Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seriously

The Publicist is after you, wanting from you your least favorite activity of response, knowing now what you will talk about some time in the future.  Even when you have a general idea of what you will lecture about, you feel grateful when, during your delivery, you sense that you or someone about you has left the gate open and the animals have sensed it, then taken advantage.

You love the sense of being off and enthused about something that has come to you of the moment; it is the quality you most admire about jazz players, with their ability to improvise.

There must, you reason, be some similar process with speaking and writing, with the verbal use of improvising.  You suppose you have it to a degree but feel uncomfortable at not being able to articulate what the process is, much less can you describe how it works.

Interestingly enough, both the Publicist and your Literary Agent hate the list of topics you provided.  "Those titles sound as though they have colons in them,"  your Agent observed.  "What's wrong with colons?"  you said.  "Ah,"  she said, "they make a thing sound academic.  Like a goddamn paper.  People don't like it when you sound like an academic; they like it when you sound like an anti-academic."

Some of this is a holdover from your late twenties and early thirties, when friends and family were on your case to write something serious, as in, "When are you going to write something serious?"  You were serious then just as you are serious now; you were searching for things to care about to the point where you could learn from them, learn why you cared for them in the first place.

It is delicious irony that you now find yourself occasionally scolded for being too serious, particularly when you think you are being funny.  You are comfortable enough about your craft now to realize that sooner or later during a given day, you will produce something that has a legitimate path leading toward the stage, where all the action is taking place.  The entire day's work may be little more than a few paragraphs of such essay and blog as these vagrant lines and a note or two on a note pad that has such great resonance that you know it will be the beginning of something or the continuation of something already in progress.

So far as speaking and lecturing are concerned, half an hour before class or the scheduled appearance is sufficient time to discover what you will talk about and how your attitude will surface.

Your agent's plan for you is another book on writing, thinking you could have something done by year's end, thus two nonfiction projects will be at work for you, allowing you to continue developing what was intended to be novel #1, but which has become novel # 2 as you delved further into the background of your characters to the point where you see a rubric for a series, a rationale for it, and at least a concept if not a design for # 3 in the series.  With another nonfiction book out and about, you could well cut back on teaching and editing.

Publisher is also interested in discussing what you will do next.  Given their combined reaction to the seriousness and gravity of your suggested title for the book due in July,you offered--only half in jest, How to Get Your Sorry Ass Published:  The Dramatic Way to Story.

At first, there was a long silence, causing you to think you were about to be scolded into getting serious.  Then came the tinkle of laughter that sounds like crystal wine glasses being clinked.


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