Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Reading Sage Cohen's Productive Writer -- I promised a review of it, which I've been (yes, I'm aware of the irony) slow in producing. It's interesting to read something like this now, when my writing and my relationship with it are in their maturity: the last time I read this sort of “How to Write” book I must have been in my early twenties. Many of the issues she brings up (and deftly deals with) are so long vanished from my life that I have to look at them a while to dredge up the memories of them. Not being able to write? Not knowing what to write? Never happens to me any more. If some morning I open my laptop and find I have nothing to say, I think, “huh! Nothing to say today,” and go on to do something else. The idea that the fountain of inspiration has run dry never occurs to me. Not writing would be much harder for me than writing is, nowadays. It's just what I do.

There was a time when I would wrestle and struggle and try to figure out what I should write. It was because I'd taken on board somehow the daft idea that I should be a novelist, and so I was trying to excrete a novel from my brain by main force. It was a deeply unpleasant experience, and I don't recommend it to anyone. I eventually concluded that a person should only write a novel -- or anything else literary -- because they must: because the thing grows up in their dreams and daydreams and demands to be written. All my best writing happens because it has to.

I neither have nor want the novelist's skill of holding a steady viewpoint or two, and of organizing things into long narratives. That's not my gift. I'm not a literary infantryman; I'm a light skirmisher. Take a few pot shots and scamper away. Marching in uniform is just not my thing. If I ever do write a long narrative, it wouldn't be a conventional one -- not because I have anything against conventional novels; I adore them; but just because I wander off the track so easily. It would have to be something in the Brautigan line, if it was anything.

But I'm finding Sage's book very useful, because it does kick me in the seat of the pants and get me to thinking about questions that have gathered dust for a while. I have no desire to make money from my writing -- that seems like a dreary way to wring a little bit of money from a great deal of effort, and likely to spoil both my writing and my joy in it -- but I do have some modest goals for this blog, and I've neglected them. For one thing, I want to promote and showcase some of the bloggers I most admire -- to do something like Dave Bonta's Smorgasblog -- and I seldom get around even to linking people. And since blogrolling.com was apparently hacked, and has become unsafe, I've even stripped my blogroll from Mole. This is not acceptable: I don't want Mole to look like anything but what it is -- one cell in a complicated literary organism.

For another thing, the comment software that took over from Haloscan won't do. I'd rather have flat, non-threaded comments, which I think generates a more genuine and inclusive conversation: but the real problem is that its log-in protocol is over-rich. It feels pushy: one more player trying to horn in on the “social network” space. It's just the comments, for God's sake. I find myself logged in variously as “Koshtra,” “Dale”, or “Dale Favier,” with various avatars, depending on where I've been lately. Or not logged in at all, and appearing as “Guest.”The difficulty is that they have seven years of my comments in their system as hostages, and I treasure my comments. I'm very reluctant to abandon them; equally reluctant to take on trying to import them into some other system.

And last, I have to disentangle this blog from my massage website. That site, I think, has to become its own Wordpress site, and stop being poor cousin to Mole: I have to give serious thought to where I draw the line between writing suitable for my massage clients and writing suitable for Mole. There is a line, and I need to draw it, even if it's hard. No reason why someone shouldn't read the blog content of both sites: but they shouldn't have to.

So. I'm not much given to resolutions, but I'll commit to resolving all three of these issues this year. And I'll write that review for you, Sage. Honest.

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