Thursday, March 12, 2009

What I Do 2

Writing isn't as easy as it looks. As a matter of fact I find it frightening.
I'm terribly afraid of screwing it up, even though I have the ability to go over whatever I write as many times as I see fit and hopefully correct any errors I may find, which I do constantly. So it's an irrational fear, but that doesn't make it any less terrifying. And I don't have an editor. Every writer needs an editor because the author is too close to the material, to connected with it and biased by that, to have a clear picture of the piece as a whole. Still I muddle through as best I can.
I've never taken classes in fictional writing. Many successful authors even state writing can't be taught, you either have the ability to do it well, or you don't. As far as it can ascertained, the Greek poet, Homer, never attended a class in Epic writing, so I'm in good company.
I have no college degree, to a large extent because I never appreciated the value of attempting to learn a whole bunch of crap I never thought was useful, or interesting. And I have a problem with authority. I do admire those who are able to go through all that is required to gain a degree of some kind, and hope that they are content in life, and achieve whatever their goals may be, however misguided.
Yet I am not completely untrained. Actually writing is the only thing I've consistently trained for in my entire life.
Even though I've taken many courses in English, some in a college setting, they did little to teach me how to write, if indeed I do know to a small degree know how to do it.
No I had other teachers. Every book, short story, screenplay, or whatever, I've ever read has taught me how to write, or how not to write. So I've learned how to write from reading, which I've done consistently throughout my life since I was a wee lad. I can't go anywhere without taking a book with me, as my mind needs to be constantly occupied in some manner as I get bored quite easily. My favorite authors are these: John Steinbeck, who taught me how to be descriptive and love the humanness of humanity. Kurt Vonnegut, who taught me how not to be descriptive, and how to find the humor in life that gets us through the darkest times. J D Salinger, who taught me how to find depth in the most common subjects and situations. Mark Twain, who taught me it was alright to be absurd. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who taught me... well I'm not completely sure what Dostoyevsky taught me, but I'm sure it was something good.
Carl Sagan was a major influence in my life, giving an eloquent voice to ideas I've always thought compelling. He taught me how and why I should be skeptical about most everything. He taught me about the Cosmos where I find myself residing. And he taught me how to present complicated subjects in a manner which is both easy to understand, and interesting to the reader, hopefully.
Currently I'm re-reading (which I admit is a problem for me as I have a horrible tendency to re-read books I love rather than take on books or authors I'm not familiar with) John Nichols panoramic epic, "The Magic Journey," one part of his New Mexico trilogy (the others being "The Milagro Beanfield War," and "The Nirvana Blues"), which very much involves the life of probably my favorite female fictional character, April Delaney.
I've had wonderful teachers; Edgar Allen Poe (who I admire for his comedic works, rather than his better known horror stories and poems), Stephen King, F Scott Fitzgerald, Hermann Hesse, Franz Kafka, Thornton Wilder, Edward Albee, Dean Koontz, John Milton, Paddy Chayefsky, J R R Tolkien, William Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Peter Straub, H G Wells, and Jules Verne to name just a few. I could go on and on, and I've stolen from all of them.
Anyway, at around six o'clock in the morning I'm ready to start the business of the day. I'll either write these blog entries, or work on short stories, or other projects until around noon (at some point, usually around nine, I'll take a breakfast brake, usually concerning eggs of some sort, toast, cereal, and more coffee).
At six I have changed the TV channel to MSNBC (I love the way Norah O'Donnell laughs), and The Bill Press program has ended, and The Stephanie Miller Show has begun (the TV at this point is mute, I'm not listening to both the television and radio at the same time. Yet).
Broadcast from right here in Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller displays the humorous side of progressive politics. It is basically a comedy program, that simply takes on politics as it's subject. She is the daughter of William E Miller, a one time Republican Vice Presidential candidate, running with Barry Goldwater in 1964. They lost.
Stephanie (and later in the day Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow) provides a great service to me. In as far as I need to know what the Republican Noise Machine (referring to David Brock's investigative work on the Conservative PR industry) is up to during this time of national irrelevance and disarray the Republican Party finds itself in, Stephanie daily runs a segment titled "Right Wing World," where "We watch, so you don't have to." Basically Steph forces her producer to watch Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity's shows, while keeping tabs on Rush Limbaugh, taping the most flagrant examples of their respective lunacy, and playing them on the program to ridicule. This is exceptionally important to me, as I need to keep up with the current conservative spin, lies, and distortions, and would inevitably become physically ill if I had to watch those programs myself.
I've actually met Stephanie once, or rather saw her during an appearance at an peace rally, here downtown. At one point she was directly in front of me, hugging another lady for some reason. She briefly looked over her shoulder at me, and looked at me as if she were viewing an escaped maniac ax murderer. This happens to me more than I would like, especially since I've never owned an ax, and am the most mild person you'd ever like to meet.
To be continued.

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