Live Forever. Be a Writer, Then Publish.

1 Comment

In an article at the website Brainpickings.org, a life plan to live more fully in the present moment also includes advice on how to live forever. Writing, and sharing your work through publication, seems to extend our lifespan.

alanwattsAlan Watts, a 20th-Century philosopher, points out in his 1951 book The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety, that “the experience of presence is the only experience that is a reminder that our “I” doesn’t exist beyond this present moment — there is no permanent, static, and immutable “self” which can grant us any degree of security and certainty for the future.” Watts was notable and continues to be so. His own presence was a plot point in the science fiction movie Her, where a collective of personal operating systems gathered to study with his long-dead presence via the Web. (You never can tell with Watts’ writings and lectures what’s genuinely possible. His reality seems to have few limits.)

Writing appears to be a bridge beyond our physical lifespans — or as Watts says, “an assurance of the future.” We won’t experience the future beyond us. But our writing, if it’s shared in some way, gives our essence the possibility of living in the future.

Strong writing always flows from a clear, personal voice and visions. Our “I” can be out there in the tomorrows that our bodies will never see. Maybe in that future of Her, we can be present in the mind of a single person, acting as their operating system. Writing a book today that leads a reader to adopt a life plan might make that happen, in the present, and in the future.

Advertisements

Boundaries spark creativity

1 Comment

It’s easy enough to revel in the first-draft mania of a writing project. This is important time, the period to clear your pipes and empty that tank of ideas and dreams. The genuine creation time, however, is when there’s a deadline and a word count or a page count to meet.

That’s what drives Saturday Night Live, according to its producer Lorne Michaels. He’s been interviewed on Alec Baldwin’s top-flight Here’s the Thing podcast. Michaels said that “I believe creativity doesn’t exist without boundaries.” For him there’s both a page count and a deadline. The show is ready by 11:30 Eastern Time — or as he puts it, “it’s not ready, but it’s got to go on the air at 11:30.” At some point, a piece of writing needs to meet a deadline to show to a writing group, an agent, a contest, or a lit mag’s submission date.

And SNL needs to unspool in 90 minutes total time — so plenty of it has to be dropped or shortened to meet time. Sometimes whole skits are dumped if they don’t work out during the frantic six days before airtime.

Boundaries exist to create choices, and some people believe that choices are all there is to define art. There’s a great scene in the movie Wonder Boys. Novelist Grady Tripp is slogging through his second book after a debut success. You see him creep into his study and take a page and feed it into a typewriter. He lines up the paper for a page number and types 261 — then looks around and adds a 4, for a 2,600-plus page manuscript. Later his grad student Hannah reads the wooly piece of writing and confronts him about it.

Hannah glances at the huge stack of paper sitting on her dresser, then, hesitantly, looks back to Grady.

					HANNAH GREEN
		It's just that, you know, I was thinking about 
		how, in class, you're always telling us '-that 
		writers make choices--at least the good ones. 
		And, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the 
		book isn't really great-I mean, really great-
		but at times it's, well, very detailed, you 
		know, with the genealogies of everyone's horses 
		and ail the dental records and so on-and I 
		don't know, maybe I'm wrong, but it sort of 
		reads, in places, like, well, actually, like... 
			(with trepidation)
	...you didn't make any choices at all.

Let choices of page counts, deadlines and characters establish the boundaries that can spark great writing. And remember, sooner or later it’s 11:30, and time to finish the creation.

The Free Dictionary: page definition: a youth being trained for the medieval rank of knight and in the personal service of a knight.

Bounding back from revisions

Comments Off on Bounding back from revisions

Writing is re-writing, but once you’ve done your rewrites it’s time to move on into the next book, story or article. A fresh start on a new project can seem tempting while you’re digging out of the problems of revising drafts. Once you’re clear of that book, though, starting can be difficult.

Over at the blog Be The Story, author J. Timothy King offers several layers of advice on how to beat the post-revisionist blues. He shares more than 10 aspects to consider about tools to approaching that new work. One that stands out, for me after my first novel Viral Times, is to stop judging the completed work.

Have a look at King’s post. It’s adapted from How to Lift Depression … Fast by Joe Griffin. As creators we tend to put a lot of our self-worth into our work. While the judgment is an appropriate part of the work, that kind of criticism tamps down our spirit to return to new creations. Let the best response to completing your work be encouraging, even if the writing is far from perfect. Writers improve their ability by writing. Authors have more than one project inside them.

Write what is closest

Comments Off on Write what is closest

The writing books advise us to write what we know. Bunk, mostly. What we know comes from what we learn, and I believe there’s no better way to learn something than to write about it, taking apart the particular pieces of making a hot latte, or the many gifted moments in creating Shrimp Franchez, butterflied and battered in parmesean, eggs, butter and love.

We should all write about something that creeps as close as the cup to our lips or the fork to our face. Writing about the lump of ice in your chest when you hear your son is on an IV, because he’s gone to the hospital. Write about the firey ivy that blooms all around your heart when your house is alight with laughter, dozens of people you know and love, enjoying each other in a party. Or about Soda Crackers, like Raymond Carver wrote in his poem of the same name. An alcoholic of many decades, when Carver finally sobered up and found his Happiness (the Tuesday entry), he wrote of soda crackers,

I never thought
I could go on like this
about soda crackers.
But I tell you
the clear sunshiny
days are here, at last.

Write what you know, I suppose, if you know it close. If you have learned something, or want to learn it, then it will be alive with your writing. The spirit you bring to the words will be like a watering can to thirsty flowers.