Friday, December 26, 2008

2008: Blog Posts That Didn't Make it

1) Are You A Theater User?
Stephen Wright explores the idea of usership versus spectatorship and the challenge usership asserts over the expert - ie. artist, critic, gallery with respect to the artworld in this post. It's interesting to read the essay through a second time and substitute theater for art - as in theater users rather than theater spectators.

Wright uses the Martha Rosler Library as an example of a work that calls into the question the idea of spectator. Check out this little video shot at the Site Gallery in Liverpool.

2) Thoughts On Reading J.M. Coetzee
Since there's so much intertextuality when do you really stop reading Coetzee? Or where does one novel end and the other begin? That said, even when you're not reading Coetzee you are still reading Coetzee. Because you can't read a novel now without dismantling the rhetoric. The fun hasn't stopped though.

Where does writing start or end? Confined to the novel isn't it all one long stream of narrative bounded by different covers and signed by the author?

Who actually writes? What if you refuse to be the author? Speaking of Cormac McCarthy - what happens if you, as a reader, refuse to imagine what happens to the kid at the end of Blood Meridian? Simply refuse to have authorship thrust upon you? Does your denial change anything? Do you rip a hole in the narrative? Does the action continue without you?

I'm sure that Ms. Stein has said this all before.

4) No Pardons for the Bush Administration

5) I Am Jack's Aching Nostalgia: Take 9
At one point during the winter it occurred to me that there is another type of writer's block. The kind where you're not digging deep enough to get at the things that haunt you, the things keep you from moving forward, or the things that keep you up at night wondering if you have writer's block, or the things that keep you awake at night wondering if there will be tomorrow and if there is, what terrible shit hole will it resemble? These are the times you should be writing. You're awake aren't you?

Your writing reeks of stuckness. Don't wait too long or you'll stop writing altogether and that won't be a happy place either.

List of Things to Write About:
  1. Textures and qualities of sound, color, light.
  2. Layers of darkness.
  3. Of being smothered, confined, cut off, buried alive.
  4. Of finally being delivered.
  5. Recycling difficulty.
  6. Expecting too much or too little.
  7. How our stories don't match up.
  8. How we fail and fail and fail.
  9. How desperately we cling to the fine thread of it all.
  10. Mendacity, baby.
Last summer I had Fifth disease (after the third - rubella- they couldn't think of any good names) and I had joint pain and swelling in my hands which made it painful to write. At one point, I thought, "this is it. I'm done. I'm going to have to learn to signal the alphabet with my eyelids or start writing very tiny like O'Neill and rely on the love of a good woman to get my plays typed up." But I get hysterical that way sometimes.

6) Stuck Inside A Moment You Can't Get Out Of


You know how you're driving down the freeway and that U2 song comes on the radio? Not that one. You think back to when it was first released and driving through the desert at top speed. Then you add up the years. Whoa, kemosabe. Careful of the windsheer. You are here and yes, they've been playing U2 non-stop on the radio for over twenty years.

I keep slamming up against the contemporary lately. It's disorienting. The slamming thing is not efficient. Is meditation the answer? I've been reading Pema Chödrön.

At any given moment and often simultaneously:
I feel like Veruca Salt - I don't have time for instant gratification. Why can't it be now? Hmm?
Please slow down. My daughter starts kindergarten next year and she won't be all mine anymore (not that she ever was).

Where is the contemporary? Where is now? This is sure to become an obsession.

7) RE: I Am Jack's Re:Realigned Priorities #6
Writer's block. It's on my mind lately. Popping up like the rift in Tyler Durden. It's hooked around a tangle of events and images that I'm going to sift through here. It might take more than one post. Hark ye and: Prepare. I'm going to start at the beginning.

Several years ago I had writer's block. It lasted five years. This is after writing for practically my whole life (at least since the age of 8). Suddenly the words ran out at 28. I reached a point where I had to admit to myself that I was no longer a writer. I hadn't written. I didn't write. I had no words. The words came back my Jesus year. Two books- On Writer's Block by Victoria Holt
Writing Down the Bones by Nathalie Goldberg - got me writing again. Through reading these I came to believe, especially after the Goldberg book, that there was no such thing as writer's block. What started it all?


I was living in a house with four other people - one a close friend from college. One afternoon I came home and found my *friend* in the middle of the living room with my pages spread out on the floor. My *friend* was sifting through them and copying my words into his notebook. He even underlined phrases in red marker. When I asked him what he was doing, he was so casual about it - "oh, just going over this for you." Which, considering the circumstances, was quite a collected response. Thinking over it now, I'm kind of impressed.

