Monday, February 22, 2010

Within Reach: The Next, The New, The Promised

Your observation of the best source of inspiration persists. Work, or the involvement in a process, produces work for a composer. You first became aware of this process in operation watching Ray Bradbury feed quarters into a slot in a room at the UCLA library where one could rent a typewriter for twenty-five cents for a half-hour. On those rare occasions when Bradbury hit a snag, mindful of the clicking of the timer on the typewriter clock, he'd start working on another story. Writers' block and thinking things over were not affordable options. Later, when his finances made things slightly more affordable, Bradbury began buying used stand-up typewriters, positioning them about a table, each typewriter containing a story in the works. You're working on typewriter A and reach a point where nothing is coming forth for thirty minutes, why you simply slide the chair along to the next typewriter, then begin to work on that story. During those Christmas vacations when you had work as a temporary mailman, you saw the results of his process: every day, his mail was filled with the envelopes obviously containing galley proofs for correction. Thus you were impressed with his methodology almost at the same time you were impressed by the stories.

Except that you had not found ways to train yourself to be so disciplined. Nor had you made the simple equation that a writer at work is "in process" a magnet as it were, attracting ideas and notions. True enough, your desk and shelves and pockets and any other flat surface were strewn about with notes, opening pages, and beginnings. At one point, relatively early on in your life, you noted in one of your journals that you now had at your disposal enough stories and novels to last you for much of your life to come, giddily projecting that by the time you'd exhausted these, more would have appeared and you'd have only to return to the well, for it truly was a well, from which you could haul up a bucket load of beginnings, finish them, and send them off in time to have enough checks to bank that would pay for the past month's bills, particularly those at Phil Diamond's ARCO station at the corner of La Cienega and Olympic, one of your early tabs.

Yesterday's experience of being hit by a gift from the Muses as it were reminded you of the way things work for you, seemingly a lifelong habit you may have finally come to terms with. A rhetorical question posed by Marta in her blog, triggers a set of responses in which The Muse says in effect, Can you hold this idea for me? You are tempted to say, thanks, but I've learned my lesson; I'm working on a novel and I can't take the time to hold this for you now. But instead, I recall something I saw just last week, two 3 x 5 index cards paper clipped together, the reading of which transported me back to the last time I had occasion to be at Fess Parker's Doubletree Inn on the beachfront at Cabrillo Boulevard. I had an immediate memory of a well-dressed-but-sullen group of five or six individuals, mostly men, but one woman who reminded me of Danica Patrick, sitting in a conference room, following a Power Point presentation being given by a man wearing a double-breasted suit. Although the index cards did not say so, I knew the man's name was Denis. I knew that because I had given it to him. I had the impression from my memory of the woman that she felt her presence there was resented, thus my thinking she resembled Danica Patrick, further thus my reason for the index cards in the first place. Perhaps, I now recall thinking, the woman is the get-away driver. They are all bank robbers. Denis is the leader of course, and he uses Power Point presentations to outline all his capers. Another of the characters, I learn from the note, is Winston, and the notation next to his name, pastrami sandwich, makes perfect sense because Winston has at some point complained about the snacks provided by Denis, even to the point of remarking that Arthur, when he lays out a caper for his crew, provides pastrami sandwiches driven up from Langer's in L.A., and Denis, making the angry retort, You want meat sandwiches, you do capers with Arthur. You work with me, you eat healthy.

In other words, you have at least once kept sufficient notes to get you back to an idea that impressed you to the point where it was beginning to grow, while still remaining true to a priority list.

As if to prove this, thinking to safeguard the index cards in which a group of bank robbers were working out a caper in a conference room of a resort hotel, you put them in a drawer you thought would be an appropriate safekeeping place for them, whereupon you found a detailed sheet-and-a-half of lined legal tablet that took you promptly to the presence of your old pal, Marla Miller, she of Marketing the Muse cachet, who had expressed to you some concerns about how her three daughters would react to the fact of her having recently dyed her hair to a champagne blond. In real life, you know something about the daughters, one of whom was an aggressive soccer player for UC Berkeley Women's' Soccer Team, Go Bears. Thus you had the atmosphere down on paper about the whys and wherefores of a bright, energetic, attractive woman in middle age, changing her hair from its Mediterranean black to an Orange County blond.

In other words, taking the time to get sufficient triggers for the new idea down in some readable form does not mean that the work will have to disappear into the void; it can be retrieved when there is sufficient time to truly bring it back, open it up, get into it, live within it, and write it. Yesterday's entry in this vagrant succession of blog postings is the cyber equivalent of notes written on some kind of paper surface. What this means is that you do not have to leave The Secrets of Casa Jocasa stranded in limbo nor do you have to treat the more recent ideas as failed relationships that might have had a chance if only you'd paid more attention to them at the outset.

New ideas are Siren calls to Odessyeus and his crew, sent forth by Circe to tempt and. This approach you have recognized, far from perfect, nevertheless reflects your own nature and the possibilities that your future will be characterized by reaching into rather than reaching for.

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