Monday, October 22, 2007

Don't worry. Be happy




Writing is a volatile thing to build a career on.

Thoughts?

45 comments:

Shesawriter said...

My thoughts?


We're all a bunch of masochistic nudniks. We have to be to put ourselves through all this drama of rejection.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm not a writer, I'm a hobbyist.

No, not lobbyist, I said "hobbyist."

Nevermind.

EAMonroe said...

Your cartoon is about how I feel trying to cut blankety-blank 32,000 words from my novel just to get it down to 175,000. It was 33,000, but I spent all day yesterday hacking out the few I did manage to cut -- and that was a whole day's work (I only have a few hours in the evenings during the work week). I'm wondering if it's worth the effort or the time. ~Liz

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Tanya,

I felt a lot better about the whole thing when I was in my thirties--I published everything I had in me, down to the last personal letter and postcard...That's when you're flying high.

And then suddenly you're not what they want any more (too controversial?) and you reduce yourself to writing letters to the editors of newspapers.
And, in your drawer still, there is the Magnum Opus that nobody seems to want...And you quit your job and drive your family away on this calculated risk. And after all that sturm und drang you get a form rejection letter...That's where the masochism comes in; you never really give up.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

JR,

Most times I feel like a hobbit.

as in, "In a hole, there lived a hobbit."

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Liz,

I have it on the authority of dead
W. Somerset Maugham (no amateur)--that that is exactly how it's done: the way you are doing it.

In his autobiography, he said, cut, cut, cut.

benjibopper said...

too true. thank dog for part time jobs and full time sugar mammas.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

Too true indeed.

They told me at university: You'll have to do something else to make your living.

eric1313 said...

Can a career be built on writng? I keep dreaming of that and not one penny has found it's way to me.

It has made me an expert on cheap liquor and smokes, however.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

A lot of it is in being at the right place at the right time.
Like somebody might want you to write a computer book.
Business publications.
But then I found out you had to be a Mason. Whee!
Mormons can get you in.
Again, Whee!
I dasn't even mention other persuasions.

benjibopper said...

Eric: I figure poetry's gotta be one of the least profitable forms of writing (unless you're leonard cohen). but I was inspired by the indie zinesters. you should put some of your best stuff in a chapbook and sell it at festivals for five bucks a pop. fuck the publishing industry (at least until they give me a sweet contract.)

JM said...

Ivan:

This occupation is dodgy, but nothing else measures up.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Jeff,

Well we finally get a message from someone who makes his entire living writing.
Nothing else measures up indeed, jm.
This was certainly true in my salad days where the sky seemed to limit.
But then you want to just jump up and grab your own tail from joy.
Wine-stoned cowboy! Everything is feeding your ego!
This kind of hubris had indeed felled this old quasi-Greek.
Or maybe he had read too much Greek.
The way out for the out-of-favour writer, it seems to me, is not the classic Lionel Trilling advice of
"intelligence and right intention", but rather intuition and ingenuity as one lady correspondent, herself unpublished had offered to me here. From the mouth of babes!

benjibopper said...

it's too easy to read too much Greek. I've done it at least twice.

but i have yet to EAT too much Greek. mmm, souvlaki.

JM said...

Ivan:

Indeed. I remember moments, decades ago now it seems, when I was struck by the realization I was being paid -- not well, but paid -- to write. Exhilarating.
... These days, I'm just happy I've been able to maintain the con as long as I have.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

Yah, Greeks can cook.

But then some wag offeres a Greek joke:

In Greece, how to they separate the men from the boys:

Answer: With a crowbar.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Jeff,

No con, Don.

You can do 'er.

Trevor Record said...

Basically, if you write you have to smoke?

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Hit Trevor,

Ah, that old trinity of cigarettes, coffee and booze.

But Jef Mitchell, a full time writer, above, has somehow given up cigarettes.

eric1313 said...

Poets are especially self destructive, that's why so many of us smoke whatever we can light on fire and we drink anything fermented, not being too particular about what the label says. Smoking is just one more way to die a little faster. Drinking can be more than enough to cover that by itself, but what is life if one is not racing headlong into Lord Death's bony arms?

Yeah, Benji is right; but I'll need harder edged stuff to really make a dent on that level.

I have the delusion that I can amass a big enough collection to get the whole enchilada--or the whole kabob, in keeping with the Greek motif. I seem to think I can bring back the giant hardcover book of poetry.

Is that bad? I know I'm fighting more than an uphill battle, I'm fighting a black hole singularity of resistance that my light may never escape.

