l LOVE YOU SPRINGTIME. NOW … BUH-BYE
We concluded the first springtime post with the question: “Is there a downside to internalized springtime for the creative mind?”
So… is there?
Oh, you bet there is! I’ll give you an example:
Insurance agents (and I’m guessing it would be the same with all salesmen), are notorious for summarily ditching what works for them: a perfectly successful phone technique, a dynamic sales presentation, or flawless methods of turning nos into yeses. Suddenly, they just stop using them. Then, midway into their commission’s downward spiral, when their manager asks them why they stopped doing what was successful and made them money, most will sheepishly admit: “I knew that it worked, so I wanted to try something new.”
To try something new …. And, that, dear reader is the lure—the siren—of springtime!
Let me ask you this:
How many of you have amputated stories, or sheaves of half-worked melodies lying in the bottom of your desk drawers, or blocked out sketches on canvases stacked in our closets? How many of your past creative impregnations—after a rough winter’s labor—become pre-term-stillborn when challenged by springtime’s new shoots? To try something new.
Let me start the survey myself:
I have two unfinished novels and about eight or nine truncated short stories. No songs, I’m afraid. No canvases.
How about you painters reading this? Or songwriters? You other writers?
Personally, I don’t know the first thing about technique in painting, only a little more about songwriting: I can hum a ditty. But I do know what all three have in common. Throw in playwriting and sculpting, and I’m still in familiar territory. And so are you!
I know they all began with an idea, which I’ll call a vision—however unarticulated the vision was.
If the vision was true there was a powerful, if not burning, desire to bring that idea or vision to completion. Dare I say it? I shall: To give birth … to the novel, or the short story, or the painting, sculpture, stained-glass window or architecture, or the song, tune, opera, or symphony!
Of course the all-important medium between Vision and Birth is Time.
Could it be simpler? If the vision produced a desire that was consistently powerful enough over time there would be a joyous delivery.
For the formula lovers amongst us, I offer:
VISION + SUSTAINED DESIRE + TIME (GESTATION) = BIRTH
* * *
The Challenge: Visit the graveyard of projects past. Let’s do a little disinterring.
For the purposes of discussion let’s say it’s a writing project you pulled out of the graveyard of your drawer.
1. The beginning-to-unravel point: At what point did you start losing interest in your project? You didn’t just one day say, “Okay, I’m no longer interested in this.” It came by degrees. And, there was a reason for it. Chances are the reason is going to take you right back to the vision.
I’m sitting here in my office chair, at my office desk, my hands cupped to the back of my head, elbows up and to the side, staring out the glass office door where the stenciled letters spelling AUTO, HOME, BUSINESS & LIFE INSURANCE are backwards to me so the passersby on the sidewalk heading down to the 7-11 can properly read it and perhaps come in and spoil my reverie while I am thinking, “Well … another springtime is here.”
I’m also imagining how someone, staring at me from one of the apartment windows in the complex across Columbus Street, might wonder at my hands so placed behind my head, my elbows high and out, my well-toned lats filling that part of my Hawaiian shirt and at the glazed look in my eyes, whether I might, instead, be a huge Monarch butterfly fresh-slithered from my chrysalis, which he can’t see, owing to the distance and also the fact that my former springtime home lies like a discarded garment at my feet, hidden behind my big, impersonal insurance desk.
Oh, yes it is most definitely spring.
My imagination flutters me about the room, dipping and rising and soaring and fluttering, and the man in the apartment has now vacated his window falsely believing he had not been staring at a butterfly at all, but an old insurance man sitting in his chair behind his desk.
* * *
I’ve experienced probably sixty springtimes, nearly all of which I might remember the magic of, if I really put my mind to it. Even if I were to try to recapture the memory of the springtimes earlier than that, it would be irrelevant. Why? Because you don’t need springtime when all of childhood—assuming it is not meddled with—is tender and fresh. All life is magic, or should be, to the pre-teen child.
My reality is that I’m 73 years old. But, then again, no one who’s reading this is likely to be cavorting around in the tender, fresh wonder of childhood, either.
So, I’m thinking we all need our springtimes. Am I right? What does springtime conjure up in your mind? Spring cleaning? Or, Easter? And, isn’t springtime the most popular season to marry? How about planting time? And, dare we omit nestlings chirping in the trees, or, butterflies flitting from flower to flower? What have I forgotten?
One doesn’t have to go too far to find the common thread running through all these? Springtime is a time of new beginnings.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious with the above statement, I’d like to take it a step further and suggest that the first day of spring should be the true New Year’s Day. Sure, a few things would have to be tweaked, but I’d wager that once done, the rational mind of man would have a closer association with the truth of new beginnings that reside in man’s soul. And, because of that … I’d wager another thing: our New Year’s resolutions would have a far better chance of succeeding because our souls are already geared toward change, improvement, betterment.
We’d have to do something about the college bowl games. I’ll put my people on it.
