Monday, November 3, 2008

That Great American Novel Stowed Under the Bed

I was tidying up this morning (shocking but true) and I came across my copy of the Gary Robert's biography of Doc Holliday - which I had been reading last month, the month before? Anyway it reminded me that not too long ago I had been back in deep with my idea of writing the Great American Novel (i.e. the unfinished manuscript). I try not to talk about writing the book too often for the very reason that I keep putting it off, getting distracted, and just generally pissing about and not doing it. As an artist, as a writer, I know those people that are always talking about wanting to be something, but they never just DO IT.

Really the doing is the key. Back in art school I remember one of my professors disparaging 'talent'. Now I'm a firm believer in talent, but what he said really sank in that day. In his years of teaching he'd seen lots of talented students that never made the grade as artists; they'd just piss it all away in ego and laziness. It was determination and discipline that made the artist. It was the one that worked at it - no matter the starting point - that achieved success. I've been judging myself by that standard, and frankly I flop as a novel writer. I piss about and I don't actually write the damned thing.

Yet I'm different from other wannabe writers. Why? Because I actually write at least a page a day, and often much more than that. Every day I log into Pan Historia and participate in the writing there - perhaps it's not a fictional piece that I write, maybe it's this blog, or maybe it's instructions on how to participate in some contest, or it's my email correspondence, or even it's just the conversations I have with people online via our instant messaging system. As an aside on my counting online chat as writing I have to elucidate: I never use emoticons, I always spell the entire word out, and I endeavor, always, to use correct grammar and punctuation. When I describe something I'm aware of the words I choose, always.

I do value the writing I do at Pan Historia - like the re-enactment I talked about in my recent blogging - but deep down I feel like all this practice should be going towards the 'real deal'. What is holding me back? Is it fear of failure? Ultimately I do hesitate to claim 'writer' status for myself. I happen to know some incredible writers personally and I cringe to suggest I can do what they can do, no matter how I strive to learn the art of word craft, but I don't think that's really what stops me. After all I keep painting even though I know I'm no Picasso.

It's more like I'm a glutton and I need to be more single-minded. I grab hold of so many things, pulling them towards me, my mind always searching for the new and interesting. I have to read The New Yorker on the john because I have two novels on the go (and that biography of Doc Holliday), and then when I'm the computer I'm working on Pan Historia or learning my Adobe Suite programs, or talking fiction, art, history, or god knows what. Even when I paint I have sitters and we talk and I can only manage a couple hours at most and there are numerous other projects too numerous to mention.

I have no point of stillness.

To truly write is to hear the story in my head and just follow it, hour upon hour. Even if that is an hour set apart in a day it needs to be one still hour. I'm not even doing that now. While I type this blog post I'm holding a conversation with three people at Pan via instant messaging and I have my Twitter going. In fact I was just 'gone' for ten minutes as I posted at Pan regarding our Halloween Home Contest, left a message for someone about their prize, and generally futzed around - and did I tell you that my feet are cold and I need to get some socks on?

Good thing I don't believe in Attention Deficit Disorder. I would be on drugs now. Wait… I am on drugs, but just painkillers folks, no need to call the cops.


Peter of Dreux said...

I've got to applaud the fact you want to use proper punctuation, grammar and spelling. I absolutely HATE when someone writes

like u kn spel dis way. kewl!

I know that part of the object is to have something take less time to write, but it's just impossible for me to take someone who writes like that seriously. I feel like I'm dealing with a child.

Hatshepsut / Kelly Silver said...

Here here! I agree. I've started using abbreviations in Twitter merely because of the character constraints for updates. It's nearly like a challenging game to fit my thoughts in the allotted characters so I grant myself that concession if anything to teach me new ways to communicate. Occasionally I'll also shorten a word or phrase when in a rush or not really as genuine with my mannerism as I tend to be, such as *S* sort of equals a copout obligatory smile because I can't not answer a message. *Chuckle* Otherwise, always written out.

Of course my proper use of spelling, grammar and punctuation is unequivocally tied to my ability to wield words - but that is why I try so hard and why I do not go into "Chat Mode". I realize I have a weakness and I'm determined to not cripple myself further nor sell myself short.

And I'm very much with you Peter, when folks start spouting off in computer jargon, abbreviations and lazy spelling the conversations go downhill very quick. Makes me twitchy. *Twitch*

NEways, I <3 u guys, TTL! *G*


Pan Historia said...

Actually there is something to be said for the linguistic cultures growing up around the internet. For instance facial expressions between asterix are more often seen on Pan Historia than elsewhere I think - emoticons having gained the upper hand or those constructions like LOL and ROFL.