I’ve discovered something recently. I have a need to write. Not to be read, so much. After all, the only view needed is mine. A more pressing need is to write words that have a chance to take the air as opposed to pacing up and down in my head.
Actually, they don’t pace up and down – they pace around each other, shuffling aimlessly and occasionally bouncing off each other like stray boats on a lake, which sets them on a new course of aimlessness. These words are tall, lean, and have badly smudged expressions. Other words are small and round, like Danny Devito but with Billy Connolly’s hair from the 70’s. They dart about with intent on rascality – smashing into each other and dividing into smaller versions of themselves – little fat fractals full of fun and frivolity hell bent on needless alliteration.
I have always written. The muse comes and goes but it only fades into the shadows for a spell, lurking around in a doorway, like Harry Lime, or looking up at my window from beneath a street lamp when I’m trying to sleep. I don’t need to get out of bed to see that tilted hat covering the eyes, and that smug smile that seems part way to saying ‘forget it, bub, it ain’t worth it, you ain’t worth it’ before it sucker punches me with, ‘ok dope, write till ya brain gets mushed then if-ya-hafta, write until your fingers fall off and your hand seizes up and ya don’t see day become night and your belly moans atcha over and over to feed it a meal instead of bourbon and ya wake up clutching a pen in one hand and screwed up paper in the other. But, whatever ya decide to do, whatever ya dare to do, don’t do it in Bogey’s voice, ya schmuck’.
My younger writer was all abstract and twisted metaphor and much too aware of itself. Mercifully, I learned to let go of a vocabulary that drew attention to itself and I focused on what I really wanted to say. I wanted to be clear, to express an idea that captured exactly how I felt. This was liberating and a little more akin to improvising in music, which has been my chosen field of starvation for the past jazzillion years.
I write. I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m a musician – a guitarist/composer and I teach here and there, and it’s mostly this that keeps the wolf from the door. I write to see where the writing will take me and I like resting in the flow of the words. Also, I like to write to see what I think. That sounds a little trite when I put it down in print but it really does help formulate my thoughts into a cohesive narrative and I get to debate something, anything, with myself. This helps stop the rot, or to be precise, it gives my thoughts a voice that reflects back on itself which, in turn, gives me a chance to re-shape an opinion that I’d previously taken for granted. I do not want to be a slave to my opinions. I want to be fluid, malleable, and I want to be a part of a shared dialogue. This is a theme that beats blood into my life on a daily basis. In conversations with myself, family and friends, shared dialogue gives me a sense of place, of being, and it keeps me in touch with people of all persuasions, from all walks of life. I also like, more and more, the notion of committing to an idea only to let it go, to watch it leak slowly into the vast rivers of the internet to be kicked around by grammar stallions and wordsmiths and turn-of-phrase bruisers -(with the understanding that it will most probably ossify in a pond of calcification) Yes, I just said ‘ossify in a pond of calcification’. Ugly and unyielding and as depressing a phrase as I’ve heard in a while. And it’s mine.
Write. I never urge anyone to do anything – but I’ll shoulder this exception. Don’t sit and stare. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t compare. Don’t try and write the best thing nobody ever thought of. Just, write. Give a voice to all those words that splash around in your head and have a tendency to bruise your tired heart or enmesh you in fuzzy gunk. Go out, get a nice pen and 120gsm paper (it’s the 5,000 pocket sprung mattress of the writing world) or tap away on your computer, and every time joy, sorrow, frustration or the bloated stone of lonely enters your life, put your feelings into words. Don’t do overly-pained lyrical, overly-pawed prose, scholastic bloviation (irony creeps in, even here) or strangled grammar that constantly gawps at itself. If you want to make it snazzy sounding later, then do so, but, for now, just write with a view that the only viewer is you. It’s like blood-letting of old but with a difference – it actually works – it gives you a chance to rest awhile. Read your words at a later date – days, months, even years later. It’s like wandering the corridors of a state of mind that is embedded in your history, and so, it can be consigned to that history. It can be enlightening too, especially if you’ve written honestly and openly. This new vista often gives a fresh perspective and can help you evaluate new storms on the horizon, way ahead of time.
And remember, the only required view, need be you.