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Prose accounting

Thursday 3/4/21

Exhausted all the time. It's difficult to find energy when you feel like you have nothing to live for.

I must do some prose accounting, in order to keep straight what works have recently been composed, because it's getting confusing. Last Friday, I wrote a short story called "With a Count-In." A kind of work of music fiction. I wrote another story called "The Blue Wall" on Monday. On Tuesday I wrote an op-ed about Dr. Seuss, taking, I'm certain, an approach and angle no one else has or would, but I don't think I'll be able to sell it. And I also wrote a story that same day--and it's powerful--called "Pencil." Over the last couple of years, as I've created in this manner, with the range and the quantity, I had remarked to someone several times that I could write a story about a pencil, and make it emotionally devastating. Create a work of art about an ordinary pencil. Not a magical pencil. I'd just say that to this person, because it was the most plain, regular object that came to mind, and I knew how much my powers of creation had changed, grown. I sort of figured in the back of my mind that I probably would write that story at some point, and so I did. Yesterday I wrote a technological ghost story, called "His Ghost." Then, after I walked five miles, I got an idea for a humor piece I probably also won't be able to sell. You see these news stories about some woman who goes into her garage in Florida, and there's this massive gator sitting there. Those stories always show a photograph of an alligator in a pond, eyes half submerged, like the animal, having frightened the woman, is now brainstorming its next move of internecine mayhem. But it's just a stock photo of an alligator. It's never the actual alligator. So I wrote this piece from the garage-crashing alligator's perspective, because that's his culture, that's what he's about, and so he views these other gators in the photos as practicing cultural appropriation. It is funny. It might not be something for polite company, as they say, but it is funny. Then today I wrote a story that I think is amazing, the best story we have on white guilt and a look at racism in a way that no one else has posited either. It's one of those stories that is just the ultimate expression of what Longer on the Inside is about. It's called "Highlights from the Weekend." Just a perfect idea. One of those, "why didn't I think of that?" stories. That's what you're going for. In part. To make someone else say, "Why didn't I think of that?" That's an art. Which is part of an art. On Saturday I began a major work, called "Pre." As in, "prior." The works all get to the same place, but sometimes there is this feeling, and it's a certainty, that you have something special on the line. "Fitty" was that way and "Girls of the Nimbus." You savor bringing in the catch. It's out there, under the water, but you're connected to it, and you know that it will be quite the site to behold when it is on deck, in full view in the sunlight. That's the kind of story this one is. I'll go slow with it.

I posted this on Twitter the other day:

"I glance at Twitter, and I think: Listen to Ella Fitzgerald. Write a story. Run stairs. Watch Jean Vigo. Read Thoreau's journals. Sit for a half hour by the water and do nothing but be present in your own thoughts. Help someone and tell no one about it. The world would be fixed."

I believe it. More than ever. And fully. I don't think I'm being naive, either. The way for the world to be well, to approach wellness, is through art. I don't mean that you become a scholar. I don't mean you paint pictures or make films or write books. There is art to hold up the mirror, there is art that embraces--my kind of art--and it is that art that is the force, the foundation, the impulsion, the root, of a productive culture and healthy humans.

I don't believe it is anything else. It's not politics, it's not technology. It is art. And only art. That's all that can truly help us be better.

I know how some people will take that. The idea that we all must read two books a week. I don't mean any of the kind. I mean that you have to turn to art somewhat. And art is not some painful, homework-ish, dreary business. Not the art I mean.

I mean living, dynamic, human-infusing art. Where so little of it goes such a long way in compelling us to think about the world, our fellow human, and, most importantly, to think somewhat honestly about who we are.

As the forces I am up against come into ever sharper focus, so too does what I believe is my purpose, why I am here, why I was made as I was made, why it's been necessary for me to grow as I have grown. And even gone through what I have gone through and am in the middle of.

