I slept until 6:20 today, which is the latest I have slept to in 2020. I've been up later and later, and I guess it caught up to me today. Normally I am up somewhere around five. It's very rare for me to sleep until six. There is too much to do, fight through, create, and also I have been writing while I sleep, and that process is at a close, so my mind and body say, "get up." How to explain the writing while I sleep thing? It used to be that ideas would come to me as I slept. I wrote, for instance, "First Responder" while asleep. Also, "Jacks." The first and last stories in Cheer Pack: Stories. Also, "Find the Edges," from Harper's and in Cheer Pack as well.
That one was actually a combo. I had about a page and half of prose, which had been lying around for more than fifteen years. That page and a half had been the start of a story that was going to be part of a trilogy of stories, one of which was "Send Me Your Pillow," the last story in Between Cloud and Horizon. I didn't want to throw it out, even though it wasn't anything. I came up with a lot of "Edges" while I was asleep, then I found that old, seemingly useless scrap. I built what I had come up with while asleep into the scrap. Or built it off of the scrap. How did I do this? I know things that wouldn't seem like a person would know. I know when something is going to prove vital later. Whether that's an idea I have, a phrase. It's an out-of-body type of awareness. I call it the universe secret. A secret between me and the universe. Universe whispering in my ear. It's been part of my process, as such, for a long time. It's just a given of my life. I've never questioned it. It's how it is for me. When there is no readily apparent rhyme or reason, there still is for me, on a level beyond me, which I'm tapped into. They probably don't teach that in MFA programs. One of the many differences. I took the scrap, took what I had written while asleep, and in less than an hour I had "Find the Edges."
The writing process while I'm asleep is more involved now. I'm going through versions of the story, I'm coming up with the titles, the names, I'm creating sentences and removing them, creating others and knowing they'll stand. I'm aware of what is happening as I sleep. There will be a piece coming soon in The Smart Set that looks at one of the ways I first began to write while asleep.
I pitched pitched two op-ed ideas (hockey one, and one about Cape Cod as the perfect setting for art), and pitched two this morning (why MLB should write off the 2020 season, the sporting element of hunting people digitally now and "ending" lives and why it is more dangerous than it has ever been to speak and write in America, which is the single most terrifying thing in this country right now). I pitched this excellent feature idea about Beethoven's late string quartets and how they can make you a better person. Also ideas about a police-free state and Welles's Touch of Evil; "The Most Dangerous Game"; a prescient episode of The Twilight Zone for the Fourth of July; Fourth of July-related poetry; the best adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story which gets around the problems of his purple prose for his centennial; several Charlie Parker ideas; an Ornette Coleman idea. I pitched a piece on the Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpture that was just defaced in the Common. I pitched another on our era of the amateur-auteur and the iPhone-ing of violence, with a look at the Maysles brothers' Gimme Shelter, marking its fiftieth anniversary. I pitched what would be a very funny piece about my love for Christopher Cross's "Sailing"--yes, it is true, and I am finally ready to out myself as a fan of this piece of MOR cheese--and how it pertains to this COVID-19 summer. I reached out to the Cape Cod Times about maybe doing an interview regarding Buried on the Beaches. These are all things I have to do (and then write; a writer would take a month to do a feature for a magazine; I will usually take an hour or two; people really like that George Floyd/John Coltrane piece--it was written in twenty minutes; because I have to get to what is next) while writing the books and the stories, updating this journal, to have the money coming in, to continue and win this war. It is so many things at once. So much production and so many forms of production at once. The tasks, in sum total, are well past Herculean. I sent "The Roll of Words" to a few places. I spoke to Tailwinds about some review copy stuff for Meatheads.
Of this I am certain--if there is money and marketing behind me, all of these books will sell in vast quantities. I believe the sum total will be an unprecedented quantity in the end. The problem is not the work or what the work can do, the work's potential mass appeal, and then the power of that work, which is a unique, almost overwhelming, power. The work is not limited by any limitations therein; and there is not just something for everyone, there is much for everyone, because there are so many different forms of work here. There are people who can be ardent fans of the whole thing--the writer, the artist--and there are people who can just focus in on the fiction, or a kind of the fiction, and people who can focus in on music, or people who can focus in on the sports, the ideas, or if you want humor, or the emotional gut punch, the Beatles stuff, memoir, truths expressed by the only person who is going to say certain truths right now, whatever you want, you will find it here, and you will find a better version of that thing than you will anywhere else. The problem is entirely visibility. People are not aware of any of this. They're not aware of the books, because of the blacklist and the embargo of any coverage when it comes to me. Never mind being hyped, being on "You must read this this summer" lists, awards, etc.
I've known for a bit that I'm sitting on three short stories that will be as good as anything I've ever done, major works. Two are underway, one is largely figured out in my head. I go into a week, I know I have these works, they are the major works I am sitting on, and then boom, I write "The Roll of Words," which is in that category, and things just stack and stack. I'd say it's an embarrassment of riches--who has this many works of art, who just makes them all the time?--but it's a problem of pain, of frustration. It's like, "Oh, great, another one that I can't do anything with." Something else to offer a Sy Safransky at The Sun, publisher of that ridiculous "Donkey at the Gates of Heaven" that so many of you wrote me about saying it was the most laughable thing you had ever seen--with some of you asking me if I made it up, to make a point (how could I do that?)--which he'll ignore, because he hates me. The hate for me, at this juncture, overrides their concern for the quality of their magazine. Obviously "Fitty," "Six Feet Away," "Jute," "Dunedin," "Excelsior," "Skip Shack," make your magazine a better magazine, as does the inclusion of the writer who writes for everyone, who is doing things no on has done before, on a weekly basis, and makes your product a better product, but you are dealing with the power trips of which I recently wrote, broken people, envy, hate, incompetence, etc.
Now, you might say, "You said that about this guy on the blog." I did. After twenty-five years of experiencing what I experienced, witnessing what I witnessed. A quarter of a bloody century. I mean, come on. It's obviously not the work or the fit of the work. I didn't just offer you 100 stories. I offered you, over the years, 100 stories that were all composed in completely different voices, forms. You can't do the "stylistically you're no fit" thing, because almost every writer has one single way they write, and they do it every time out, so if that's not a fit, that's not a fit. But not this writer. No one has ever written with greater range, and I have given you my full range (which is also constantly expanding). Safransky, by the way, was offered "Find the Edges," the Harper's story. More than 100 of these people were offered it. Think about that. Have you read the story? If you don't read this journal, and you've read that story, it's impossible to believe it was offered to 100 venues and not one of them took it. If you read this journal, and you read that story, it's just more proof of what is happening here. You play fair with me, I don't say a word (other than to plug the work in the venue, probably talk about it on the radio). I move forward. I give you more great work. You look good, your magazine is improved, I cross a story off my list of ones I have to move. I am going places, and as I get to those places, when you think it is worth your while, for your venue, your brand, your bottom line, you can say, "We were the venue that first published such and such story." You can continue to hate me, if you wish, I can have absolutely no respect for you, but this shouldn't be about any of that.