* * *
How do the seasons play out in our creative life? As a writer I wonder, is it just me, or do the fresh sprouts nudging the soil of our creative minds seem more abundant now? Notwithstanding, we may be still pregnant with undelivered projects of springs and summers past that we’ve been pushing through one more exhausting winter of fitful contractions.
No one said creative project-bearing would be easy!
And, now, as if to confound us, these new ideas are germinating in our minds with surprising ease and are as fresh as a peach-blossom-wafted breeze. With that tingling in our nostrils who could be blamed for wanting to take a break from all the pushing and grunting?
(Can I hear some of you complaining that the old coot is waxing awfully poetic? Well, you young whippersnappers, springtime’s the reason. Blame it on springtime!)
Complaints aside, though, are we beginning to see there just might be a downside to springtime for the creative mind I hope you’ll explore that with me next time.
Until then … be kind to old men and young butterflies.
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THE HOW OF REJECTION
Over my Saturday morning treat of biscuits ‘n gravy and coffee at Carl’s Jr, I happened to be reading a short story by William Saroyan. The story is called Seventy Thousand Assyrians, and typical of Saroyan, it has a humongous title with very simple content that seems to go nowhere but goes everywhere, if you know what I mean.
He writes about a young man (the writer, William) needing a haircut; having little money, he goes to a barber college where he can get one for 15 cents. While he is waiting for his turn he strikes up a conversation with a sixteen-year-old lad, also down on his luck, and waiting for a haircut. The young man tells him he is heading to Portland, Oregon since there is no work in the lettuce fields of Salinas, which is in California. And, that brings me to Saroyan’s narrative. And, I quote:
“I wanted to tell him how it was with me: rejected story from Scribner’s, rejected essay from The Yale Review, no money for decent cigarettes, worn shoes, old shirts, but I was afraid to make something of my own troubles. A writer’s troubles are always boring, a bit unreal. People are apt to feel, Well, who asked you to write in the first place? A man must pretend not to be a writer. I said, ‘Good luck North.’”
A fine short story, worth every writer’s perusal. But, it was just the reading of that one paragraph that set me to thinking about the life of the writer then (1933) and now. And, it got me thinking philosophically about the writer then and now. About their psyches. About the subtle deeper layers, then and now. And, I’m way out of my own depth here, I know that. But has that ever stopped me before?
Thinking about it, and including it in my blog, are two different things, though. The decision maker was that my Kindle Fire alerted me I need to charge it now! I had just enough juice left to type out the above quote before the screen went gray.
The electronic age — how apt is that?
“I wanted to tell him how it was with me: rejected story from Scribner’s, rejected essay from The Yale Review.” I’ll go back and pick up the rest of the quote later, but right now the keynote difference between the two parts of the quote is not the results of rejection but how one is rejected. And, the very important impact that time has on rejection. Very important!
Many writers are not old enough to have experienced the submission/rejection phase of which Saroyan speaks. I am, and some of you are. What Saroyan had to do was write, edit and put in its final polished form the manuscript he wanted to submit. He knew there was protocol. The editor, or his lackey, would be looking for a reason not to have to finish a piece to its end. There were hundreds that had to be waded through before closing time. The writer couldn’t fold it and slip it in a regular size envelope. Folding not allowed. So, he had to purchase manila envelopes. He needed two for each manuscript — one in which to put the Ms along with the second, folded, stamped manila envelope — alas! for the returned Ms. With the returned Ms would be the rejection slip, suitable for framing, wallpapering or wadding up. If Mr. Saroyan were fortunate there would be no coffee stains or other tale-tale signs on it, so he would be able to use the almost virgin Ms to send to the next on the list.
Each submission represented about a month out of the writer’s life. Thirty days. Maybe even longer. And, each successive, unsuccessful month meant a little more abrasion to his soul. But, I promised not to talk about the effects of rejection just now. Only the process, the how, of rejection.
Effort. Money. Time. These always have been and always will be the constants. How they are allocated will differ over the years.
Mr. Saroyan had a typewriter. While he created, he had to x-out the offending words, writing the corrected ones above or below the lines. But, for his finished Ms he needed perfection (back in an age without white-out or correcto-tape) and if that meant tossing an otherwise perfectly good page because in the last line he wrote to instead of too … so be it! Effort. Time.
Then came the computer age!
Just having the ability to make all the editing changes on the screen (with spell-check, insert and delete, cut and paste) before the Ms is printed, the computer presented an enormous saving in time and effort. And, then, with the advent of the internet, all of a sudden Scribner’s, The Yale Review and a hundred-thousand other magazine and many book publishers have moved right next door. So to speak. There goes the neighborhood! — again, so to speak.
Now the writer whips his Ms into near perfection, pulls the publisher up on-line, pastes or attaches the Ms, pushes the submit button and, voila!, he is about ten days, instead of thirty from rejection — or acceptance, lets not forget that, with the payment sent to his Pay-pal account.