It's rare that I've felt so betrayed. I can think of only a few times when I've felt that exposed and invaded. Looking back - most of the writing was utter crap. Obviously there were words worth stealing. But, yeah, instead of being angry, I really should have been embarrassed.

As a side note:
It occurs to me that
this experience
gets to the heart of my objections
to the use of the word steal
and accounts for my visceral response
to people telling me they steal from me.
It explains why I don't see it as a compliment.
I recognize it's not the same thing,
intellectually I get the difference,
but emotionally the two are conflated and
- bang -
it unhinges me.
Good to figure that one out finally.
How to stop the response?


Writer's block. That's the target.
My personal bout with it.
The details of it are simple:
I didn't write.
I didn't read.
I didn't do much but go to my temp job and spend the rest of my time slogging around town contemplating throwing myself off a bridge.
How very dramatic and self-absorbed.
But also very real and terrifying too.
I would literally force myself to walk home-
avoiding the bridge
and the thoughts
that each day
were getting closer
to becoming action.
And you know, I'd given things a decent shot.
Why not cash out?

On one particularly dark day, I went home and stretched out on the floor. Looking up, I noticed my collection of Hunter S. Thompson books a friend had given me for Christmas a few years before. I'd read Fear and Loathing and Hell's Angels but hadn't picked up any of the others. The Great Shark Hunt caught my eye. I stayed up all night reading. I was absorbed by this book. I let it take me. At times I'd stand up on my bed and read it out loud to myself. Sometimes I'd hold it in my hands and jump up and down for awhile. When I read the line "Well, nobody laughed when Banquo's ghost came to the party...and remember the Baltimore colts," I fell onto the bed and laughed until I cried.

And I started writing.

Letters. I composed letters to Hunter S. Thompson. It was still terrible stuff - no one would have thought once about stealing it and eventually I developed the good sense to stop sending them (yeah, that's embarrassing too.) The thing is: composing with Thompson as my audience started making me sharper. I couldn't sustain my voice for very long, but at least I was hitting the target. To this day, when the writing isn't hitting I'll attack it by writing a letter to HST.

And William S. Burroughs started visiting in my dreams. He'd sit on the end of my bed and sort through my books admonishing me to re-read The Wasteland. "You've got to go back to The Wasteland, young lady. You haven't read Eliot since 1980." I'd roll over and brush him off. "Eliot is key," he kept repeating. "Eliot is key." I ignored him. That's the kind of idiot I am. But he didn't let up. I'd be directing something and my research would hit on a quote - from where? Right. The Wasteland. I wrote a play and what was the criticism is received? It is as if a woman has written The Wasteland.

The universe will work it's magic with or against you. Surf sister, surf.


Boo said...

Wow. That's so cool.
I didn't know you had a writer's block story.
Dude, we need to talk.
Mine is still going on. I need help.

Lindsay Price said...

I think being stuck inside writing is the worst form of writers block. You know the writing you want to do, you have the writing you want to do, and the writing just will not move forward. It's not a question about not being a writer, it's a question of not writing.

I have complete understanding of that frustration....

E. Hunter Spreen said...

Well said, Lindsay. I find myself stuck inside habits and sometimes in order to break the habit I'll stop writing. These habits used to be styles or ways of writing that were unique to me but now I've outgrown them or want to stretch beyond them. And I do see where I want to be.

This year, I've found a lot of inspiration from reading novelists. They seem to be asking the sorts of questions w/r/t to form that I'm asking.

The other thing tool I used before I had kids was free writing and I've gotten away from that. It's useful to write without any purpose other than to exercise the muscle. Sometimes I'll use one of the Nathalie Goldberg books and sometimes I'll generate my own. The more I did these sorts of things, the more I was able to surprise myself and break out of ruts.

Mead said...

EHS, I don't know if you noticed, but your list inspired me to write on my own blog. Of course by comparison, my post is Treasure Island to you Magagascar, or shall we say as beer is to beaujolais. That's just how it turned out. Nevertheless, you have the dubious distinction of having inspired a response.

E. Hunter Spreen said...

Glad my little list of neglected darlings inspired you. We were listening/watching your ear candy links this morning. Blonde Redhead was a favorite of Marshall's. He started dancing and singing along.

FYI: I'm rather fond of a good beer. :-}