Thursday, September 13, 2012

Swim, baby

Been awhile, though, I haven't been very busy. And it feels lately that every time I jot out one of these the impetus behind it is "Alright, now it's time to get productive." Not that I haven't been writing. I just haven't been writing as much as I could be. Should be. Would be, if only...

For months now, scenes of a book have been occurring to me, and I was satisfied with that, because keeping ideas at bay is part of what I do. The other day though, the thing inside my mind became ferocious and insatiable. It insisted, and that is a bit of a problem. I'm working on chapter 8 of the current book, and if experience tells me anything at all, it's that my books round out at somewhere between 25 and 30 chapters, which means that I'm only a third or a fourth of the way through this one, with another bearing down on me.

It's time to get productive.

Despite all this though, I have yet to be sad about such things crowding in on me. It feels more like a friend and less like an enemy, and link to my life such that if the ideas were ever to stop coming, then I'd really be worried. A friend told me recently that "I'm going to write a book" is a constant status. It was nice to be understood, if even for a passing glimpse.

The same friend also told me a story about a different side to writing. An author he enjoyed as a child wrote four books to begin his career. The first three were, evidently, some of the worst novels ever to have been completed in the English language. The fourth was published, and brought him notoriety, fame, and cache. So much that when the publisher heard of his previous three books (after he had published several more), they asked him to bring them in for the sole purpose of publishing those, too. In a memoir of sorts, the author professes to being too weak to deny them. The rest is history, as they say. I was of the opinion that when the publisher is asking for things you've written, anything you've written, just so they can stamp your name on it and sell it, then it's time to consider retirement. But then again, maybe it's better not to remember one's blunders in lieu of one's successes. What is the legacy of a dead man worth to those bones?

The agent denied me. I got an inch closer, but for naught. She told me the voice didn't grab her like she hoped it would (so the idea had potential, I guess, but the first five pages of execution were lacking). When I asked her for some advice, maybe the name of an agent who would be interested, she sent me the same email back again, as if she hadn't even read my question. I know of a few others that are farther along in the process than me, and because of this incident, I thought about their voices. I thought about all the soulful sounds that exist in all the books I'd read, trying to uncover what made mine so small. Which was a mistake, but thankful for me it was also fruitless. "This is such a subjective business," is what she also typed in her email. There was no one to tell of the strange juxtaposition of that statement, and then her rejecting me based on her solitary hearing (or not hearing) of my voice.

I wrote a poem about voice once. Well, it was about rappers, those confused, frightened, angry perpetrators often heard from equally audacious vehicles in and about town. Even the ones who don't shout, scream. "Because they know what's at stake," is the line of the poem which calls back to the fatigued child treading water at the bottom of a moonlit well, wailing. That youth, those rappers, that author (when he was still writing), and I, all just want to be heard. And there seems to be some strange, shared amazement concerning it all. Those who are never discovered, who ultimately drown, peace made with death or not, wonder at how they could not have been heard, and those who are plucked up into safety, thankful and grinning, wonder at how anyone could have heard them when they were so very far away. I suspect that a legacy is worth very little to the dead, yet is woefully precious to the living.

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