Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January in Review

January 2012 was a kind month.  Kind.  It isn't often a person thinks of January as kind.  Here in Portland, Oregon, January is typically a long rainy month of long nights.  Fortunately, the nights at the end of the month are shorter, significantly so, than the nights at the beginning of the month.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sown and Sewn, Part III: The End of Week One

As silly as this is going to sound, here it is: it took me more time to simply sit down and start writing this story than it's going to take me to write it. The very notion of this piece began as a thought on a walk home from the restaurant back in September. Here it is January, and the very end of it at that, and I just started writing. At the end of week one, I drove through 1/3 of the project. 1/3. And at the pace I'm going, I'm thinking that I may be as far as half way by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I can see the scene already. The poet sits in the boat, and he's already recounting the recent battle, he adds it to the canon of other battles, those of their fathers, grandfathers. Yeah, whatever, right? I can see Rance Poole on the other side of the campfire as we sit on a high, dry, lonely plateau. In my memory, he's telling me a story with such power and accuracy that I'm unhinged, I'm no longer afraid of the darkness of night. Wrapped up in Rance's story, I want to know the end, yes, but it's the timbre of his voice, the cadence of the the words that has me so enthralled. He's a good storyteller, and even at this young age of his, he could rival any Viking poet.
I feel like we were focused on one another, all of us, just a few short analogue years ago. We were telling stories on stoops, stories which built from unlikely beginnings to surprising endings. We were laughing, we were laughing and we were laughing. “Then what happened?”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sown and Sewn: Part II Back to Ground Zero

Fuck. That's the only real way to describe it, this feeling, this novel, and this disposition. I've made a few really, really big mistakes. First, I waited too long to begin Errors of Fabric. After all, I wrote the other nine novels one right after the other, and now I've had about a year long furlough before beginning this novel. The next mistake is that I looked through all of my old notebooks at the first drafts of the 2009 novels. And perhaps the last mistake is that I thought I could use all my notes and drafts and starts and fits and mold them into this new piece. Fuck. Nothing could be closer to the truth.
So? Where does that leave me? Who knows?
When it comes to the writing of a novel, I just don't believe that it's a difficult thing to do. Just gotta do it, that's it. I don't know why this piece is so tough.
First, let me say that the plan from part one (January 23, 2012) is not a bad plan. I like the proposed stretch of the story. And after looking at “Rogues and Tramps,” there is potential there. But, how can I make something from this? I don't exactly have doubts.
When I looked through my old notebooks at first drafts, it seems I started something new at the onset of a new notebook. I face that prospect right now. I wonder how much personal psychology goes into that new notebook. Very tough to say.
For anyone out there dealing with this, like I am: it's time to just write it down. The construction of a novel happens slowly, organically. And I do mean slowly, even if the entire first draft can be completed in a matter of days. It's a fifty thousand word story. Just go. And for me? The old drafts are out the window. It's a new day, a new notebook and a new Errors of Fabric.
I will more than likely use “Rogues and Tramps” within the story of Errors of Fabric. Yet, I may not. What I know is this: Today, as I begin this new piece, I have nothing. I have a 200 page wide ruled composition notebook and a vague understanding of the story. As of January 2012, I start this piece on the 19th with a word and page count of zero.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sown and Sewn, Part I: A Handful of Drafts and Scratches of Notes

If I may digress into a stupid analogy for a moment, let's consider gin. The writing of a novel is like drinking a shot of warm gin. If you can drink one, you can drink ten. Novels, yeah, if you can write one, you can write ten. I say this because I think anyone can, anyone. I've done it, the warm gin, ten gins. I've written a novel, ten novels.
I write fast, I know this. I've also developed my own system for doing it which was clearly defined in The Novel: Guerrilla Style. I write quickly, but I also write everyday.
Of my nine completed manuscripts, two stick out as the extremes. Undertakers of Rain which took about 7 weeks to complete and Sand and Asbestos which took about 26 months. I became completely absorbed in the first, and I took tremendous breaks during the writing of the second.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Incessantly Written Down: The Preamble

I really can't recall the impetus of why I decided to write. For me, as I suspect for many writers, it started very early. I do remember writing very short stories about monsters for my friend Doug when we were in the fifth or sixth grade. I didn't particularly care about monsters, but Doug did. I was very impressed by his illustrations of monsters which perfectly fit with my stories. Or perhaps my stories perfectly fit with his drawings. Either way, it got me through the day. I hated school and the manufacturing of illustrated monster stories eased the pain of my fine public school education.
Perhaps the beginning happened during my afternoon conversations with my pen pal. We were thirteen or fourteen, and our conversations reflected it. She had been visiting her grandparents for Thanksgiving when we met. I remember her asking me what it was I wanted to be when I grew up. Then, as now, I had no answer. When I asked her, she said calmly, coolly that she might want to be a writer. The image it gave me of a writer was this: someone who lived in a black and white, private detective movie laboring over a messy desk complete with a typewriter, some sort of pistol and coffee. For some writers, I suspect, this image is appropriate enough. She didn't really grow up to be the PI writer, but thirty years later, we're still writing letters to one another, complete with ink, paper, envelope and stamp.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daydreams and Supplemental Reading

In this endless world of the written word, I wonder how many characters it would take, how many words, sentences, long streams of stories to circle the globe? And furthermore, how many books it's going to take to quench this thirst? And when I think about being thirsty, I just want to sip iced tea at the pool's edge with a good book in my lap.
In this daydream, there is a small convertible car in the driveway. The windows of the house overlook the edge of the world. This is where I've chosen to build my library. Say, what kind of daydream is this anyway?
We're relaxed in the afternoon. Poolside, the weather's fine. And there are plenty of books to read, and plenty of time to do it.
I have other daydreams too, but they're not appropriate here.
Completely at random, I chose this new reading list:

An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
Lady Chatterly's Lover D.H. Lawrence
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Logan's Run Nolan/Johnson
Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
Travels Paul Bowles

For all the readers out there, yes, keep reading. You are never the same person, or the same thinker after completing a book as you were when you started. For all the writers out there, you are never the same writer after you completed reading a book as you were when you started. And for those of you who neither read or write, I wonder what your daydreams are like?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quick Reading?

For some reason, I tore through the winter reading list.  I'm sure there are a few aspects to this.  I know that the more one reads, the more one wants to read.  It's also a result of practice.  The more one reads, the better one gets at it.  Even so, a list of 8 to 10 books in a season is no small sum.  I generally like to build a list for the seasons.  This practice started several seasons ago when discussing The Virgin Suicides with Mark Dragotta.
At any rate, it took less than three weeks for me to read the winter list.  Something I attribute to the long nights following the dark days of Portland's winter, and a recent decision to stop drinking.  In a way, the lack of Jim Beam and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer may be solely to blame for my shrinking paunch and for more reading hours.
Things got underway with Ginsberg.  Admittedly, "Howl" is an amazing read.  I was surprised at what I found in the lines of this poem.  As many know, I have never been a fan of Walt Whitman, and I also prejudged Ginsberg of emulating Whitman.  At this stage, I may need to revisit "Leaves of Grass" just to see if I have changed as a reader.  But more than "Howl," it was the reading of "America" that meant to much to me.  "Businessmen are serious.  Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me."