Today’s Gatsby: Getting Wise to his Story

JayGatsby1[1]In every retelling or its variations, Gatsby must die.  He represents the adolescence of an emerging adult, some say a nation, who must meet his death to be reborn through a witness, I say a writer, to the real, if not better, World.  And there are two sides to this persistent death.  One is the faith that audiences will continue to buy it — the fiction, if not the dream.  The other is that, despite it all, some writers still believe in that kind of hero myth.  We keep the faith that Gatsby’s death is gonna lead us somewhere good.  And writers only needs a grain of it to keep us offing poor heroes, like Gatsby, over and over so the narrator/writer can reflect and mourn on innocence lost and from it, gloriously raise perseverance and the determination to make the sacrifice of others ‘count’.

Why do we continue to repeat classics that may no longer apply to who we are now?  What would a modern-day Gatsby do with himself in today’s culture?  On who or what would he foolishly gamble away all his passion?  They simply don’t manufacture Dreams like they use to.  He would never buy one today — not enough of one, anyway, to carry him to his purposeful end.  And I’d argue that neither is there enough motivation for any modern leading lady to convincingly play the ‘supportive’ role long enough to inspire him the rest of the way.  I would personally love to see a Gatsby who takes a different stand.  

Faith in heroes has changed a lot in the last 90 years. Heroes should probably stop letting themselves be solely the invention of writers.  Especially if we keep telling the same stories!  Just different cast and costume.  The heroes out there need to help us out a little.  And what about our audiences?  What role do they play in keeping our modern-day heroes alive?

What about that state where all songs and stories were new and a new frontier was always in our horizon?  Just as it was in Gatsby’s time. Ah, I think, maybe there lies the beginning of the problem.  Maybe the stories that we keep repeating, we do so because these stories are just the beginning of a much larger story that was never fully realized.  We can’t get past what we haven’t finished yet.

© lyw 

When the Plug gets Unplugged, a poem by Kim Hyesoon

Photo by Henrik Donnestad, Unsplash.com

War and horror – and everything underlying – happens for a species like ours.  We’ve got a long history of it.  Bad habits die hard they say.  That’s why I say, when you see an expression of the grotesque in art, don’t be so quick to turn the eyes from it.  Not always, of course.  For the kind of art that ONLY wants to be shocking or gross — I’d rather spare my senses.

However, in Kim Hyesoon’s poem, When the Plug gets Unplugged, it’s not her fault if the grotesque is the inevitable result of her subject. I might get squeamish and back away from her imagery but I can still follow an honest, human voice trying to explain and share a painful reality with me.

The poem seems to be about the aftermath of a war, a battle, probably atomic.  But is it that simple?  Could it actually be a metaphor of any kind of traumatic loss or suffering?  An ugliness or hurt that connects all of us whether we’ve been through war or not.

I’ve never experienced war.  I’ve read about it.  Seen documentaries that gave me nightmares.  I stare at a poem like this and just wonder.  Is it really that grotesque?  Or just part of what we all are?  It is a mess.  Should I be surprised?  Given our human history?  That our imperfections can be that vivid?  And can we accept them?  In order to start cleaning up somehow.  She’s asking for a flame thrower or act of God.  Any better ideas?

If art is meant to be an expression of our humanity then it certainly won’t always be beautiful.  If I look closely enough at this poem, put aside the repulsion, I may recognize something of my own ugliness and horror that I am turning away from and refusing to deal with.

The latest poetry video on the lywTube channel is a piece from this poem.  I do invite everyone to check out the full poem on the Missing Slate journal website.

Check out the poetry video at this link:

© lyw 

Expedition into 2014

I’m getting ready to write something important to me and, of course, that means I’m procrastinating.  A nicer way to look at it is that I’m attacking the beast from the side.

After several weeks of a trickling work flow, I called a stop and told myself to go back to doing something a little productive, and less daunting.

I have a stack of hand-written semi-professional writing journals spanning roughly the last 5 years that need transcription into an e-form.  Why?

  1. Find and Destroy evidence of any stupidity.
  2. Salvage any ideas that I can develop.
  3. Retain a relevant chronicle of myself – the stuff that I think will be important for me to remember in years to come, even if it means keeping some of my stupidity.
  4. Purge the remaining fluff.