But aren't poets supposed to be dreamers? Madmen and madwomen? Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Bukowski, even Byron was a nut, Dante, I'd bet Homer, whoever he actually was was not what one would call normal. I'm not them, but they did not spring fully formed into the world. It took time for their personalities to develop, their writing to coalesce.

I'm a dreamer and a poet. Maybe I should write stories again.

There I go. Self destructing my poet image in favor of something less tangible.

Guess I'll stick to Marlboro, right and left haded, and plastic bottled vodka.

Guess I'll keep my finger hovering over the big red button that I do know will blast me to heavens porch, on way or another.

eric1313 said...

Damn it, I need to proof read something beyond the alcohol content of a whisky bottle.

haded...

You know what I mean.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

I guess it's hard to wrap your mind around a non-verbal, cartoon-filled blog like the one I've posted.
I see Trevor Record has a meme where bloggers are invited to send some of their blogged stories.

I've got half a mind to send him my old goat story below:

THE OLD GOAT

In an old prairie dugout, there lived a goat.
Goats seem eternally peeved, that peeved expression, but Andreas the Goat was not really peeved; quite happy, really. Did he not have what he wanted, the supply of scraps at the nearby junkyard, the good feeling he got from the Jimson weed and chicory, the late middle age age which had now cooled his passion, True, the young she-goats still showed interest, though this more for his old daddy goat appeal than anything else. He was a handsome old goat.
One day, another goat passed his way. A young-old nanny .. She still had a prance to her gambol, as if very young, but a little gray in her dapple showed she was almost as old as Andreas. The old goat regarded the new arrival with some interest.
Meeehh.
There was the Mee-ing response.
Hello,come closer. What's your name, little she-goat,what's your name? Come closer.

"Yasmine." she blated. She clacked along the gravel to his hideout and came closer. He could now see her face. The cutest little snout, though he could could see by the reddened blacks of her comma eyes that she had been into something.. Funny weed? Perhaps a bit of fermented barley down by the sump pump. She had certainly was on something. Oh not again, the old goat thought. These kids, always grazing on those devil weeds. And the adults just as bad.
She was now right up to him and went to almost pass him, though rubbing a little along his rough hide.
It had struck Andreas that it had been so long, so long since there had been a horn-to-horn. Or even close contact with a female.
But just as soon as she had come up, she suddenly turned on a cloven hoof and seemed about to run away..
But he followed and trotted beside her.
"What's your last name," he asked.
"Springbok."
"Springbok??
"Yes. Yasmine Springbok."
"Icelandic?"he asked.
"No, South African originally.
And with that, she seemed to just spring away from him, as she had done just before,soon to disappear through silver-and-green Russian olive bushes.

These spacey drug freak nannies, they're all the same, the old goat thought. So much into power plays, games, control. Use you as a sounding board. Tease you and run off.
But her scent, the recent nearness of a female, had awakened something in Andreas.

For some time, the old goat had noticed his thoughts were more in the past than the present. Manger scenes, back in the days wheh he'd had a family, kids, barns, chickens. All gone now. All grown up. Or maybe worse. He winced at the thought.
Always the new she-goat. that's how it had always been up until he grew old. Never mind, Yasmine Bleat, or whatever your name is, I will tend to my grazing, see my reflection in the old glass windshields around the garbage dump. What a fine old goat I am. I don't need anything or anybody.

But Yasmine kept coming around.
At first she seemed to ignore him as she gambolled past, but he had to admit she was raising old goat passions in him, not only the hint of an erection he was starting to feel along his scrabbly belly, but alsosome sort of promise that Yasmine seemed to hold.

One day she came right up to the old goat and said,"I will give you whattever you want. Anything at all. Whatever you want, real or imagined. "Nutcase," he decided. Off-the-wall she-goat probably Iberian. Gypsy.goat. Best keep to myself."

But on the third day she came back with an old soup can can in her mouth, which suddenly, inexplicably, turned into a flower.

The old goat pawed at the ground, but here, suddenly was a bunch of carrots. "How you doo dat?" the old goat asked, trying to show casualness, not the sudden, strange supernatural fear.

I am she-goat, mistress of goathood. I can make you horny. I can make you magic. I know you better than you know yourself."

Never met a goat like her before.

