Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Calmly marching off the Precipice

I was talking to a guy recently who claimed he was a writer – something a lot of people do, unfortunately.  He works security at my place of business.

I heard in passing that he was a writer, and when I asked him he told me it was true, but he hadn’t written anything in two years, saying that he was not in the right ‘environment’ for it.

Now, to those reading this it sounds like an excuse, but it’s not.  By ‘environment’ I knew exactly what he meant, and it’s not a padded cell, it’s not a secluded island near Fiji, nor is it a commune in northern California where you meditate and eat granola every day and write random thoughts down and study your Ka; it’s about having the right ‘people’ around you.

I’ve often been stultified by the persons that surround me – many just average citizens with no interest in creative thought. It’s not a knock, it’s just how it is.  And if you’re a writer or an artist or any kind of Imagination-based creature, you know the feeling.  You have all these ideas in your head, popping, crackling, waiting to burst forth, and so you look for a receptive ear.  When there are none around and you’re left with your crazy thoughts all to yourself, you start to feel dulled; like a knife being raked against concrete.

But this security guard, upon talking to me about writing, brightened a little.   I gave him one of my stories and he took it, said he’d read it a few times to get all the nuances out of it.

When I talked to him on his next patrol, we began a discussion about my story.  He began pacing the floor, eyes to the ceiling, talking about writing.  And I knew; this guy is a real writer.  I recognize the latent mania, the nervous movement, the insane desire to get thoughts down, to write stories.

I figure that’s why having a writing community is so important.  I mean, who wants to go it alone, anyway?    What fun is that?  I’ve always secretly longed for those Kerouac days, when the local writers and artists gathered in coffee shops and discussed stories, ideas, the nature of the universe and so on.  It makes you feel part of something, a movement; a movement of writers, actually.  Like a flight of birds soaring together.

And then I met another writer at work, Alberto.

The passion that this man displays when he talks writing and literature is astounding. He tells me he’s read over 1000 books, written 200 stories.

This time it was MY turn to pace the floor.  When hearing him discuss the craft and how he loves it I instantly wanted to bolt out the door and get home to my office and write.  The feeling is infectious.  A kind of electric charge hits your ass.

And so, I now have a small posse of creative writers with which I may cavort and share ideas.  Maybe it’ll come to nothing, maybe it’ll lead to something.  I know that since I met these two my production has increased – I’ve averaged about a story a week, although that could also be attributed to Ray Bradbury’s admonishment ‘Write 52 stories a year. You can’t write 52 bad stories, can you?’

And also, no one else is going to do this for me, so I have to kick my own ass, as physically impossible as it is.  If I waited for a lightening bolt to the temple I’ll be an old man before I get anything published.

So calmly I go marching off the precipice.   Would you like to come with me?

Unrelated Madness:

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  1. You got the number wrong. I said "over 1,000 books". Five times in my life, I counted how many books I have read. That's how I know. Yesterday I was remembering how many books I read exactly, and it would be impossible to tell. I would say 1,100 to 1,200. When you get used to read, reading is like breathing, a necessity. Perhaps, the important question is not "How many books have we read?" but this one: "How many of those books we have already read were (after being read) worth reading?" Then, that number is reduced by 1/2 or 1/3 (Perhaps 1/4?).

    The other point to consider here is "Why people write?" In my case, to express with words something that was not yet written. Who wants to write something already written, copying Stephen King, for instance. There is so much to tell in life, beyond what we do in everyday life. Usually life needs a little help from us, to make it more bearable. Thus fiction has to contain myth. That's why the business of religion is so valuable these days. People want to believe on what we, as writers, say. They don't want to read a description of an event, but fiction that takes them away, far away, from reality.

  2. Sorry! Numbers are very abstract to me. I'll fix it ... =)


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