Transcribing old journals is like cleaning out and reorganizing your closet.  What kind of closet you have depends on what kind of journal you keep.  Is it for a specific project?  Is it emotional therapy?  Stream-of-consciousness?  The main purpose of a journal for this writer is to observe my day for anything I might be able to grow as an idea.  That’s the goal.  Usually starts with ranting.

So, transcribing journals is a good job to take on while I’m procrastinating.  It can lead to a forgotten idea or lead me back to the roots of my current ideas.  There is a high risk of wallowing in the past while transcribing and I need to be mindful not to linger anywhere too long; try to look at the content with detachment.  If a good idea from the past cannot help me look at my present or future with some difference, such ideas are impossible to activate and therefore useless baubles.

Yesterday, I was digging through 2014, dealing with the mind of a girl trying to hammer out a small book of poems – and as always, herself.  I had some funny moments during the transcription.  One where I thought I was brilliant.  Declared myself my own biggest fan – which I know is a very small club – but was proud to lead, at least, yesterday.  It’s a great feeling to not recognize something that I wrote and to think, ‘Hey, that was pretty good!”

And then there were the many other moments when I thought I sounded and looked (due to the quality of the handwriting) like a lunatic.  Must have been my stream of consciousness exercises where I was just throwing out things that came to mind without any context.  Thinking of George Harrison from the Beatles when I write that.  He said in an interview that after taking LSD he realized expanding his mind through chemicals was limited and there had to be a better way without them.  And if a Beatle said that, then you know it must be true … (just kidding).  My point is that journaling is a very healthy and chemical-free way of not so much expanding your mind but exploring your mind, your subconscious and your soul – if you believe in that sort of thing.  Go as far out as you want.

Through journaling, I’ve had a life-long and close friendship with myself which I believe translates into stronger self-awareness than people who don’t.  Through transcribing this friendship, I return to lessons I’ve forgotten, and as a result, I don’t need to wonder why I continue to repeat into my present day.  But it’s not just a nice feeling — it’s a useful feeling — to find that I can still respect and enjoy where I have been despite my mistakes.

lyw

 

Photo by Xiang Gao on Unsplash

digging up old ideas

Recently, on the way to my day job, I remembered a film script idea that I had about 10 years ago.  I went digging for that old idea in my files and couldn’t find it.  I am sure I left it in the past for a reason and shouldn’t be too concerned by the loss.  Good or bad, though, I would still like to see it again.

It’s funny how a creative idea that was never realized always feels precious like a rough gem.  It could have been the worst idea in the world but as a fledgling bad idea it always has the potential to be magnificent.  Funny, still, how I feel more attached towards ideas from my past than people from my past.  Perhaps this is because people are not within my control, whereas an idea is — or should be – can be?  If nothing comes of my idea, I am the only one to blame.  I am that idea’s only hope.  Nobody would have that idea quite like me.  Certainly, nobody would love my idea quite like me.

Funny on funny.  Because, again, if I had developed those ideas into the ugly monstrosities that usually occur when I develop script or novel ideas then that preciousness would be lost.

I did a major purge of creative files a few years ago mainly because I was advised that it was a very healthy thing to do for writers.  This purge promised to help me to:

  1. Let go of the past that is keeping me from experiencing the present or having any mind for the future.
  2. If I have been dogging on a story for years and not getting anywhere, remember that I am mortal; my time here is finite.
  3. Realize that an idea that is 10 years old or older probably has little relevance to me now or would need to be turned into a new idea to suit who I am as a writer.
  4. Consider that since I probably have at least a few creative ideas a year — if all of my undeveloped ideas continued to follow after me, year after year, like tin cans attached to my waist with strings – I’d make such a royal din everywhere I went.
  5. Accept that some ideas are just bad and deserve to be put to rest.  I don’t know if I can ever believe this statement.  After all, aren’t I the bad one if I can’t make something out of one of my brilliant ideas?

**Important Note: I’m only talking about literary ideas.  An idea such as doing your own amateur household electrical or medical surgery.  No.  Don’t do it.

I think the lesson learned is that if I should have a good literary idea then I should develop it immediately.  Embrace the sucking, as They say, and just do it — so it doesn’t follow after me for years and I don’t suffer the regret of needing to purge them. I bet some sort of angel or spirit weeps every time an idea dies before it’s even given a chance.

