Thursday, March 10, 2011

The novelist doing The Red Queen

The stock image of the Ken Kesey or Jack Kerouac type of novelist: A guy getting up in the morning, hardly bothering to get dressed, sitting at the typewriter in his shorts, getting a mental block, and then cranking himself up on speed or meth to get over the block to produce the eight hundred words needed to finish his chapter.

Well, its a little like that.
Actually a lot like that for a young fool who has no time to fool around. He has to demonstrate instantly at how good he is. Largely as good as his last piece. He must be at least that good. And he knows it.

Vicious circle. The novelist as The Red Queen, running like hell just to stay in the same place. Established novelist. Brilliant in his twenties, later a top columnist in his thirties.
But insecure.
The Beatles song: What would you do if I sang out of tune...
Sing out of tune, like many do with a second novel-- goof and you're finished. You're only as good as your last novel or, lately, magazine column. The second novel is almost always a failure. The guy ratscrabbling in his shorts is aware ot this, knows it.

There are telltale signs that you might not be "in" any more.
The lady at the company dance, meeting you for the first time, seems to gush, "Oh Mr. P. I have read your columns. Marvellous."
Behind you, dancing with your wife, the publisher throws in, "We don't think so."

So the daily ratscrabble to constatly prove oneself worthy.
Does that sound familiar, publisher Gerry!

But writing, as any keyboard jockey knows, is a tension-producing business. You always seem wound up.
You're short with you family, use your wife as an emotional cushion, spend too little time with your kids... And all this while you're trying to stay constantly brilliant. The Red Queen syndrome....But you know one day--and soon!-- you're going to miss a jump, and the earth will have moved, and you might fall into a rosebush...(Echoes of seminarians at university and their jokes, sacriligeous but funny: "Crown of thorns, or no crown of thorns--get out of my rosebush!").

So you get up in the morning, get cranked up, go to work, but all the while feeling like Voltaire's optimist falling off a tower.

"Feels good, so far. Hope it lasts."

With all the drugs, you would probably make one hell of a rosebud psychedelic splash on the sidewalk, as in any number of MAD cartoons by Don Martin.

Hoo ha!



Charles Gramlich said...

I've never tried writing on any kind of stimulant other than caffiene. Maybe I should.

benjibopper said...

I wrote a recent column while on a ridiculous caffeine high, having mistake espresso for regular coffee and had several large mugs of it, the equivalent of a couple dozen coffees. It took me forever to makes sense of my argument. It turned out OK. No worse than my usual anyway.

Anonymous said...

I ain't no novelist,but I remember doing a black princess............

the walking man said...

I ain't no writer but I remember doing all of the above...except i never trusted Seminarians who spoke in jokes

the walking man said...

I van the reason I have missed some of your posts is because no matter what i try Creative Writing always stays at the bottom of my blog roll. And I have tried everything I know of to move it into it's proper spot by post but sometimes I just forget to scroll that low (hahahaha unintentionally that funny)

Thank you so much for your last two communications by post.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Some things I refuse to dive into; however, I'd rather sit in my skivvies staring at a flashing cursor instead of teaching convicts at eight hour intervals. said...


Once you try black... said...

Well JR,

It seems writing online seems more fun now.

benjibopper said...

Online is definitely more fun. No gatekeepers, no meddling editors messing with your words - I know I know, they're well worth it in the end but - no cost. Pure creation. Write it n rip it, wait for the kudos to roll in. None of which would mean much except there is some great writing online. Almost makes me want a Kindle. Almost.

Mona said...

I think that for some the super moon would be stimulant enough this time...

or a de-stimulant....

Erik Donald France said...

Elvis Costello's take: you have your whole life to turn out the first big work; then the pressure builds for the sequel.

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