Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Writers' Laundry List

Seated this morning at Peet's, musing over your double latte and apricot panetone, your sleep interdicted by your loyal 24/7 security system raising the alarm over impending dragons at 2 a.m., 4:30 a.m., and 5:20 a.m., fearful of scanning the front page of The New York Times because, just this once, it might indeed print all the news that's fit, you become aware of a parade of friends ans acquaintances who come from differing disciplines than you. These worthies, all skilled and curious, ply their professions, sciences, trades, arts, and disciplines with what appears to be good graces. You are watching the civility of individuals Jonesing on caffeine, hopeful that the baristas working tandem at the huge, complex maccineta, and who are by all accounts underpaid because they are young and working their ways into their own sciences, trades, arts, disciplines, and professions, are also nimble of coordination. You are mindful of the horror story you heard of a beginning barista at Starbucks, the other night causing a longish line of individuals with similar Joneses intense agony.

The subject of your musings is one of those unpleasant-but-necessary ones that splash over you like the occasional waxing tide you may have been too distracted to avoid.

Because you are who and what you are, well advanced on both paths of who and what you are, you need also to be all of those previously cited professions, sciences, trades, arts, and disciplines. If you are to have any chance at being the most effective you and effective writer you can become, you must also be:

1. A photographer, because you need to be able to catch and keep images which will illumine your insights and the persons you portray in the venues you portray, rendered with some awareness of light and acoustics.

2. A planner if not an economist because you must husband your own resources as well as those of the individuals you would create or depict, having a sense of how they manage and indeed a sense of how you do or do not manage in comparison.

3. A groundskeeper because you must know where to shovel the mulch and how not to step in the nitrogen-rich offerings of various animals.

4. A dancer because you must learn to move with dispatch, grace, and muscle tone through the varying dramatic challenges life will present you.

5. An orator because you must be able to talk your way into and out of places with the result that you might eve be welcomed back.

6. A biologist so that you may be versed in the art of taking core samplings from the various terrains you will visit, then be able to make some sense of their origins and their entire chemistry.

7. A psychologist because you must understand how you work and how those about you work.

8. A philosopher because you must have a sense of logic and ethic and must be able to see those qualities in yourself before you ca hope to recognize them in others.

9. A cook. Not a chef. A person who can provide essentials that nourish and satisfy.

10. A teacher, because you must be able to recognize the times you were taught well, then distinguish those times from the ones where you were not taught well; you must teach yourself before you can presume to teach others.

11. A lover, because until you understand the dynamics of loving, how can you hope to have feelings about yourself that will allow you to have and represent feelings for others?

12. An auto mechanic, because it is not acceptable to be in a world with so many automobiles without understanding the immense potential of the four-cycle engine, the difference between a engine and a motor, and what time Click and Clack are broadcast in your area.

13. A musician, because you cannot hope to experience the sounds of the world and the soft growl in a dog's throat or the imperious miaow of a cat who is confronted with a stuck cat door without first hearing the music of the spheres not to mention the music of Bach and Ravel and Coltrane and the music of Annie Proulx, which comes alive and clear to you when you read it aloud. This is to say noting of the music of Chaucer, for what he said some eight hundred years ago still speak.

14. A poet because your work as a human ad a writer must have an inner and outer rhythm, a cry for language, a hunger for the awl-like thrust of the right image served up so as to bring tears to your eyes because of its stunning beauty, which you might not otherwise experience.

15. A milk thief, which is to say the guy who drives an 07 BMW and who steals pints of milk at Peets, justifying it on the basis of being a regular customer and a big tipper, because you have to have someone to forgive on a regular basis if for no other reason than recognition f the fact that some days you writer painfully bad sentences an/or that someone needs to forgive you on a regular basis.

16. A department chairman because seeing Randy reminds you that sometimes department chairpersons have senses of humor and manage to get work done outside the class room and the committee room.

17. A juggler because outside fiction life progresses in a multifarious pattern as if from a large and rickety loom, an early relic of the Industrial Revolution, spinning forth patterns and colors and challenges which require of you more eyes, ears, and arms than you have.

18. An actor because it is not enough to envision individuals, you have to know them and understand the thing about them that makes them work.

19. An editor, because you have to know where to take things out and where you have not put in enough things, where there needs to be some greater sense of continuity and logic that you have previously demonstrated.

20. A Buddhist monk because you need to be able to endure provocations you cannot otherwise endure in your civilian status.

You have to be all these things at one and yet still be yourself, whoever and whatever that may be, sitting here, hoping for the best from your morning coffee while in the company of other writers, knowing that you have to do more than hope for the best, you have to lend it a hand, perhaps slip it a five or a ten, and urge it to get a decent mean and a remarkable book, at which point you realize it will take at least a twenty to get both.


lettuce said...

quite a few of these apply to working in higher education i think

i hope the dragons don't get you

apricot panetone

x said...

Well, it's nice to know who all of "himselves" are. I can hack most of those things. The only one I absolutely will never achieve, I am sorry to say, is auto mechanic. I mean, I have listened to endless Click and Clack jokes and eventual brilliant-sounding answers, and they are hilarious, I laugh right along, yet I still don't know the difference between an engine and motor and never will. This isn't a joke right? They aren't the same thing?

Lori Witzel said...

Kick-a** post, S.

You could hear me saying "Yeah!" all the way over there, I'll bet.

And thanks for the bit/phrase about "milk thief."

It tickled a snakey image in my mind, and then I found this corroboration:

The phrase and the snake? There's a poem starting to hatch...

R.L. Bourges said...

"...and yet still be yourself, whoever and whatever that may be..."
in other words: in the breathing space, taking in the latte and the panettone and the inner and outer swirling of the barristas and milk thieves and thoughts and dragons.
wishing you much breathing space, shelly.

Unknown said...

Or instead of the five you can slip over the counter that decent, mean, and remarkable book as the best tip the barista will receive all day. Though this might be met with a lack of appreciation, in which case the Buddhist Monk should extend his grace and understanding that the young do not always appreciate what they should. All of these things are required as a writer, and so many more for the other facets of life. Some of these are required for parenting as well... interesting that our brainchildren need as much diverse and skilled handling as our actual children.

Lori Witzel said...

Re: #15 and my comment -- yes, turns out it was indeed a poem hatching, its milk-tooth punching through and making at least one person laugh.