Started two new stories. I don't know what they'll be yet.
I am rereading "The Spot," though I said it was fully done. I changed a couple words. There is a ultra-bigot to send it to. The letter has been written for some days. It's really the ultimate nature story, and this is a nature place. But I know this man and how he operates, giving out lollipops to the John Freemans of the world. Nothing is worse than the John Freemans of the world.
I have also pulled up "Jute" and a file of a cluster of stories for what will soon be my immersion in Longer on the Inside, until the completion. There are probably enough stories here for three volumes, so doing this first one isn't going to be a matter of picking the best works--because they are all at the same level--but rather a case of what goes well together here. For instance, I am almost positive that "Bitches" will be in there, to mention a new one, and "Ashes, Ashes" is likely, but not as likely, which has nothing to do with its quality. I don't have a better story. I'm reading the tonal room, let us say. But it will probably be in there. There's just more I'll have to gauge it against than with "Bitches." I think it's remarkable that all of these works sound so different from each other. That's one of the major things I realize when I'm going through a lot of stories in a short period of time. Even when they're in third person, that voice is so different from work to work. There's no go-to authorial voice. The voice and voices are appropriate and endemic to the individual story.
Need to get on "Complete Set," "Pre," "The Hornet," "Up the Sea." There are stories I know I want/need to revisit: "Best Life," "Evening Day," "Subway Friend," "Push Shadow." Among others. Those are stories where I think I may have something special and I need to determine if that is true or get them to the place where they are special. They're each like 250 stories ago, meaning they're from a couple years back.
I've found the oddest piece of Beatles-related work I've ever encountered. It's so bizarre! But so good. Clever. I'm not going to say too much about it on here right now, but I want to write about it. I'm sure that no one ever has, and that no one even knows it exists, except perhaps for the people who made it. It's crazy, in a good way.
My former mentee turns eighteen on Sunday. I printed out a copy of the final version--that, is the version for There Is No Doubt: Storied Humanness--of "Fitty," which she had gone on about at length when it was first composed, told me she was in love with someone who didn't exist, and texted my closest friend to ask him if the story made him cry like it made her cry. I thought it would be a bit more meaningful than just a card. This is part of what I wrote:
"Happy birthday. You were a good kid--be an even better adult. Help people. Help yourself. Give and grow, and make sure to do so every day. Never underestimate the difference you can make in people's lives, including your own. I hope you have an amazing birthday. Love, Colin"
I am not going to go into any specifics because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings--well, if you are a vile person, and you're discriminating against me, I will name you, of course--but when I do talk to someone who writes about a particular subject, I'm almost always appalled by how little they know about it, when it's supposed to be their "thing." Someone commissions them to write pieces on their thing. The gaps in the knowledge is stunning. They won't know the most basic things that I knew about that subject when I was fifteen. What they'll do is talk like some forever student, but a student who doesn't learn. They'll roll out the "vocab" words, and talk in grandiose terms--geopolitical currents, and such--and make things up that have no basis in reality. Or reason. It sounds a lot like a double-talk paper written late at night, or the graduate school thesis that no one is supposed to read or will ever read. It's alarming to me, because in a way, you're counting on these people to know some things, so that someone out there can still know some things. But they don't. And there's no one to stop them, in terms of checks and balance. There's no one really to read them, either. And when they are read, they deaden that experience because they're working with old bones that never even fit in the body. They'll be socially awkward as well, and they do divots. What's a divot? A divot is when you're going along in a conversation, and it's supposed to be intact ground. A divot person cuts into that ground. They'll be insulting without trying to be, for instance. Because they just can't keep it smooth. If you were any good at writing, I'd say that you'd also have a high degree of social acumen. And yet, most so-called writers can't even look someone in the eye, let alone carry themselves with aplomb, wit, tact, charm, and grace. But these are largely word-based things. They should be so easy for the writer if the writer is any good at writing, because the real writer is always writing. It's a way of being. It is being.
For myself, I never leave off. I never stop and start. I am. People also don't think. If someone or some group is famous, they blindly praise, for example. Because they think that's the thing to do. When you blindly praise everywhere, you praise ineffectively when there is something meriting praise. Our praise must be exact. Focused. The best praise is the most specific and the most spot on. I find that people will often say things simply to try and sound impressive themselves. And they can fool a lot of other people, because those other people have no idea about the subject that other person is talking about. Our lives are so circumscribed. We only deal in a half dozen things now in our lives. We only talk in the same ten words. When was the last time someone you knew--who was not me--said or wrote something to surprise you? Expressed something original? Do you even remember when that happened last? How about something original that also made you see the world differently? Or yourself? Human interaction? A film? A record? A book?
There are people in the above group I'm describing who can do better, but they need to channel their enthusiasm more efficiently. Enthusiasm is a great thing. But we have to work at honing its focus. Otherwise, it's just crazy dancing. You admire someone who gets out there and does their crazy dance, I suppose, but with some effort and mental discipline, they could dance well, and offer more. To themselves and others. We really need that in this world right now.
I have a new keyboard as of the second half of this entry. It's quite smooth. Same model as the last one. Ah, the things I wrote on that keyboard. Millions and millions and millions of words of art and consequence. It was broken. The space bar hung up in the air, and there was this deep metallic clang that was heard throughout the building as I typed.
The advice I would give any writer, or any person, is to deal in what is there. Because there is always something there. Things are things. They have their thingness. You are not that thingness. You have nothing to do with it. Whether that's a Beatles record, a Keats poem, a streak of paint, or the characters in a story you're writing. All that matters is that thingness. Which means that you have to leave everything else out of it, and can't let anything else infect the thingness. You're there to see the thingness in its fullness. That has nothing to do with you, what you want something to be, some point you hope to make. So relax. Breathe. Take a step back, then a step closer again. Cool your brain. Your emotions. Your memories. Your feelings. Be entirely present for the thingness. It's not you, and you're not its partner, its steward, its ally. You are there to see it, and understand it. When you separate yourself out, you can come to something fully. Only then, after, can you also see what it truly has to do with your life, as you've lived it, known it, or as it now might be.
This is mastery of the self, subjugation of the ego, and subjugation of insecurity. The thingness of the thing. Of the character, if you like. This is why my characters are real in a way that nothing else is, let alone other characters by other writers in other works. That is what really matters. Getting to where you can see that entirety of the thingness, or as close as possible. That's how we come to know truth. There is no other way. And that is how art is. It is the thingness of all thingness.