Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Thought For Valentine's Day;
Now Get In There & Pucker Up

'Kisses are a better fate than wisdom.'
--the immortal poet e.e. cummings. To learn more about the manifold complexities of smooching, check out this great scientific and evolutionary overview of the subject, from the excellent Scientific American Mind magazine. My favorite sentence is this one: "Whatever else is going on when we kiss, our evolutionary history is embedded within this tender, tempestuous act." While the master Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is widely (and rightly, in my view) considered the poet laureate of lovers, some of cummings' poetry is almost as erotically charged. Try some of these today on your sweetie, for instance. And may you have a lovely Valentine's Day, gentle reader.


At 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know I’ll be forever castigated for this, but I don’t read poetry unless I want to induce PMS symptoms, which means I really try to avoid the stuff. Admittedly, a little self-induced PMS can work to my advantage, particularly if I have to muster the energy or moxie to either get out of a regularly scheduled meeting, vaporize during a blind date, or re-establish sovereignty in a relationship. Regarding the latter tactic, needless to say this can get tricky when your better half employs the same strategy. That’s a cat fight worth watching or avoiding, depending on your perspective and whether you have the relationship thrill-seeking gene. Using poetry to make me randy or romantic won’t work either. You want my attention in those departments, you’ll have to be good with your eyes, smile, conversation and hands, and if you do have those goods, I don’t exactly care if you reverse the order of things, if you know what I mean. Let’s face it: poetry is for writers either too lazy or too unskilled to write a short story or novel. (Okay, okay, don’t get insulted. That’s just a joke I picked up in undergrad fiction writing class…) Anyway, I’ve been somewhat viscerally energized by your own vigor regarding the proposed book. Truth be told, I find such enterprises a bit curious and amusing, almost in the self help realm even, because I think humans either have a passion for something or they don’t, and they either have a talent for it or they don’t, and the last thing this planet needs right now is another self-deluded, hopelessly earnest but clueless individual taking up a creative pursuit because “I’ve always wanted to do that.” But I do understand where you’re coming from. I think you believe that many individuals have talents, perhaps even passions, that for one reason or another remain buried somewhere in the noggin, and if they read a book such as yours, they might unleash some of the that untapped capacity and even pursue it in a somewhat methodical, self-directed, logical and hence efficient fashion. Certainly a noble mission, although certainly somewhat quixotic, at least in my double X eyes. But, given that you’ve announced the effort publicly and are now beholden to making good on your word (not a bad motivation ploy, by the way), and having perused the proposed chapter listing, I might suggest either a chapter or discussion about some of the common idiosyncrasies of the writing existence. Of course, these would be true for any pursuit that involves a huge investment of time and focus. If great musicians, athletes, artists, writers, scientists, physicians and all the rest have anything in common, it is the intuitive understanding that excellence is a function of the investment of time put into a given pursuit. That means living somewhat of an anchorite existence, with the “religion” part being whatever the particular focus or interest happens to be. When you think about it, what really is fascinating about this issue is that many individuals figure this out at a young age. They may be too young to have consciously solved the formula, but they’ve figured it out nonetheless. Of course, as humans approach the hot flash and Viagra zones, the facility to understand and solve the equation is there, but what’s lost is the unique learning capacities and opportunities that seem to gradually whither during the forced march away from child- and young adulthood. I think my long-winded point is that if an individual wants to “try” a creative pursuit, fine, go for it. But if you want to really get good at it, you have to be willing to put in the time, and that fact alone means making all sorts of life compromises, including risking being perceived as selfish, reclusive and odd. The irony here is that there actually are no shortage of humans out there willing to make these commitments. Unfortunately, most of them don’t have the other key requisite trait for great writing: talent. For beleagured readers, that means circumventing endless amounts of dreck…


At 1:46 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good lord, how we've missed you. This blast reminds me of why: you're the human equivalent of a booster shot of B12, an instant injection of energy. And you happen to write unbelievably well ("re-establish sovereignty in a relationship" and "relationship-thrillseeking gene" are turns of phrase that simply melt in the mouth).

And no, you won't get castigated here. We love you for your full-bore honesty. Life is too short to serve anything else. You've gotten to the heart of so many things here and understood the method to my madness better than I have any right to expect of anyone. You're completely on target that one of my main motivations for posting parts of this (along with inviting critiques and all kinds of other potentially usable input) is to put myself on notice to get the thing done. What better way to spur yourself along than telling your readers it's in the works? You're a shrewd person, Madame M.

And yes, as I think I implied in the intro (but which I will be more explicit about in the book itself), my experience in teaching and coaching many writers who happen to pursue other professions tells me that some of the best writers are found among those who haven't done it as their life's work, and thus often don't even think of themselves as writers despite having written much, including for publication. They just haven't made that mental jump, found the external encouragement to internalize it, or any one of a hundred other reasons. And so you're absolutely right that much of my reason for writing this book is to help them get unstuck in two ways: by helping them see themselves as writers, and laying out a plan by which they can find the discipline to play the scales every day, as a piano teacher would recommend.

In a comment posted yesterday, Becca nicely confirmed that that might indeed work for some, and you give me similar hope by following this string and understanding the thinking behind it...well, basically about as well as I understand it myself. That's an awfully cool and wonderful dynamic, dear Madchen. Please, please keep us posted on your thinking. I know I'm not alone in being invigorated by your occasional dispatches (I actually get fan email about you occasionally, send privately via email. You've developed a following).


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