Wank

The gimmicks are starting to pile up. In addition to the candy dish and the coffee shops, the fine-point Pilot PreciseGrip pen and crappy spiral notebook, dog walks and Pinterest board and the down pillow under my special ass, I have decided I need a soundtrack. It’s not a recent decision, by the way—I always create a soundtrack, it’s part of my Process, dude—but it’s safe to say I’ve reached the obsessive point in putting this one together. I have mixed and burned seven CDs in the past two weeks. I carry the latest incarnation everywhere and play the songs almost every time I step away from the page, as if a few hours of intermittent thought about my child, say, or the state of the Middle East might cause a fatal distraction that will keep me from finishing my book. It’s true that the music does help, but as with the other gimmicks, its main value is in girding me against the terrifying prospect that I’m in this all on my own.

I wonder why it is that creative work seems so untrustworthy. Faced with a mountain of data entry and two months left to complete it, I wouldn’t feel the impulse to burn sage or paint henna on my writing hand. I’d get down and do it. I have always tried to approach writing with a worker-bee mentality, but the fear is ever-present and must be beaten down daily (with a crappy spiral notebook and seven CDs). My superstitions offer relief from the anxiety of coming at writing empty-handed.

Of course, the maddening reality is that I am alone in this endeavor. I am. You are. Nothing beyond your cranium can save you. You can Scrivener the motherfucker, or wear your Rushdie T-shirt, or scribble in the margins, or stand on a wide gray beach with a stick in your hand, you can toke your plot or change your font, jerk off or drive off or crank up the Copper Blue and send a smoke signal heavenward to summon the god of writing—dear god, please save me from the terrible whiteness—but at some point you have to face the fact that the fucker is all in your brain.

Wank on that, baby.

How brave are you?

Photo by Aneta Bartos

Photo by Aneta Bartos

47 responses

  1. c’mon now, don’t be a disc tease….what’s on those 7 cds?

    my courage likes to pick and choose its benefactors with zero consistence or reliability. also, i’ve been listening to this non-stop since seeing it live Monday night at an outdoor venue where i danced so much my sides hurt the next morning.

    “…we don’t have to talk, let’s dance…” (this is the new line that keeps repeating in my head no matter the conversation)

    • I love this, especially the thought of you loving it and dancing like mad. I’m so out of the loop with the new music.

      And because I refuse to be called a disc tease, here’s the latest mix:

      Tricky – Really Real
      Sugar – Hoover Dam
      Tricky – Girls
      TV on the Radio – Will Do
      Matchbox 20 – Bent
      Foo Fighters – Dear Rosemary
      Birdy – Skinny Love
      Collective Soul – December
      Bob Schneider – Tiger and the Lamb
      Lana Del Rey – Video Games
      Birdy – Terrible Love
      Sugar – The Slim
      Massive Attack – Girl I Love You
      TV on the Radio – Wolf Like Me
      Red Hot Chili Peppers – Scar Tissue
      Foo Fighters – I Should Have Known

  2. While you were shutting out the world to find your words, I let it in. I wrote scathing opinions about everything this morning, posted them in public forums then deleted them – because heaven forbid I offend some wanker I see in the school pickup line. It was a great psychological rebellion against suburbia, ignorance, my boring life and freed the gears in my head for one rusty, squeaky turn. I might have dislodged enough built up gunk to actually work today.

  3. Total coward. 100%. Am the guy in the dark of the corner, facing nothing sexier than the wall, wanking.
    Love your strategies, your superstitions, the desperation to keep the sentience of solitude and whiteness at bay…

    • I’m a coward, too, as evidenced by all the strategies. It would be nice to imagine myself at a polished desk day after day, in a silent, empty room, as if all my brain needed for go-go juice was the space in which to roam. But I can’t think of anything more intimidating. Makes me reach for my pillow and blankie.

  4. How brave are you?
    Ha, I’m a coward. Afraid of success? Maybe.

    Like looking in the rear view mirror at the in-reverse word ambulance… FTF should be tattooed on my ass backward. I’m still working on my linguini and clam sauce from yesterday. The chocolate covered cherries are gone.