Ultimately, there is wisdom to this funny business.  Whenever I have tried to develop a creative concept into a novel or script it has grown into a hairy kind of Frankenstein with lots of heads, arms and legs and eventually feels beyond my control to develop any further.

I do believe, though have not yet proven, that I must persevere long enough to see the beauty in the ugly reality of my idea.  That’s life, isn’t it?  An idea is an ideal.  The ideal is perfection.  Longer creative pieces will never turn out the way I had it in mind.  The writer and the story develop together and the reality will always come out differently.  The reality is where I will learn and test the truth about me, my story and my perspective on this life.  Time is a factor as well.  The act of stretching out an idea through linear time, page after page, scene after scene — it does stuff to an idea.  It applies maddening and rigid logic to the abstract.

Obviously, if my storytelling craft adhered to a popular formula or template the work and product would be different.  Ideas, I imagine, would have a clearer and smaller path to follow to completion.  Kudos to writers who can successfully write longer creative pieces within a template.  My monsters have always managed to escape such prisons.

And those are the few times when I have actually been very proud of my monstrosities.

© lyw 

Photography credits:

Dave Michuda

Nirzar Pangarkar

commas: the tracks that stalk the lone writer

Image result for comma clipartFor the life of me, no matter how hard I try, how many times I edit or how long I take to publish, blogging without the help of an editor always leaves me with useless commas running around my text.  I don’t know how they get there!  I don’t know how I miss them during my own editing process.

Sometimes I choose to write in fragmented sentences because I prefer to write like I speak whether it’s grammatically correct or not.  However, there’s no good reason to have extra commas.  It’s not cute.  It’s not casual.  It’s just wrong and annoying. Periodically, I also suffer from being a semi-colon fool.  Since I don’t speak with a stammer, I must stammer in thought or think in a stop-n-go style.  This could explain a lot about my issues with longer creative pieces. Oddly, my business writing does not suffer nearly as much from these short, staccato uuhh’s damaging my flow – it’s true, I swear!  I suspect this is because I find less to hesitate about.

Image result for comma clipartRegardless, useless commas are the most annoying thing about my blogging experience and expound the importance of the editor.  In fact, if editors can save me from those maddening track marks, they should get equal, if not higher, credit for the work.

I am often faced with dualities when it comes to blogging.  Whenever I see a benefit, there is always an almost equal risk.  The blog’s charm is frequency and immediacy.  It encourages me to leave the past in the past, write for the present and keep an eye to the future.

However, this freedom doesn’t provide the same level of polish and quality that would come from a traditional, slower form of publication and processing from established publishing companies or larger publications.  Lone bloggers generally don’t have editing and marketing talent behind them.

comma%20clipartHowever to that, there is more creative freedom in a less restricted environment such as a blog.  I’m grateful for the way social media has loosened me up (a little) to imperfection and being ‘out’ instead of hidden in that small place in this world where I silently write. Social media provides access to a lot of other great writers and ideas as well as venues to develop a personal craft, story and following.

However, the literary arts industry is already small, and possibly shrinking, suggesting that online writers and publishers need to ally themselves with traditional, industry-standard publishers and academic partners to keep this market growing.

However, blogs in a blog aren’t meant to be permanent and often serve as a prelude to more important work or ideas. A cooking blog is meant to guide us to the more important work of cooking rather than admiring the blog (although, there is an unusual trend of people who would rather stare at pictures of good cooking than make it themselves). My literary blog is aimed at chewing on another literary piece or ideacomma%20clipart not the blog itself.  Is it then worth getting a 3rd party editor to go through this stuff?  Yes. At this point, I say, yes.  Just because those commas are driving me mad!  Blogs don’t need to be Nobel-prize winning stuff but they should be clean-er.

OR, one day, writers like me must evolve enough to be as much a 3rd party editor as a writer.  Editing while writing is not a good idea because honestly, I don’t think it’s even possible.  Writing needs a pair of fresh eyes to be critical about those little details.  Could I learn to separate myself from me, after the draft, long enough to be an impartial editor to my own work?  That certainly sounds like evolution.

© lyw 

** comma artwork c/o: http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/comma-clipart