This first segment of “THEN AND NOW: (the Writer’s life)” focused on the submission/rejection process of Magazine Fiction and Non-fiction writing. For this blog, it is a stand-alone piece. I hope you enjoyed it. I also hope you will be inclined to sign up for my free newsletter where the series will continue with a close look at the results of rejection on the writer; after that, the third in the series will branch off to what I hope is a fresh exploration of brick ‘n mortar vs. E-book publication . You may sign up on the upper right sidebar. I hope you take that journey with me!
There is a lovely young lady
(you know her), the one
In whose soul you’d swear
Ambition speaks in such muted whispers
You might take it for selflessness,
Until, she deems you, like me, benign
Enough to offer a glimpse within,
And then you’ll see…
(As I saw, you shall see)
How, in fact, her soul shrieks,
Indeed, incessantly shrieks
For its elusive reward;
Pitched, though – as from one
Of those curious whistles -
So high that only dogs
And I (and, perhaps you) respond;
Still, she fancies those sacred vibrations
Resonate in her alone.
Oh, never do I tire of studying her:
Obliqueness and indirection
Are essential to the game -
Detachment vital. For it would be
Like studying the foam on a wave
As it swells to sweep over me,
If I am passive to the charm
Of her lassitude.
So, ensconced behind doorways
Peering from many a discreet angle
And at carefully chosen moments
I watch her loll
Her solitary body on her solitary bed
With that indolent sensuality
That one lover for another reserves.
How wondrously curious she is:
Savoring through distended nostrils
The warm fragrance of her mouth’s exhale!
How thoroughly content:
One moist inner thigh coupling the other.
Pssst! You made it this far so why not pop over to the right-hand side bar and subscribe to my FREE newsletter? Until I get other people to voluntarily rave about it, I’m gonna have to be the first one you’ll read as saying: “Jay’s newsletter’s a hoot!” and “It’s funny while information rich!” and “You’re gonna wanna jump aboard before Jay discovers how great it truly is and starts charging a huge subscription fee!”
Unable to refuse gross or even subtle demands,
Yet failing always their every execution,
The young boy huddled in his chair,
The young boy made himself small and waited,
Waited for the sound of his name,
A sound to activate him like an automaton…
A sound to propel him onto yet another failure.
(And I could but observe, doing nothing).
If fear, hate, confusion, if dread and desperation:
If all these were given a singular body,
And that body, given movement,
You would clearly see it
(As I am daily doomed to see it),
See it hovering over him now.
More furious than a composite monster
Dredged from the midnight imagination
Of history’s every witch and child,
You would see this fiend,
This ogre with black and veiny wings,
Bearing down on him that moment,
Pushing down his fragile shoulders,
Beating against his bewildered face.
(While I — I can only sit and watch
His torment as my own);
At the sound of his name
Yet another creature, an indefatigable
And no less seductive, self-invented creature,
Would whirl through him,
And invade him, blood, fiber and brain,
Would send him staggering onto his feet;
Defiant! Ablaze! Striking out —
Though with strangely cautious rage;
And the ogre would rise from his back,
But to soar the while above him,
Nipping now, and now again
At the slope of his shoulders
And rumpled hair, patiently waiting
For another failure,
For the laughter
(For my hidden tears);
Inevitably then, it would fall again,
Fall over the frail body,
Push him down, down.
That dreadful left wing,
An impenetrable blanket
Over the past;
That horrid right wing flapping,
An opaque skin
Flung on the future…
(And I am left to watch
And watching, weep.)
Pssst! You made it this far so why not pop over to the right-hand side bar and subscribe to my FREE newsletter? Until I get other people to voluntarily rave about it, I’m gonna have to be the first one you’ll read as saying: “Jay’s newsletter’s a hoot!” and “Chock-full of writing tips, it’s information rich, while funny!” and “You’re gonna wanna jump aboard before Jay discovers how great it truly is and starts charging a huge subscription fee!”
(If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’ll be the only one not laughing…)
Oh ho! Oh ho! the mystic clown,
I mimic waves
And now spew Foam;
And, spilling madness,
Bite the ground;
Monocular, I strut
My one good leg,
My one good eye
The Saprophytic faces.
They don’t even smile,
While I heap myself
A splendid sun of sawdust,
Then around it revolve.
They yawn as I, unfolding,
Disobey the Cosmos —
Stop their world to meditate —
My ruminating finger
In the slush-swamp of my nose.
The mystic clown:
Pssst! You made it this far so why not pop over to the right-hand side bar and subscribe to my FREE newsletter? Until I get other people to voluntarily rave about it, I’m gonna have to be the first one you’ll read as saying: “Jay’s newsletter’s a hoot!” and “Chock-full of writing tips, it’s information rich, while entertaining and funny!” and “You’re gonna wanna jump aboard before Jay discovers how great it truly is and starts charging a huge subscription fee!”