So I came across a post at a blog I follow by Ryan Lanz called The Writer’s Path (excellent posts and advice, let me tell you–I don’t think he knows how many times I re-read his stuff). He does “Ten Quote Tuesdays” and I of course am late for it but I’m also going to take a different spin on it. There are inspirational quotes in the post on writing and then there are prompts; I have chosen to use one of the quotes as a prompt for a post.
I couldn’t decide between Viktor Frankl’s (amazing survivor and writer) “What is it to give life must endure burning.” Or Natalie Goldberg’s “Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist. Don’t make it harder on yourself.”
So here goes my simple blog post, Ryan, on “Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist. Don’t make it harder on yourself.”
My cousin Mike is on the phone, my lifelong best friend. He’s sculpting on the other end and I’m sitting here, smoking in front of a blank screen.
“Hey, Amos, just pull a Hemingway,” he sounds distracted but concerned–he can always do a lot at once.
“Meh, I don’t got enough meds left and there’s no 7up for the gin.”
“Well shit man, I started on my Shandy’s since noon, got this sculpture just about licked. Just get a couple drinks in ya, sit down, and just write. Just let it come to you.”
So I get off the phone, bust out the wine, feeling like less of an artist because I don’t have bourbon. I don’t even know what bourbon is. I set up my laptop on the living room coffee table, turn on my Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder album, and wait. And drink. And wait. Surely my demons will arise if I’m intoxicated, they’re here every other day of the week.
Before I know it my face is on fire and I’m quoting the lyrics from “Wild Horses” in an essay attempt to my sister,
...childhood living is easy to do…
of whom I’ve been having an on-going argument with. I write as if she’s going to die, and tears are streaming down my face. I can’t get past the lyrics so I sit. And stop and think. And drink.
Fuck this. Fuckn’ A, Hemingway, you either started all your writing drunk and bloomed from there, or you didn’t really drink when you wrote. I should know this…but he was brilliant!
I play sadder music. A more complicated tune like Radiohead’s “National Anthem” to get me thinking and not focusing on words but guts. I tried doing something high once–in my apartment in Eau Claire where I lived with three other girls. I secretly and for the first time got stoned by myself, and I was going to write something Alice-ish. All I did was draw though–and even the stoned-drawing felt presumptuous. Rehearsed. I have learned I cannot or maybe I just refuse to really allow myself to tap into what I have to say if I’m in any way intoxicated. Man I wish I could. I always imagine the freedom that must come with just saying “fuck it” and writing a master piece. Clearly, this is not realistic thinking. But it’s the romantic idea of an artist’s life.
Let’s face it, we suffer enough. Even when I was really down and out and the “lone sufferer” I couldn’t write then, because I was too close to it. It takes time, I hate to say, but the scary thing is how much time? Because before you know it the book never gets written, and you have a couple dozen poems and essays published that really, well, mean nothing but personal approval that “hey, I can write–they say so.” This post depresses me. TIme to really clear my head and go write!