Friday, April 17, 2009

Letter to Andy Jones (excerpts)

i just realized that friend in philly you were referring to was me;) i want to say a few things about writing:

the first is that writing is not about the content, whether it is boring or exciting, but (i believe) it is about intimacy. we present ourselves on blogs as we want to be seen, but when i write i try to put the ego aside and offer whatever i write as a gift to anyone who might gain something from reading it. yes, the ego weaves its way in and out in what we choose to disclose and what we choose to keep to ourselves. writing is subjective and an ego trip by nature...we think we are important and have something to say. that is ok. one of the all-time best books on writing, my #1, is 'Writing Down the Bones' by Natalie Goldberg. she is a writer and a zen buddhist, she cuts to the heart and essence of writing with these short little chapters, infusing humor, honesty, affirmation, and joy into the art. i highly suggest buying a copy. if you can't find one, i will lend you mine.

there is a zen story about a man who goes into a butchershop. he says, 'give me the best piece of meat you have.' the butcher replies, 'all my pieces of meat are the best. you will not find one piece of meat here that is not the best.' and the man was enlightened. moments are not good or bad, important or trivial. every moment comes from the hand of God. there is not one moment that is not the best for writing.

writing is more or less a practice. you get 'good' by doing it, over and over. it doesn't have to become a job. but the more you do it, the less self-conscious (or maybe not) you will become. there is another zen saying, something along the lines of 'when you are alone, act as if you were in the presence of an honored guest; when you are in the presence of others, act as if you were alone.' i try to practice this in my writing. i write for an audience, even if none exists, but in the end, i am writing for myself. it is paradoxical, but good for keeping things pure. not everyone is comfortable writing publically, and some people seem to be too open in it. i try to strike a balance. what i post on my blog is what i choose to post; i retain the right to keep my private life private. you have to find your own balance. what helps with this is practicing writing about what you see...whatever it is, nothing is too big or too small...in a way that puts your own stamp on the experience. it takes time to find your voice. it has taken me years, and i am still finding it. i have been lazy about writing lately...maybe we could spurn each other on by sending stuff to each other? i used to belong to a writer's group where we would always warm up with exercises....we would all write about an orange for ten minutes, or something like that...and it was neat to see how different everyone viewed it afterwards.

never abandon joy. you are not a writer by profession. it is not your job...so it should be your joy, or, at least, your recreation. when i taught 7th grade english, i would start each class with 10 minutes of timed stream-of-consciousness writing with the class. pencils weren't allowed to stop moving, and if they did, i would bang on their desk. if the kids were stuck and didn't know what to say, they were to keep writing the last word they were stuck on until they became unstuck. if the word was poop, they would write 'poop poop poop poop yellow balloon.' you get it. most of their stuff was crap, and the trick was learning that that was ok. we tore up what we wrote, threw it in the trash, and got started with class. it was practice. but they loved it, and wanted to 'do the writing thing' every morning. you have the right to write crap. i write it all the time.



so i hope you will keep writing. try some stream-of-consciousness stuff. remove the inner censor and just write from brain to hand without editing about what you see, feel, etc.without erasing, without stopping to think. spill the words, the nonsense. i'll do it right now for one minute:

in the essence of perpetual gray and pink flowered coated fishcakes, the computer screen flashing like a traffic light in moon lit glow of summer sands and the stopping power of those brakes you used to have on your 68 chevette, the smell of grass and dripping things, frogs and animals and things of nature croaking and groaning in twilight, runining water and making you pee your pants, insomnia, middle age, the time it passes so quickly...

there you go. crap on a stick for your licking pleasure.

alright man, clock-out time approaches. hope to hear from you soon. you have something to say, blogged or otherwise...

r

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