  5. If brave means being terrified and doing it anyway, if it can’t possibly be avoided and whining loudly doesn’t make other people do it for me . . . then, yeah, I’m brave.

    And really whiny.

    • Listen, if you find a way to get your writing done by whining about it, don’t keep it under your hat. God knows I’ve been whining to you peeps for years now and no one’s offered to take it on.

      XO

  6. “How brave are you?”

    Not brave enough, though I soldier on.

    Long ago, a teacher who changed my life told me, in front of witnesses who were more than my peers, they were writers I yearned to emulate, “Callis, you have everything you need, but you’re afraid.” Instantly I knew he was right; no small part of my creative endeavors since then, even of my life as a whole, has been to face and face up to and face down my fear, which is at the center of being and is the angel I wrestle with nightly at the crossing. I pin it and I do not release it until it blesses me, though it dislocates my hip and causes me to limp.

  7. Fuck me.
    I just wrote a beautifully crafted, deeply meaningful comment about all this into the WordPress app on the ipad, and it fucking disappeared, gone, forever.
    Could have had a wank instead.

  8. Okay remember the almost-intervention surrounding your rereading Lolita?
    The day you join bingo and line up the bobble heads, twirling their massive fluffy blue hair between your fingers, then relining them…I’m flying out there. Capische?

    • I’m counting on you to intervene if ever the bobble-head number reaches more than three. (Though a windshield frame of Congressional bobble-heads makes me weak with desire.)

      But do not try to come between me and my Humbert Humbert. I sleep with him under my pillow.

  9. I have soundtracks for both my novels. I made them near the final draft as a knee-jerk attempt to control the perception of the mood and tone of my writing. It was fun. When I read your book, I’ll listen to this soundtrack.

    • Yes to the knee-jerk. And did you find that queuing up a song could drop you right in to the story? It’s weird the way that works, like starting the film rolling.

  10. What’s so terrifying about it is that I have no idea why I hate the sight of my own words on one day and on another I can sit down and get work done but it sucks and then the next day I can write something that sounds okay. Why?

  11. Actually, I waffle between brave and cowardly. This waffling occurs regularly One moment I’m walking around with”I can do this,” in my head, then comes the “why am I doing this,” followed quickly by “what the hell am I doing?”

    But to me, the real bravery is the moment we hit send, and shove what we’ve done out to the beta readers, editors, and the like. That to me is the equivalent of base jumping.

    I’m intrigued by this music inspiration. I’ve always used books to jar my brain, but it seems many out here get inspired by music. Never tried that.

    • This first paragraph has me cracking UP. Oh my god, that’s it exactly.

      *wipes eyes*

      Music is a big, big deal to me. I’m downplaying it because it sounds so ridiculous, but if you can find the right songs, they can serve as a shortcut to the mood you get into when you’re writing. I’m listening to “The Slim” right now, gearing up to write, and I swear that opening bassline gets me there every time.

      • 🙂 As you can tell, cowardly outweighs bravery.

        I’ve GOT to try the music thing. I’m actually trying to figure out what song would “help” me with that damn awkward protagonist of mine. She’s still hiding in the shadows. My antag, got him down pat which is disturbing b/c he’s a real freak show. What’s good music for a sociopath? For an angel? That’s what I need, music by chapters going between angel vs sociopath.

  12. Averil, the video for “angel…” i.e. the actual film of this girl in a house, alone, walking around, fits my opening scene/situation. What a coincidence…or not! Thank you! Now on to sicko.

  13. Gosh I remember that Tricky track – so many memories. I don’t have a soundtrack for work. Maybe stuff I do on the piano as relief, or stuff I won’t have moved in the house for a while. If I’m doing a story I’m on pause – with everything – throughout. With a novel I’m in worker bee mode. Manic dedication, almost saintly. The things we do to pass our time here…

  14. Music is a must! Except in the case of my first manuscript… the playlist keeps getting bigger, but the manuscript stalled at the end of an excrutiating creative writing class. So, call me an A1 wimp. But I do misery really well… (whine whine whine)…