderful–we are so alone.
Luanne, she makes the best sandwiches. Spreads to the edges. Every bite has a niceness to it. You are fed more than bread. She says there’s an art to it, and heart to it. Good food, but just food.
Kids didn’t bicker. A great day. Water wasn’t, you know, you couldn’t get in it. Green, bile-like film and vile, sticky sheen. Smelled of well, shit–no, that wasn’t it. Bleach, I think, something you keep under the sink. I don’t know; Lisa keeps the house.
A bloated dead mouse found on the ground. The kids put a cross over it after covering it with gathered moss.
We sang The Star Spangled Banner for it with our hands on our chests and left.
I had a swell of fear tonight and had to call someone for help with it. There was no real reason for the fear. No new information that would lead me to be afraid. I’m not sick. No possessions of mine have broken. I’m not in a jam with school. I have no new problems to face. Just regular, run of the mill fear swirling its skirts around me, laughing and hissing and spitting while it talks.
It told me I was terrible at the thing I want to do most in this world today. It told me I have No Business Writing Anything Ever. Stop it, Seer. Give it up, girl. There’s no point! You’re terrible. The worst.
I called someone pretty soon to help me get out of the spin. He helped. Within twenty minutes, we got me out of the ditch.
I think the thing that fueled this doubtfest was a bit of extremely positive information about my work that someone gave me the other day. Crazy, right? What happened: Someone tells me they like what I do, and that they want to help me put my shit into the world. I ride high for a couple of days. Hey, I’m good at this! There is a place for my work in print! Huzzah. Then for a day I feel nothing. And then KABLAMMO I feel like shit and doubt everything I create. Everything I touch turns to shit. It’s all awful.
I have to remember: it doesn’t feel like angels sing when I make good work. That’s not why I do it. And when people connect with my work, they don’t tell me angels are singing in their ears, either. That’s not why I do it, either.
But I’ll be goddamned if I stop doing it because I am afraid. Afraid of what? Let’s see which fears are even real.
Am I afraid that people won’t like me? I have sung that song for too long. I can tell you that living my life according to what I presume people want me to do doesn’t make me happy.
Am I afraid that I’ll be poor? I’ve been poor making good money! When I’m unhappy I spend every dime I have trying to make myself happy. I’d rather have less to go around and be satisfied with my life.
Am I afraid that my work will never find a place in the world? Wheels are already turning to make that happen. Every time I read aloud I connect with at least one person there (that happens for almost everyone at every reading. If you’re reading this and you haven’t tried reading aloud yet, you may want to). And so what if it doesn’t? Some of my favorite writers never found a home for their work in their lifetimes. That doesn’t mean their work wasn’t good. And that bridge is so far away from me right now.
Am I afraid that I don’t have the chops? I got into a school, so I had to get past an admissions committee. My professors think I have chops. I won an award for some poems. (Did I tell that I am an award-winning poet?) So fuck you, fear.
You hear me, Fear? Fuck you! F you in the A! Go home and take a shit! Get lost! Go jump in a lake, you scrote!
not your pal, Fear
If you need something to put in your mouth and chew on instead of fear, BOOM:
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing……Only I will remain.
And if you need something for your eyes and ears to hear instead of fear, here (Find musician Steven Buck here):
So: This is a poem I wrote in response to an in-class exercise.
I’ll share the exercise with you, too, in brief. In my own words, because those are all I got.
Emotion is intangible. Really, it is. Everyone feels love, but you can’t smell it, see it, taste it, touch it, or hear it. But when you’re ass over teakettle in love with someone, your perspective is filtered through that love. Everything you experience is colored that way. You see more, you can feel other people’s feeling differently. When you’re in line at a coffeeshop, the tension in other people’s silences can be overwhelming: those people are having a huge blowout. When you are scared about your loved one dying, how does the world look then? Can you hear people at all through what’s going on inside, or do they sound quieter, farther away?
Here is a great poet of place, Robert Hass. (You can find eleven of his poems there. We used a different poet in class, but he’s my go-to guy for place.) See how he plays with the tangible and the intangible at the same time. How does he link the concrete outward details with what the speaker is feeling inside? How does he make the unique and personal universal?
Really, if you’re going to write better and hone your skills, you need to read great writers’ works and see how it’s done, so if you didn’t read Hass, go read another place poet’s work that you know. I will wait.
Now, imagine you are in love and your love has left you without warning. If you walk around your neighborhood at night, what do you see? Take a few minutes and write down concrete things you see, smell, taste, hear, and touch. Give yourself a time limit. This isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s an exercise. Drills. Scales. Warmup. Not the greatest story ever told.
Now fill these details out. Sand them down. Make them beautiful(er) and make a poem of them.
(We spent five minutes on each: five on poem reading, note taking, and poem writing.)
Remember, it’s not supposed to be fantastic. It’s an exercise. It’s skill building. We’re getting stronger here. Faster. Better.
My current motto about writing is: It isn’t my job to love my work. It’s my job to do my work.
Here’s mine, presented without comment (except the one above):
Man, Woman, Space
I don’t know Who did What Wrong
Space knows all
If only Man or Woman or I
Could knit them together
She gets out of the car
Space rides shotgun
No one can take my honesty, my realness.
God, what a caustic, unpleasant person.
The things she’s thinking could happily live on in her head alone. Unvoiced.
I speak truth to power.
They’re all jealous of me. Jealous!
She’s not as pretty as she acts. For reals, God’s not that pretty.
I’d like to see her without her face on for once–
but then, she doesn’t have the self-esteem to do that in public, does she?
She could really do with a good hot oil. Her roots are a mess, too.
Someone should tell her! I would want to know, were that ever me.
I intimidate women–
that’s why all my friends are men.
The only men that kick it with her are the horny ones; the other ones can’t stand her, either–
the only person she scares is herself.
Moving this way through the world is the only way I don’t compromise myself.
She seems so sad. So lonely. So forced. So affected. So serious.
Every action is a manifesto mixed with a tantrum wrapped in a “Dear John” letter.
Who killed your dog, seriously?
Who killed your fucking life?
Who killed your joy? Remember? When life was fun and
people were happy even around you?
It’s not my fault that no one understands me.
Look, the world owes and will give you nothing. You have to take it.
Reach out. Take it.