Not too original of a concept for a title, huh? Not only is it difficult to write original material every day, it’s a daunting task to make it interesting, even to myself.
Erik just showed me a video clip from a SpongeBob Squarepants episode that is actually relevant here. I don’t even watch the show and thought it was hilarious. SpongeBob’s friend Patrick (doesn’t matter if you know the characters or not, just know that Patrick is intellectually challenged) says, “The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma.” He pronounces the third word “mack-in-a-shuns”. Then you see a thought bubble in which all that’s going on is a carton of milk spilling over. OK. You either find that kind of thing amusing or you don’t.
The point is, if from what you’ve seen on this blog YOU think my mind is an enigma, then imagine what a chore I have to live with this stuff in my head. Hmmmm…
I never know what’s going to pop into my head that I want to write about. I more or less excel at random thoughts. No wonder I have always loved the comedy of Steven Wright. (When I saw him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1981, I was so impressed that I wrote down the date on a slip of paper and may still have that paper in my scrapbook stuff somewhere.) Stream of consciousness writing is fun!
Unfortunately, I have to admit that much of what I write is probably garbage. Yeah yeah, commence with the jokes; I mean regardless of what others think, in my own opinion — which sort of matters since I am the one with the finger on the “Publish” button — I write drivel much of the time. I have a draft of a post about hypocrisy I wrote yesterday saved in drafts; didn’t have the nerve to post it. Too preachy, too hackneyed, I don’t know. The argument for posting it is that they are my honest thoughts, that self-censorship could be dangerous in some way. On the flip side, yuck. On balance, I may end up posting it, because I am not trying to win a Pulitzer; I’m trying to organize my thoughts.
Speaking of Pulitzer prizes, Michael Chabon is my favorite author. You should know this. He’s wonderful! And so cool! And it sounds like he has a perfect life, not the life of a tortured, penniless artist. I was fortunate enough to get to see him at a book signing in Walnut Creek a couple of years ago after The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was published. Sheepishly I must admit I was not there to buy his book; Karen had given me a signed first edition as a gift. I was there as a star-gazing groupie. The neat thing was, he took my question!
He had been describing in a fair amount of detail what his day-to-day life as a professional writer is like — a life he shares very happily with Ayelet Waldman, who is a successful writer in her own right in addition to being his spouse. He spoke about how he treats his writing as a job in terms of blocking out time each day to devote to his craft just as though he were working a 9-to-5 office job. He literally shares his workspace back-to-back with Ayelet. How sweet is that?! In practical terms what that means is that he sets a goal of X words he wants to churn out on a given day, whether he feels like it or not, and whether it’s up to his personal standard or not. Of particular interest to me is that he often spends the first part of his workday reviewing and editing material he wrote previously…
Which led to my question: do you ever look back at the previous day’s work and say to yourself, um, that’s just crap? Do you ever just trash it? His answer was, of course he does. Not only does he “fail” on a daily basis, like any other mortal, he once spent about 5 years or so writing what was supposed to be his great opus, his Great American Novel, when he realized it was a hideous mess for which he could think of no ending and had to set it aside indefinitely. The beauty of it was, Chabon turned to another idea and rather quickly completed Wonder Boys, his very successful second novel inspired by the dismal experience he had just been through. Amazing.
As one of my high school english teachers put it, writers write. I am not worthy of dusting Michael Chabon’s keyboard, but if he can try and sometimes fail, then I can too. And now it’s time for some more reflection, and editing….