November 30, 2004

Mystery Train

I read this in Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train the other night. About The Band:

"Like most good American artists, they had been romantics, but not fools; when the romance began to go, their talent for asking the right questions went with it. They still looked for community, but like many who cannot find it, they fell back into an even deeper privacy than they started out with. Because their dreams were too real and too beautiful to give up, they felt a sense of guilt; their withdrawal…was a betrayal of those dreams."

I have had the same fear and guilt in myself, and I have never been wildly successful--my only audience is something I imagined I might one day have. That sort of confidence, even if a delusion, can be enjoyable and I should be grateful for it. Sometimes I feel as if I am coming down from the high of my twenties when I believed in myself in a romantic way. (I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Besides, Empty Drum, my biggest critic, seems to have abandoned the experiment.) I am a father now, a husband, so my dreams have to be a bit more pragmatic. But at those times of apathy and artistic inactivity, I feel like I’m betraying my better self.

I’ve been sick for three weeks. Coughing through the night, and now, mysteriously, my hearing seems to have dropped out. Too much pressure. So I shouldn’t feel so guilty about not writing fiction. Ah, but I do. Jewboy I am. In the past, I have felt devoutly inspired to write my new novel--only it came at a time when my daughter was just born and I was unemployed. Any fiction writing seemed irresponsible. Now, I’m employed and some of my past obsession has faded. I fear you have to grab inspiration when it comes. I’ve spent so much time thinking and writing about my latest novel that I’ve lost some interest in it. Even writing this last sentence is dangerous--once something is stated, it becomes less urgent, and creating anything needs a sense of urgency.

I saw a play on PBS called "Collected Stories" with Linda Lavin (sitcom’s Alice) about an old, intellectual writer and her young apprentice. She talks about how you shouldn’t talk about what you’re writing because you’ll lose some of your desire. This is why seeing a shrink might sometimes be bad for writers as well--the pent up energy will go "out the mouth" rather than onto paper. Another good line from that play: "Life’s too short for the ‘New Yorker.’"

Inspiration, at least for me, is delicate. If you don’t run with it when it hits you, you might be lost. Back to the Beatles: John Lennon couldn’t write the songs from Sgt. Pepper in 1975, he was hit with the inspiration in 1967. This isn’t entirely fair because writing a novel unfolds over a much longer time than songwriting. It took Flaubert five years to write Madame Bovary. It’s incredible and enviable that he cared about the book to the same degree five years later--but then again in the 19th century time ran at a different pace.

This blog is my virtual shrink. It’s still writing, so I shouldn’t feel so guilty that my thoughts are getting lost to the wind…but I do. I hope my obsession returns. Prayer number 3534634 recorded.


xo. war. said...

sometimes, i'll be listening to a song, or walking, & writing will appear in my head. it's a shame, though, some of it sounds really good.

xo. war.

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