They took to running around together, past the trees, past the birds, past the clucky stampeding chickens, through the yard and into a grove of Russian olives, spiky and hard to get near, let alone eat.
"Got something to show you, said Yasmine. Come."
Andreas followed, followed her down a glade to the hollowed-out stump of an old oak tree, ancient, thick, though the inside was rotted out, leaving a circular ruin all around. One end was open, and inside, there was space for two or three goats, as if in a pen. There, inside the old oak stump there was a nest of spiders, just babies really, scrambling for cover. Yasmine suddenly went to stomp them, and in fact, trampled a couple. The others got away.
Andreas was surprised at this sudden show of atavism. Who, what was she really?
Andreas had a sudden feeling of unreality. the hollowed oak stump seemed suddenly alive, all ashimmer.. . "Do not be afraid, said Yasmine. This is only a show of my power. I can give you anything you want. Anything at all."
And then she knelt on her front legs and produced the vision of a past manger scene, the old goat's former mate, the kids, the chickens. All he had to do was walk into it and there he would be.
But Andreas just stood there tranfixed, wondering at the unreality of it all. And just as soon as the scene dissipated, she scrambled for a wall and was suddely gone.
It took a long time for the old goat to return to the dugout.
He was much changed old goat.
Seven years of rooting around the old dugout that he had lived in
And for the first time, he'd learned something. But what was it?
He yearned to see the youn-old she-goat again.

One morning, he saw two goats up on the rise, a fine billy and along with him, Yasmine.
Son of a wanton goat! he thought. I should have known.
But the following day she was back, alone, her mysterious companion not there.
"I want you to love me," she said, rather matter-of-factly. I want you to love me. Spiritually, like a goat-knight.
I will give you anything you want." And suddenly, between them, there sprung a clump of olives. Andreas had a taste. Not at all like stale Campbell's soup. Something in those olives though. He could feel, sense the ramaining baby spiders in the stump's walls. Could see them spinning their little gossamer webs, and the mother now nearby.
He made to tell Yasmine how he was feeling, but she was not there now.. She was gone again..

She came back that evening, and, after some rubbing against him, unexpectedly, presented herself to him. Andreas was in goat heaven. He took her from behind, as is the way of goats. And afterwards, without much ado, she went to run off again. "Stay," said
Andreas." But she gave him a quick nuzzle and she was again gone. Seven days went by. No Yasmine.
He saw the mysterious he-goat again, alone this time, up high on the knoll. Soon another goat joined the handsome stranger. Sean Connery goat. It was Yasmine. Andreas could see by the familiarity displayed between them that they were, it seemed, still in love. "And me, what about me?"
She showed up alone the following evening.He was half-made with jealousy and woe.
Explain.
"You can't get everyhing from just one goat," she asserted. I am with him, but I love you."
"Yeh."
And she was gone again.
Nights were now spent in fits of jealousy and discontent. He would do this, he would do that. He would butt heads with the mysterious lover.
And one day he did. He saw the two of them up on the rise again and ran right up. "You got a problem? said handsome Sean Connery goat. "Yeah, I've got a roblem. You." And with that, he gave the handsome stranger a pretty good grazing. The stranger did not fight back. "Leave him alone," Yasmine bleated. "Leave my husband alone." Oohh. So that was it.
Andreas walked back down the hill, to his shed. He had a sense of clairvoyance. He thought, as he had run away that he heard Yasmine say, "There is a reason for everything. I had come to you for a reason."
He sulked in his "apartment." So that was it. They are married. Well,he had his pen, he had his food and he had his certainties. It was an episode, a learning experience, old as he was.
Yasmine did not come around again.
One morning,something compelled him to leave his pen, and leave fast. There was the sound of heavy machinery just above. He was out just before a massive bulldozer razed his home.
And high up on the knoll, again, he saw Yasmine. Alone and about to leave for home. He had no idea why, or what he would do, and could he do it. But he followed.
-3O-

Ivan

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

There are typos aplenty in the story I have just put up in comment space above.

It might bore the crap out of you, but there's plenty of copyediting
to be done.
I too have gone the vodka route.
It ain't Dr. Pepper, oh lord it isn't!
I used to taper off on beer.

Ivan

Ivan

eric1313 said...

I always thought Yasmine Bleethe was a horrible name, too. You'd think, being an actress and all, she would have changed it to something less goat-like.

That is often the way of things, she goat wanting her cake and to eat it too. Dangerous territory, she messed with him nd he did not thing it was a game. She made him feel invincible, then defated him.

That's pretty good. Reminded me a bit of John Gardner's Grendel, the goat did. At the biginning of the novel Grendel is watching an old mountain goat that ruled it's little hill. He'd seen it for years, he talked about it's strength and how long it ruled the hill, king of it's domain, and had seen it for ten or twenty years.

Then Grendel got up and clubbed it down with one blow, cracking it's thick skull on the rocks. And then mused about how he did it just because he could. He could let kings be, or kill them.

The rest of the Novel is Beowulf told through the monster's eyes. Why it likes to torment humans in the night, destroying their works and and laying waste to their halls. It talks about it's rivalry and yet friendship with a dragon. Then it finds out the dragon was recently slain, and rages, not ever realizing that the ones who slew the dragon were coming for him next.

