Monday, May 21, 2012

To be a writer

As has so often been the case since I left the nest of New York and jumped out into the abyss four years ago, I find myself going through transitions.

Two temp jobs I've been working at to pay the bills are suddenly being converted to permanent positions, with higher pay. My girlfriend of 3 years (and roommate of 2-and-a-half) is moving out so that we can begin to transition away from each other, albeit amicably.

Having been here in Austin for about 14 months I find I've already made more friends than I did during 3 years in San Diego. I'm feeling more and more comfortable in this city despite a persistent ache to get back to the West Coast.

A friend and I are on the verge of starting what promises to be an intellectually exhilarating initiative as we are creating a Finnegans Wake reading group here in Austin, the only one of its kind.  

After nearly 20 years of playing ice hockey regularly, I haven't put on skates in over a year and have begun channeling my athletic and competitive energies into a new sport: tennis. I've been playing almost every day for at least two months now.  

Most importantly, my devotion to cultivating the craft of writing through a blog is now gradually transitioning into bigger and more important writing projects. I've had a few book ideas/projects resting on my plate for a while now but it's finally time to bring some of them to fruition. For the past year or so I've been slowly working on a collaborative book of lyrical exegesis with renowned Detroit hip hop artist Bronze Nazareth. That project is kicking into high gear now. I'm about 30% finished already and the real writing starts now. At the same time, I'm working on developing my "Thought Through My Eyes" paper on James Joyce and Salvador Dali into an expanded e-book format.

With this last and most pertinent transition upon me, the practice of writing and being a writer is prominent on my mind.

I want to share two pieces that are helping me keep my footing as I tread this new path.

The first is a short essay by Robert Anton Wilson entitled "Making it as a Writer." Here's how it begins:
Most of the characteristics which make for success in writing are precisely those which we are all taught to repress. These characteristics are denounced by religious leaders everywhere, by most philosophers, and by many famous psychologists.

I refer to such qualities as vanity, pride, even conceit; to raw egotism and grandiosity; to the firm belief that you are an important person, that you are a lot smarter than most people, and that your ideas are so damned important that everybody should listen to you.

And here, presented in its entirety, is a poem by Charles Bukowski entitled "so you want to be a writer?"
if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.


  1. Nice hearing an update from you. I think I'm more aligned with Wilson's sentiment than Bukowski's.

    Of course, women have been told, don't do it forever, so it may have something to do with that.

    Good luck on your writing projects, and full speed ahead!