Friday, January 3, 2014

Process

A process is a series of actions or events which produce a specific result.  Leaching acorns produces edible nuts which, when ground, produce the basis of an ingestible flour or gruel.

In a dramatic sense, story is a recipe for a number of ingredients which, when introduced in varying proportions, produce drama.
Of course there are different recipes; they deliver so-called category or genre fiction, each adding a distinctive flavor to the finished product and the potential for a different personality or narrative voice.

All these matters are a result of process.  Individuals who produce stories have developed a process for getting the story visualized, executed, and delivered, as well as having an influence on the genre or category.  From your experience with your own process, the process of students with whom you've interacted over the years, and the various writers at various stages of development in their craft, you are confident with the observation that each writer comes to the craft through a different process.  Not only that, the process of turning to writing does not include the process of doing the actual work associated with writing.

From your earliest years, say seven or eight, you were aware of the myriad of available stories, in book form, in magazine form, and in those remarkable fifteen- and thirty-minute radio dramas known as soap operas, daytime serials, home-from-school serials, and early evening serials. 

 In addition, there were three or four half-hour and hour-long radio dramas a week, ranging from mainstream to adventure and what seems to you to have been precursors to the contemporary work of Stephen King, where listeners turned on such programs more or less as a challenge:  I dare you to frighten me.

One such program, a serial, I Love a Mystery, featured three men who'd met as mercenary soldiers in China, fighting the Japanese, then come to San Francisco, where they ran a detective agency.  One of the adventures involved a man who'd wakened one morning to discover his arm had been removed during the night.  Given your age at the time and the state of your imagination, you swore off I Love a Mystery, but gravitated to a wide range of other stories.

By the time you'd entered your teens, you were listening at least to eight stories a week in addition to things your read in books and magazines, as well as the steady stream of the Saturday afternoon double-feature movie, plus a serial, plus a cartoon.

Childhood illness such as chicken pox, colds, and various undifferentiated ailments meant days at home from school, during which you listened to the soap operas slanted toward housewives.  Our Gal, Sunday, Backstage Wife, Portia Faces Life, Myrt and Marge, and The Romance of Helen Trent helped while away the daytime hours and what you considered mushy and romance stuff, but nevertheless, you were absorbing the voices of the characters as they responded to their daily doses of stress and you responded to the organ music which was the then equivalent of sound track.

Even though you could not bear to listen to I Love a Mystery, after the incident with the missing arm, you were fascinated by the fact that its creator, Carleton E. Morse, could also be the creator of One Man's Family, an iconic, multi-generational family drama.

In a sense, you'd begun an addiction for the episodic story without thinking ahead to the point quite yet where you would consider writing your own.  You got around parental rules relative to bedtimes by learning how to build so-called crystal radios, which delivered the sound to earphones rather than loudspeakers, did not involve electricity, thus needed no plug in, nor did it emit a light.  Your entire radio was concealed in a cigar box which was easily hidden in bed.

All the while, you were reading, absorbing, you might say, your destiny, which was an indiscriminate influx of story, supplemented by your Sunday job of delivering the Los Angeles Herald-Express, and its bitter rival, the Los Angeles Times, each of which had a full supplement of comics such as Prince Valiant, Mandrake, the Magician, Terry and the Pirates, Toonerville Trolley, and your undeniable favorite, Krazy Kat.

All this background was the tsunami of process that carried you, one rainy day, when recess was denied you and you were forced to listen to the teacher read from a story, to ask if she thought it were possible for a person to make a living doing such things.

You did not believe her when she told you it could be done, but that it was not easy.  For nearly forty years after you'd asked that question, you did not believe it was not easy, which begins to say something about the process that got you to writing and the process you developed to produce your writing.

The book from which the teacher read was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which triggered a more intense reading process, because within a month, you'd read Huckleberry Finn,  which, now that you think about it, you should be due to reread once again.

Because of Huckleberry Finn, process underwent a dramatic shift for you; it not only got you into thinking you could do "that" too, but as well thinking writing was easy.  This was all before insights which convinced you it was not at all easy, that your ability was not nearly so expansive and expressive as you'd thought and hoped, that now, each line, each paragraph is a result of a sense of no longer having a choice other than to continue your attempts, read some more, think some more, reread what you've written, then try to make it wake up and get the day going.

Post a Comment