Good novel. Fast read. I recomend it heartily.

eric1313 said...

And the vodka, that's not so bad now. I don't drink to excess very much. But I do like a buzz as much as anyone else.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

I have always been a huge fan of John Champlin Gardner (not the thriller writer).
The man was a phenomenon,though, (dare I even make the com;parison?) like my goat, he too must have come across his Yasmines as his fame spread.
Always the cossack and the Rusalka, or Loreli.
Mr. Gardner died, of course, in a motorcycle accident, his students'
stories strewn all around the hillside he'd gone off.
I did read Grendel. It was a long time ago. I don't remember the killing of the goat, but I do rememeber when Grendel ate--literally ate--an old lady and he could taste her blood and urine. Yechh.
The amazing thing about Gardner is that he took a rather boring old Germanic-Anglo legend and brought a large part of it to life through the point of view of the monster.
By the age of 49 Mr. Gardner was in trouble with his marriages and also in trouble with some academics (who were likely jealous, I suppose). They accused him of plagiarizing some of the middle-English material submitted for the university at which he taught (CUNY?).
But the tragedy of it all.
At 49, at the height of his fame as novelist and teacher--the motorcycle accident.
He was becoming in stature the very equal of John Updike and one day I plan to write an institutional novel about a fictional plot by a large novelist to do in a rival...Strictly an idea for fiction, you understand.

I love the short stories of John Gardner, especially Nickel Mountain and another one about a knight-errant whose title escapes me.
Glad you liked my story.
I put it in, cold sober, not realizing the proofreading you were talking about came as the result of a typo in a previous comment that was just coming into my space. You were correcting your typo and I thought, in my fuddleheadeness that you wanted something to proofread.
Ah well. Any excuse to throw in a short story anywhere. Publish or Perish!
On the drinking:
I had two girlfriends once. The Yasmine type and the Wendy type out of Peter Pan.
The Yasmine told me to stop drinking and the Wendy type said it was good for me.
Oh if I'd only gone with Wendy. We could have had a really good alcoholic relationship, the bottles piled up and me still thinking I was Peter Pan.
So I might echo Wendy and say vodka might be good for you.

the walking man said...

Goddamn I guess I'll never publish again because I only do the coffee and cigarettes...fuck me I have to start drinking again to get off my ass and start playing the submission game again.

Actually I think the only reason I am organizing and looking for places to submit in the paper and ink world is because i like to write smart ass cover letters telling them to fuck off because the price of postage has gone up and I resent having to pay for a form rejection slip.

Liz if you got a 177,000 word novel you better break it in two. i have one that goes 170,000 words but I made the second half a sequel and they are both still to long for most agents and publishers and I refuse to cut anymore out of them so they can sit: even though there are quite unique turns in both but fuck 'em it's my work, they are going to make the lions share of the dough so i'd as soon let them sit unless I decide to make it a four novel series, which then they'd say i have to make it a 12 novel series minimum for it to be marketable...this is a dreadful fucked up business and I'd much rather charge an editor ten times normal to fix his beemer than let someone else tell me when my labor is wrong or in need of something.

But i do love writing the cover letters.

peace

mark

benjibopper said...

How many Greek mothers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Never mind, I'll sit in the dark.

[this one works with pretty much any ethnicity.]

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Mark,

Oh the smart-ass thing.
Two years ago, I publised all over,on other people's blogs the go-rounds I had witht he House of Anansi Press here in Toronto. I was not kind to some people.
Then, in an idiot's way, I sent a novel to that very house after my little romans a clef about them.
You can imagine the result.
I did learn not to be cute with editors or publishers.
And the ones I was cute with are now long gone.
A new breed of females is in and the poor women might not even be able to get your jokes.
The last Bravo to get cute with publishers in Canada was Hugh Hood.
And who has ever heard of Hugh Hood.
Send your stuff out, but keep your head down.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ah Benji,

Wasn't My Big Fat Greek Wedding a blockbuster?
Like really.
Everybody dug it, even Ukrainians, who are infused with so much Greek culture, right from the alphabet.

(My mother's name is Paraskeva, and if that isn't a Greek name, I don't know what is).
She certainly had some Greek traits, I suppose. Tendency towards dialogue. Lots of dialogue. :)

Josie said...

I love Greek baklava. Yum.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Nothing like mediterranean fare to keep you wealthy, healthy and, if you believe old Play Dough--wise.

EA said...

Hey, Ivan! What's happening in your corner of the world?

