Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Writing Is Not A Mystery - Sitting Down Like Bukowski

Right.  So we've already learned I'm New Age peripheral.  I'm also smut-adjacent.  If honesty is the best policy (it is), then you kind of have to tell it all.  I'm a big fan of artists who give us the whole truth, and those who know how to make ugly beautiful.

One of my favorite things is when a scruffy hipster writer comes on the scene trying to get all Bukowski all over the place.  Translation:  drink, spew some words, and lay anything that will have you.


Thing is, if that was how Bukowski had proceeded, I doubt he'd have the canon of published books he has.  Have you noticed just how many books he authored in his lifetime?  Lemme tell you - books do not write themselves.

We also know that Bukowski held a job at the United States Post Office for decades.  (I'm a big fan of the Post Office.  Buy some stamps or something.  Keep post alive!)  One of those dying jobs that lets you work your 8 hours and go home unburdened while still having enough money for a crappy room, some booze, and boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese.

So here you are - hipster writer - on the dole, sleeping all day, drinking every night, out at pubs working your best lines, spitting the same 3 poems you wrote at Uni, professing your love for all things Bukowski, Miller, and Hemingway.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, mon cher hipster writer - you are not doing the work.  Writing is work.  Like anything.  Work, work, work.  I sit typing this and I have been writing for HOURS today and barely gotten through morning pages, 2 blogs and an email.  A book - A WHOLE BOOK - that sh*t takes TIME.

Bukowski didn't get chicks cause he was so hot - he got chicks cause, well, I don't really know how he got chicks.  I do know that one particular female gives him credit for helping her to become the writer she was.  And that was both through him being and sharing the writer he was, and through being supportive of someone else's art and vision.

What Bukowski did, what Henry Miller did, was write everything.  I'm often confounded at how Miller could have written Tropic of Capricorn while actually living Tropic of Capricorn.  But he did it.  Somehow, he found the will, ability, clarity, focus, and time to write those tens of thousands of words.

Truth is - Bukowski sat down at that typewriter for hours every day.  While working at the Post Office, while binge drinking, while living the tales he told.  It's  not an easy thing to do.  Not at all.  It's true he was no Soccer Mom shuffling kids all over town in a minivan, but life is life, and work is work, and a bad habit is a bad habit and they all take time.

Bukowski wasn't a lady who lunched, a guy given to long workouts at the gym, and I don't think he spent a whole lot of time at the mall.  It may be that you have to give up something to get something.  Poverty and isolation has its upside for creatives - you don't have to spend time and energy on things like keeping up appearances, a social calendar, and shopping for endless hostess gifts.  (Okay, they have their time-consuming downsides, too, but that's another blog.)

You may not be able to hold onto everything in your life if you are planning to devote real time to your art.

File:Kerouac ontheroad scroll.jpg
The original On The Road scroll

Mixing life and art - it's a fine trick.  Kerouac and On The Road is a great example - if he'd had his head down writing the whole time on that east to west extravaganza, well, there'd be no story - he wouldn't have lived anything worth telling.  But if he didn't manage to have his head down writing, at least some of the time, the stories would be cocktail party anecdotes instead of a groundbreaking, defining, and now classic novel.

That's what's at stake when you don't sit down.  The loss of the very material and insight you are aching to share.  The potential loss of connection on a grand scale.  The disappearance of the potential to reach across any and all boundaries of time, space, geography, and culture to midwife something profound.

After these last three blogs, you've realized that sitting down is hyper-important to me as a writing tool.  It is.  In fact, it could be the only tool you need.  It's simple and clear.

You must sit still and write to produce any writing.  

Maybe this is what they mean by the Laws of Attraction - you can only attract the writing by giving it space and time and focus and will.  But that's pretty true of anything in life.

Happy sitting!

(This blog is part of a series - you can look the others up on the side, or go to the blog search and type "writing is not a Mystery" - either should work.)

No comments: