Friday, October 15, 2010

The Risk Factor

While it is true that you wrote any number of things with commerce in mind rather than the outcome of some pursuit of curiosity, you were also experimenting wildly with various genera, determining which you enjoyed and which held little or no interest for you.  Equally true, while the cash register did kaching from time to time, it never reached that hoped for state where you did not have to reach or blunder into areas you considered distractions.  You got some on the job training but fortunately not enough to obviate the accidents that drove you into publishing and teaching, both venues where you did get on-the-job training and perhaps taught yourself things you might not have learned for additional years until, by mere volume of writing, something approximating the now of you began to emerge.

All the while, friends and associates were after you to variously stop horsing around, write something serious, take on issues and conflicts more earnestly grounded in moral choice.  Thus you began a flirtation with yet another genre--boredom.

To this day, however antic or absurd your material, your early drafts reflect the bad effects of your having taken this bad advice, of having got serious.  Oh, how serious you became.  The good fortune was that you ultimately could not help yourself--you began doing things to puncture the pomposity that emerged from you like garlic fumes from a freshly baked pizza.  You took matters a few steps beyond by thinking to "write comedy" which is to say deliberately write things that paid off in laughter, which is to say comedy, a style that requires as a metaphor, a series of cardboard coffee cups or perhaps, in better-paying circumstances, Styrofoam drinking cups, either of which was intended for one use.  Same with comedy.  Set up, payoff then throw the cup away, introduce another set-up.

It took some time, teaching and writing with Digby Wolfe, before you realized that the kind of mischief you wanted was dramatic in nature.  If you were to read the same scene a number of times, the laughter--if any--would appear in different places.

The tune has changed somewhat, to a more pronounced shake of the head when the question is posed: "Don't you ever take anything seriously?"  The answer runs more to the notion that you do, indeed, take things seriously, that humor is a serious business, a business of revealing sad truths, particularly to yourself.

It has taken some tweaking and quite a few vision statements, often written when you are in the midst of meetings wherein the rhetoric and silliness fly and the serious desire to point out the real pathetic fallacy emerges.  The real pathetic fallacy is not the personification of inanimate objects, it is the belief that we are a serious species, tasked with the discovery of nothing less than the true, authentic, real meaning and purpose of life.  From this position we abdicate dignity and heart, marching lockstep in the posture of a particular culture, so intent that we do not see how funny we have become.

If a thing such as writing is worth doing, it is worth doing at the risk of immediate failure.  No risk--no significance.