Friday, October 5, 2012

Discontent, Winters, Springs, Summers, and Autums of


 Sometimes, all it takes is a word to get you off and running toward some kind of big, fat discovery.  Words with built-in emotion or conflict are the best, they hit you with the built-in argument that reminds you of the atmosphere of the culture from which you emerged.  In that culture, argument was conversation.  A simple question about dinner preferences could cause bruised feelings lasting a week or longer.

That kind of argument was like an appetizer, a rhetorical amuse bouche. Equivalents of second courses and entrees came along, sometimes accompanied with gestures such as waving of arms or elaborate shrugs.  If the atmosphere grew heated, glasses, lamps, ashtrays and bowls filled with olives were moved about as if in a steroidal chess game.

There are many such words related to story, many others related to politics, yet other words related to things people do together or don’t do together, sex being one such topic.

When single words don’t have an immediate effect, poems drive you to pick up a nearby pen or pencil to scribble a few notes, from which come the equivalent of arguments.  Some poems put you in mind of prisoners rattling the bars of their cells, shaking the world with their pent-up urgency and frustration, and so there you go again, back to the press of time and some vast lode of unfulfilled desire.

If you’ve gone from skimming through lists of words as though you were a dissatisfied kid, hateful of all his toys, onto a poem or two in a collection or a literary journal, still without a positive catalyst, you try a short story—there always seems to be a New Yorker loitering about on the kitchen table—thinking a dissatisfied character will do the trick, get you animation as though you were in a family discussion or, better still, cause you to want to write someone or something of your own into the crucible of discontent.

If you are at all alert to the writing tasks you’ve set out for yourself, you’ll find ways to cause you to experience discontent, even if that discontent comes from the equivalent of a family argument among aspects of your self.

When sufficient time passes and you have yet to reach your position of default discontent, you might just take yourself to a longer work, a novel or some long narrative of nonfiction, looking for ways to argue, to rail against the narrator or characters.

Niceness and contentment exist as those tabletop elements of your culture exist, things to be swept aside in gestures of impatience, perhaps even rudeness.  Niceness and contentment are as you were bade to be when you were younger, polite, considerate, on the lookout for some adult to whom you should defer or surrender your seat.  Those qualities take you away from the energy of story and emerging creativity, into the malls and discount stores of derivation, self-indulgence, and cliché, where you may dig yourself deeper into difficulty by your discovery of clichés, so replaced by the new crop that they actually seem fresh.

You no better, thus once again you are able to come through with flying cholers.


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