Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #301 - The Serendipity Letter
Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #301 - The Serendipity Letter
So, on Monday, I went up to Sangren at WMU to collect projects for grading. Our office is on the fourth floor, and lately, with the state of my legs, I tend to take the elevator. After collecting the papers, I am leaving when I spot this envelope seen in the picture above. It's sitting on a bench underneath the main stair in Sangren by the lower level entrance.
I stepped closer and read the front. I hesitated. Is this really for me? Well, clearly, it IS for me. The envelope clearly tells me so.
I picked it up and opened it. This is what was inside.
I took it home with me.
Tomorrow, I am going to put it back for someone else to find.
Something was going on in the building. Freshman Orientation? I am not sure. But I do not think I was really the intended recipient. And yet, the envelope was rather clear that if I found it, then it "belonged" to me. So, there you go.
But the note made my day. I was having a rough day. I had just written about your 300th day gone, Mom, and I had final grades and various annoyances of life. The letter lifted my spirits. I felt hugged.
The note also made me think. Now that the semester is over, I have been struggling to turn my thoughts back to my fiction writing. I had stored book ideas in head that I had not written down yet. I became terrified that I had forgotten the ideas. When I drilled down, I found that some details may have slipped away, but the broad strokes are still there. But this line of thought connected to what Warren Ellis wrote in his weekly ORBITAL OPERATIONS newsletter (subscribe if you dare at that link of the name of the thing).
I am bold-facing the key sentence. He wrote the following, for the Sunday May 1st letter, which I include here with due credit to Warren, my favorite writerly curmudgeon and recent survivor of a brain event:
I could probably shake this story idea out of my head if I spent a day or two on trains and planes. Two weeks of studying vertical cinema (the portrait frame - also, these days, known as "your phone"). And now it's all quiet. Making a red pepper omelette for breakfast with an espresso and fresh lemon juice in half a pint of water, chicken breast and organic tomato with a glass of wine in the evening, reading Beckett and listening to Soma FM Drone Zone. Little drizzles of occasional email and the distant underwater pings of sleepy messaging apps. I'm probably going to go and see the Louise Landes Levi gig at Cafo Oto in London later in the week, which is probably the only time I'll be in a room with other people for the next little while. It's just me in my own head with a shovel, to see what's composted there this year so far.
This is the part of the job that doesn't get talked about a lot, not least because it's hard to talk about, but also because it doesn't involve Productivity and Goals and The Magic Of Writering and The Grand Statement and all that good stuff in interviews. Sure, we all talk about the important Staring At The Wall And Farting Around time, but it's also about sifting through the shitpile at the back of your head and deciding if you actually have anything to say. Any idiot can recycle the monomyth and plug in a setting and a handful of blank characters, but that's not the same as having something to say: about the world, life, a thing, even yourself. I have a whole folder of loose ideas that dried up and got thrown in the folder because they and I turned out to have nothing to say about anything - they were just collections of cogs and levers. And by that, I mean probably eight to ten dead ideas, written up and filed, for every one that gets published.
It's a moronic way to work. Some of my books only speak to me, I'm sure. It's just the only way to work that I know.
I think I should probably open another bottle. Please join me. Or take it away from me.
It's true that I have devoted myself to daily blog posts, which I cannot quite do daily, but I do manage to get things posted for each day eventually, even when I fall behind. Hi Mom. This is my second go around with daily blogging. T-shirts was meant to be proof that I could write every day and that I could produce a certain amount of content each week. The transition from that daily devotion was meant to be aimed at fiction. When shut down daily transmissions of T-shirts in March of 2014, I was supposed to devote myself daily to fiction writing or at least aim to produce the same amount of text per week as I had with T-shirts. This did not happen. In fact, I even struggled to post a weekly blog entry about comic books after T-shirts ended.
I have been working on a novel project since 1995 called Cyber-Spell. Often it's a reflection of what I have been reading. When I first conceived it, I had just read Snow Crash, and so it was heavily influenced by that novel. Later, other influences insinuated themselves. In the last two years, I have doodled with it as much as I can but school interferes. I started the year with renewed energy to keep it in my thoughts, concocting ideas, brainstorming. I did well for the first two or so months of the year, but as school really consumer huge chunks of my life, my mental energies for Cyber-Spell waned. By the first of May, I realized I had not thought about it much -- no real brainstorming -- in weeks.
Though there are many issues that have arrested my progress with the book over the year, false starts, re-starts, offshoots, one frequent struggle is that I want it to be good. I want to write a great book. As a young man, I thought I shit gold. I did not worry so much about the quality as I was fueled by the engine of youth. As I got older, as I learned more, knew more, I knew that I had very lofty goals and often felt the fraud. Could I really write a great book? Was I talented? And so, I was easily influenced. I would cleave to something I was reading as THE ANSWER. That's it, I would say. Eureka! That's what I need to do to make the book a great book. And often these feelings would be accompanied by fear: can I really pull it off?
So, Ellis' words in the above struck home, and they fed all those insecurities. Would my book be good enough? Would someone like Ellis like it? Or am I just aping the same old tried crap that so many others churn out in endless variations of cliché and banality?
I started reading JG Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition, which did not help. It's a brilliant novel because Ballard is a brilliant writer. Am I just as brilliant? I do not feel as brilliant.
And then Monday I found the note. SERENDIPITY. Maybe I should not worry so much about what others are doing. Maybe I should just focus on what I wan to do. I should trust my instincts. I should focus on what I want to do, what I want to say. I am not an idiot. I may work with monomyth but I am not recycling it as much as re-using it. I will not and plug in a lackluster setting and characters will not be blank. I have something to say. Turns out, I have A LOT to say about the world, life, a thing, even myself.
I am giving up the good; I am going for the great.
Reflect and connect.
Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.
Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.
- Days ago = 303 days ago
- Bloggery committed by chris tower - 1605.03 - 10:10
NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
PS: This was not the original post I had intended for today's blog. More serendipity. I am open to change the plan to fit the things that life and living provide.
PPS: update 1605.17: I took the note back on 1605.13 and left it for someone else. Within a few hours, it was gone.