Thursday, October 19, 2017

Some thoughts

Read this article by Eileen Myles the other day and resonated with it, the second half anyways. This idea of not reading what you are expected to be reading and how writers need/should be given lots of time to just think about whatever and write about whatever. Fucking paradise. Also she talked about Bernhard which ignited this interest in him again. Need to get 'Gargoyles' and 'The Lime Works'.

This recognition is dawning more and more: that you only write well when you stop worrying about writing well, that you only do good work when you stop worrying about doing good work et c. et c. Not, that is, that it is sufficient to stop worrying to be productive, but it is necessary. Works that are concerned with their own quality just stick out like a wound.

Read a short story by Jhumpa Lahiri for this class I am going to be taking. It was in the Scripber anthology of contemporary short fiction and it was easily one of the most boring stories I've ever come across. 'A Temporary Matter' or 'A Temporary Affair'. The story comes off like writing that is attempting to be literary writing, like a simulacrum of a New Yorker story, like something a neural network trained on the New Yorker would spit out. Utterly soulless, like a shell of a story with nothing within. It should be interesting to see what other have to say about it, certainly a number of them will like it a lot.

Too, there was this sort of fear of writing here for a while, since no one reads this. But then, it isn't for others, this isn't for anyone else. This is just a place that my thoughts can go and sit for a long time and then be brought back up in the future. Its useful.

Have been finding interesting thoughts that do not get written down and then are forgotten. Need to just write them down, not that they are actually interesting, but the more that are written down the greater the chance that one of them will catch, that they will be returned to in the future. Its all just a lottery, its all just a game. Everything is just a game.

Ishiguro gets the nobel and Saunders gets the booker. Sort of not surprised by either but glad about Ishiguro. 'The Unconsoled' was so strange and challenging. Not that it matters. Saunders is the sort of writer that seems required right now, which leads to a sort of resistance. Read that he was a geotechnical engineer before becoming a writer which is interesting/heartening.

The old saying which is always lodged in my mind 'stupid people talk about other people, mediocre people talk about events and smart people talk about ideas' and the worst talk only of themselves. So, in an ignorant attempt to increase intelligence (through following the correllation the other way) all writing should be scrubbed on any personal identifiers. There we go. That makes sense.

One thing that frustrates is literary studies. This idea that writers have this grand plan laid out, that everything is meticulously ordered and filled with intention. Perhaps in some cases but really? How can you buy this? It posits that writers are these superhuman geniuses. But no, surely most of them are just doing it and just doing it for fun. Otherwise, why write?

Some time would be wonderful. Just a week to let it all go, to reconnoiter, to forget things. Then two months or so to work ever day. To just shut up and write and read and really delve into this work.

Some four or five hundred pages and it feels like it is just starting, that it is just figuring itself out. There must be something there, but where is it? What is it?

There are the things that I know it needs/ has:

  • Chekov's travel to Sakhalin island
  • The emancipation of the serfs
  • Simmering, Berhard-esque hatred of others
  • A Prisoner like mystery surrounding the traveler's flight from the capitol/society/civilization
  • An ash man
  • McCarthy like conversations with the peasants/forced wisdom
  • Cosmic horror
  • Cosmic horror of the Taiga and the Steppe
  • A succession of disconnect from society, in some ways carried by the 'primitivization' of the mode of transpost. Concretely: he goes from a train to a carriage to on foot (to stasis?)
  • The plague always: always on the edge, always east of where the traveler is, and the plague as stand in for mass panic and mass violence.
  • Wading into the plague for a reason that cannot be discrned. He may have a reason but we do not know it.
  • Wading into the plague without knowing it, without sensing it. It always seems far away until he is in it, and then, even though he knew it was coming, he cannot see it and that he is a part of it.
  • The gods of the taiga, sleeping in the depths of the woods always off in the distance. Somewhere, everywhere extending their dream influence, pulling him in to the dark of the far east.
  • Perhaps a character, either Fetsingcroix or Stellian who he comes across and see everything that he lacks, or imagines it. Then he follows him. Then this man comes to the plague and is a sort of plague messiah.
  • And it all comes together into one thing, all of these are one thing at heart.
That seems like everything, I think. And all the time this one character. And all the time it is just his view, we only get his view. And it should be punishing, really just relentless, endless. How to get this endless darkness without dragging it out, there has to be tension somewhere, and that has been the challenge. It just sags at many points.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Where I am at now

I'm feeling frustrated.

