Monday, March 15, 2010

Free Range Writing vs. Processed Writing.

The process of writing, as you have come to understand and intend it, is a continuous and evolving pleasure, otherwise why, not being too much a masochist, would you persist in doing it, why would your files, such as they are, your hard drives, your shelves and notebooks be filled with it? At one time, it is true, you entered the process with a number of different purposes, not the least of which was to extract revenge upon reality for not having heeded your vision of how it ought to go, at other times to provide the equivalent of historical footnotes, citations drawing the readers' attentions to the ways in which plans laid by others in reality had failed to materialize or had produced such dismal results as to need some sort of scholarly rebuttal.


Reality, for most of us, is undershot with loss. Being yanked by circumstances from the known universe of an eight-year-old and transplanted across the continent, with subsequent moves to New England, then Florida before being able to return home to the known universe of Los Angeles again, you had lost a sense of continuity. You recognized your chums from the past but they seemed to regard you differently, sometimes as a complete stranger.

He who was your best friend, and you remember what best friend meant at that age, had the grace to remember you and even suggest that you spend time together playing, but there was something lost, something you tried to sort out as you walked to his new home away from the old neighborhood in which you as well no longer lived. Then fate yanked him away, perhaps for the same reason you were yanked to New York and New Jersey and Massachusetts and Rhode Island and Florida, perhaps because his parents had had to return to their older turn of Portland, Oregon for financial reasons. Then, after you'd each had as it were a removal, you saw him by merest chance at what used to be called Westlake Park, before it underwent the shift of its own to being MacArthur Park, after the least likely iconic hero for Los Angeles, Douglas MacArthur. In those days, you still had not attained your growth and he, your friend, strode toward you, tall, confident, smiling, hand out to shake your hand, so perfectly sure of his gesture that you understood immediately that from this point forth you would shake hands when you met and that you could not and would no longer call him Bobby. Would you ever achieve his graceful movement and presence? Before the gaps, you'd been more or less the driving force of where to go, what to do, what invention you would slide into as you pursued your inventions? Would it be the La Brea Tar Pits today or perhaps the enormous billboard fronting Wilshire Boulevard just west of Fairfax? Well, you did learn something that day at MacArthur Park because, when it became apparent that he was meeting other friends and so were you, that each of you lived in yet another part of the city, you would likely never see one another again, and so it was your recognition of this that prompted you to extend your hand as you parted.

There were, of course losses before and afterwards. You were thirteen or fourteen that day at the park. Losses increase in proportion to one's age. Dogs, cats, ah, grandparents, schoolmates, parents. Friendships. Romances. Jobs. Only recently, in your journal, the note to yourself, "Farewell # 31," good-bye to a tooth. "Don't you worry," Dr. Avolese told you. "
We'll get you a better one." You write to mourn losses, to temporarily replace them, to invent scenarios in which what was lost is found or realized as inevitable. You write to get on with life, which you do by observing it in ways that do not turn you away from wanting to observe. You thus write to immerse yourself with growth and evolution.

Your end product from these things you write is not merely discovery but the discovery of mischief or fun or pleasure or all of these, lumped within a single paragraph, stuffed like a generously constructed sausage, ready to be shoved within the bun of a larger context, an essay, a story, a review, a book.

What will it get you?

Sometime in the past week or two, the need arose for you to sort out the two filing cabinets in your room,activity that necessitated a sequence of piles on the floor related to auto maintenance records, tax records, materials for the University of Southern California, huge piles of forms from Antioch University, American Express statements, and the like. As the piles began to narrow, there was one clump of pages you realized had come from one of the first printers you had own, from a computer that had DOS as its operating system. Segments of short stories, one completed story you'd entirely forgotten about, and yet another you thought you'd lost.

In a real sense, that discovery was the answer to the rhetorical question above, the What will it get you? question.

It will get you you, and the mischief of getting your spell checker to cope with the repetition of a word without a comma or period between them; it will get you the anarchy of a temporary slice of reality exactly as you had wanted it.

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