Because I know that we don't have a chance without art. People talk about art like it's this inessential luxury, what you might turn to in your leisure. The trip to the museum. But that's not what art is. Not my kind of art. Not the art I mean. It's what is most fundamental to human life and decency and cognizance, and I honestly believe that the very soul of humanity is dependent upon it.

This is Tuesday night's Downtown segment. I thought it was quite strong. I noticed that there were some little pops and delays on my end that knocked out a word or two, which change the meaning of certain sentences. We talked about rage, mediocrity, envy, Netflix, hockey, projection, race, Westerns, radio art, fiction. But what I want to single out is one of the best questions anyone has ever asked me. I really respect a question that is highly specific and challenges me. Kimball asks me at one point, as we discuss my historical level of productivity, as well as my total aloneness, if I think, or believe, or worry, that later on, if I am where I should be--that is, the work is seen for what it is, and the recognition is there--and I am with someone great, whom I deserve, that I will be less productive. That's a great question, and one which I think the asker of this question, at least in part, knows the answer to. But the best questions aren't necessarily about the sum result of the answer. They're about the methodology of getting to that answer. That's why I think this was such a great question from Kimball. I believe that he knows me as an artist who can only create constantly. And who only ever could. But what I might have mentioned here is that if I never wrote anything again, the body of work is such that it'd be a bigger body of work than anyone else's, and I could trade off of this work, make this the entirety of a business, a movement, a kind of cultural empire, for the rest of my life. I could act like I'd just written something new, and pluck whatever from the storehouse. I could do that if I live until 105. And do that often.

Most of my life right now, as I tell Kimball, is spent in writing letters to bad people. To doing things I should not be doing, and will not be doing later. Give me that time back, that energy back, and then how much am I creating? Perhaps more importantly, give the knowledge that what I create will be seen and where it should be placed so that it can be seen, and you give me a whole new way of waking up and thinking about creating. Because now, the work has no chance. I know that it has no chance. I know that it will sit here with me, for the time being. And yet, I still create these matchless works of art, and I pile them for when their time comes. But I knew the time was now? That if I write some masterpiece today, that it will go here, be seen by such and such an amount of people, have the real chance to do what it can do? It's a completely different feeling creating that way. And it's so much easier than how it is now.

I should have mentioned in the Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar bit that Dollar is better at his job than any fictional character of which I know. He's better at his job than Sherlock Holmes is at his. The thing about these segments is that they could be six hour conversations, rather than twenty-five minute exchanges. I guess that's for my own show or shows at some point. When the opportunity comes and the platform is there.

The sheriff in this episode, "The Clinton Matter," is a lot like the people in publishing. He wants Dollar dead. Tells him that repeatedly. He wants him dead because Dollar exposes him--and exposes him to himself--for what he is. Dollar and what Dollar stands for strips the sheriff of his lies--all of the lies he tries to cling to about how he needs to think of himself. The hate is not because of any wrongdoing on Dollar's part, or lies that Dollar puts forward, or any attacks. Rather, the truth. Same reason the people in publishing want me dead. I am what I am. They are what they are. The former rams home the latter. And they hate what they are. And all that they can never be. There's a great line by Dollar in this episode where he says something to the sheriff like "go home and stand in front of the mirror and lie to yourself some more." He knows exactly what this kind of person is entirely about.

Someone whose mind I respect a lot sent me a text that said, "It sucks that you're so stressed. I wish your work ecosystem was less predatory, more conciliatory." Same person also said, as I was writing this, "It's very hard to see the depths of anger in everyone and feel any kinship with the world at large. You definitely are tapped into that reality, with the publishing world and the online world leveling these emotional and existential threats at you all the time."

It does me good to read something thoughtful and well-written and well-meant. It's a small thing that's not a small thing in part because it's such a rare thing in addition to the value that is already in place by dint of the cognizance, candor, and clarity.

I pitched a big John Lennon thing. Sent some pages of a children's book to someone.


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