On the one hand I think I have more literary energy than I have had for a while. This is good. I am feeling really upbeat re: submitting, have submitted a short story that I am feeling good about to maybe 15 venues, signed up for a short story class, am finding lots of books to buy and (strangely) wrote and submitted two poems.

On the other hand it feels like I am at the lip of this unbridgeable gap: I am working on this manuscript which has been in process since Jan 2016 and I just can't find the groove. I also feel the need to dedicate myself to it fulltime, wish I could dedicate myself to it full time, but don't think I can take time off of work to do it. I really think that if I had two or three months of dedicated time I could pull it all together, do a bunch of research and have something at least worth getting edited or sending to small presses, but I really need that 24/7 time to do it.

I also feel very isolated. Looking at a lot of other writers that I admire it seems like they often have at least a few other writers around them that they can talk to, bounce ideas off of, whatever. Get feedback from. I find it really hard to find other writers. I'm not sure why this is. I also find it hard to find other people that are doing stuff that I consider to be similar to what I am doing, and that will/might be able to give me substantial feedback. I'm also not sure why this is. I guess I'm not looking hard enough, but then where do I look exactly? And I have gone to readings, writer's workshops et c. and I tend to just find them tedious. Like social circles for the socially awkward, which is fine, but I guess I am trying to get substantial feedback above anything else, and I have just not found the energy required to attend these things worth the pay off in terms of benefits to my writing. There is a part of me that thinks that when I get published or get a novel published or get just more exposure this will change, but this might be faulty thinking and I suspect that it is dead wrong. There is also a part of me that wonders if my writing is just poor enough that it can't arouse interest. I try to stay positive, but there is this falling back to the null hypothesis (my writing isn't very good or interesting) that just seems safe, so I rely on it.

I also see this gulf before me, between where I am now (dedicated amateur with no publications) to where I want to be in the short term (basically dedicated amateur/part-time professional with publications) and I have no idea what steps I need to take to close it. I signed up for this class, which feels sort of strange already. There is a part of me that suggests applying to programs, but then that makes me feel slimy and as if I would be selling a part of my soul. Like a loss of purity or something. But then what else is there? Continue on as I am and just hope that things will change? I don't feel like I am gaining much momentum, or at least enough momentum and certainly gaining no attention doing what I am doing. What other options are there?

What is also frustrating is the lack of feedback. The ms. I am working on now is pretty long and hazy. There is minimal plot, it is mostly a guy wandering around Siberian Villages just ruminating on things. It does not lend itself to being extracted for publication in mags. So there is not really even the potential to submit parts of this now. I could work on short stories, but I don't find that particularly interesting. So I just have this two years gap from when I last published a story, which just feels unfortunate.

I guess I am just not sure what to do, what actions I need to take. I want to feel like I am doing something, moving forward, making some progress.

I like to think I am the sort of person that is okay with feeling lost or unsure or whatever but it sort of takes a toll. I guess I just need to see some sort of glimmer of something to move towards, to validate within myself that I am actually doing something.

There is the constant feeling of time running out. It is acute now, but it has always been there. It has been the prime motivator in writing, and considering the momentum I gained in 2013 (first ms finished, a few stories published, helping out with tNY, chapbook printer) I guess I thought I would have moved further by this point. But here I am, it feels like I am still at square on.

I am reading 'The Cave' by Jose Saramago right now. He didn't really get recognized until he was in his 60's. I guess that is sort of comforting. I also wish I was less obsessed with getting published. I wish I could just write in peace, in solitude and just leave it as it is. I guess the whole thing feels like such a long process that I feel like I just need to move as quickly as possible. I guess I just need to remember that none of it really matters anyways and that there will be no difference between getting published now and getting published later and not getting published at all.