Mark, I've already cracked the novel into Books 1 and 2 and 4. It was meant to be a trilogy. Oh, I can count -- I just haven't written book 3 yet so I left a gap in there! (I'm working on #3.) ;-) Thanks!

Liz

ivan@creativewriiting.ca said...

Liz,

Would you believe I's still trying to get Word?

You said some time ago that all you have to do is open word and start typing. Well,okay.
But I can't pick up attachments on my machine, and presumably, I can't send attachments.
That little guy on his motorbike is scratching his head and wondering what the hell I'm doing.

I have called my techie.

benjibopper said...

george strapadapalapalapaldapalous.

benjibopper said...

i used to live in greektown, i gotta million of em.

ivan@creeativewriting.ca said...

Benji,

I don't know about george strapadapalapalapaldapalous, but we both know of a George Stromboloupolos who has a pretty cool program on CBC TV called THE HOUR.
Highly watchable, but undortunately, all all talk show hosts do, he's gone the Hollowood paparazzi route and seems to be focusing on star ephemera (That last word is Gree, right?).

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Thinking of Philosophy 101 where there were these two Sophists, travelling teachers of wisdom.

The first guy was named Hippias, and the second Georgias.

I presumed Hippias was the left-leaning guy. :)

eric1313 said...

Gardner was dating Joyce Carol Oates--Talk about taming the shrew. She hates anything with a sausage and satchel.

At least, that's how her fiction reads a lot of the time.

Yeah, I knew he died pretty bad--on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Mangled up pretty good.

I didn't know he was accused of plagiarism. It's all been done before--anything could be plagiarised.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

Wow. I didn't know Gardner was dating Joyc Carol Oates.
New one on me. I believe he left his first wife to marry the poet E.M. Rosenberg (his Liz) but went on to further beds.

This happens. Trust me.

I am not too familiear with Joyce Carol Oates' mysteries (I am not especially fond of mysteries), but I am much taken with her essays, especially A New Heaven, A new Earth and a brilliant novella inside her book, "Unholy Loves" where the heroine meets this talented teacher of music, who may well have been, remotely, modelled on Gardner.
Gardner and Oates. Well, wouldn't that be a case of two PhD's in the same family!
Uber- author in bed with Uber -Authoress (dominatrix?).

Yet I recall the stories in Unholy Loves as the woman being very much in love with the rogue artist and financial parasite, and I recall the woman's feeling of emptiness when the Lord Byron she had been dating shows more inerest in his success than in her as a lover.
But it's Ms. Oates' essays that thrill me.
Maybe as a former academic, I was taken by the work of a real academic, a busy (bitch genius?) who could really do the work.
And the stamina. Teaching every day, cranking out a novel every year and looking and acting very hot all this time.
Hell, I'd like to make it with her again (I wish, I wish!)
Gardner and Oates. Wow!

eric1313 said...

Joyce Carol Oates only wrote one mystery novel--but like forty or fifty novels with titles like "Dead Girl, Live Boy" or "The Ghost Girls" and other various things like that.

She writes about troubled women's issues set in fiction--like whast your Canadian publishers want to hear.

Even the mystery novel that she wrote eons ago is about unsolved wome's murders, usually at the hands of men.

And she teaches creative writing at Princeton. The Big Leagues. Aye aye aye.

Her and Gardner carried on with an on again off again affair over many years.
----------


On a different note...

Gardner was the teacher of Raymond Carver, who's writing I really enjoy. "Cathedral" or "Where I'm Calling From" are great short story collections, and his poetry was really good, as well.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Eric,

Yep. Women's issues. Joyce Carol Oates is interviewed on CBC here all the time.
But the woman can write. Oh how she can write.
Princeton, huh?
Well, I taught nonfiction at the Instituto Allende, Mexico. At the time the Instituto had its accreditation from the University of California.
Well, Irvine, California migh be big, but it ain't Princeton.

I do notice you are quite versatile.
Damn shame you haven't had the big break yet. I sense that it's coming, but you got to keep on writing. And maybe nonfiction might be your thing. You are certainly one thorough dude.
It is curious, however that in a blogging world, there is an almost abysmal ignorance of literature for the past thirty-odd years.
I guess the genre ladies think it might be beneath them to study literature, especially American literature in a formal way.
It does work well for some of them and they get e-published with their romances and gothics.
This leads to perfectly bound paperbacks and they are on their way.
Some of these ladies are pulling way ahead of us!

Ivan

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

p.s. to Eric,

I was so taken with one of the stories in "Unholy Loves" that I almost put myself in place of the female character.
Like this morning, I got up and smoothed out my skirt.
LOL. Double LOL.

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