Thursday, December 13, 2007

Location, location, location

The graceful fluidity of thought and emotion gently coursing from the head and heart, the fire fueled by an eventide glass of wine, effortlessly burning through barriers placed by others, often by ourselves, cascading with beautiful ease over the ashes, down the limb into the fingers, through the black ink and out onto the white paper is an illusion.

It often hurts.

And so, as we gasp for air during the flood of returning memory, the undulating swells of an undertow churning unseen, feeling its frigid grip pulling us beneath before pushing us back up for just a moment, crashing into our spiritual mouth dying to scream, daring us to breathe, fully expecting us to choke on the bitter brine, we brainstorm against the current and futilely swim - desperately avoiding the jagged rocks or, if we're lucky enough to be tumbling near land, being violently thrown against the breakwall - for an island, a promontory, some kind of protection, no matter how feeble, from the battering wind and wave.

And when we know that we've braved untold dangers to wring our prize from the storm, that we are now blessed with a psychic shield that allows the freer flow of our sentiments, that protects us from the ever-present sword of Damocles, hanging surreptitiously above our wrists in the darkness, we know that is also an illusion.

Thus, standing in front of a mirror, in front of the striking reversibility of things, to the person staring back, we lie.

Of course you'll find that right word.

Unquestionably you'll finish that stanza, that paragraph.

Certainly those you show your work to will shower it with praise.

Each lie gleefully refuted by reality is a scar on our psychic shield, but a welcome scar. When broken, the skin toughens up as it heals, thickens. Indeed, we should invite the wounding, the spilt blood that coagulates into another invisible layer. Fabricated of diverse elements, many distinctly individual things go into the creation of our defense. One that most would assume to be unimportant or even ridiculous to mention is the one item indispensable above all things save the writer him or herself, the pen. Whether a Cross Townsend 10k gold fountain ordered from a stately New York City shop or a ninety-nine cent Bic purchased at the corner convenient store, the pen is the conduit through which our innermost impressions, the snapshots of our interior life, are imprinted on a sheet of compressed wood pulp. Our attachment can grow, as with an old sweatshirt or favorite pair of jeans. Once a pen starts writing in a notebook, I can never use another until the ink runs dry. The mere thought itself borders on blasphemy towards the Muses. Forgive me, ladies.

As for the surface itself, there is, of course, the ubiquitous spiral-bound notebook. How many of these I've filled over the years, I cannot count. How many complete pieces worthy of existence that have come from said notebooks, I can. Yet, although one may generally have a pen ready for hot poetic action at any time, one may not always have the repository at hand. Hence - drumroll please - the pocket notebook! Perfectly suited for bus trips, short excursions, promenades down the avenue, those moments when the forge of inspiration fires up while one is at work not doing what one is supposed to be doing, this simple and often life-saving item has prevented many an idea from vanishing forever into the ether.

For me, an unchanging bedrock necessary for the most fruitful creation - aside from my pesky and permanently fucked up insides - is location. The living room table or the couch, for some reason as inscrutable as every clichéd statement associated with the Sphinx, is where I work best. For something as alluring, yet often uncomfortable, as writing, I need a comfortable - in more than just the physical sense of the word - place. Part of that psychic shield. Because to compose in any other realm is to court disaster.

When I write in locales other than the aforementioned table or couch, there is a nagging, gremlin-like fear of the idea or feeling being contaminated with the environment where the pen met the paper. I could scribble down the first few lines of a poem, and worry whether the dingy imagery and persistent sounds of the bus will infect every reading of the poem. It's a fatal creative flaw that I dearly wish I wasn't cursed with. Oh, you would have no clue as to the filth that dirties such verse - the rattling of the sputtering engine, the banal conversations that pierce louder than the music thundering in my headphones, the fidgeting of another passenger locked into the corner of my eye no matter which direction I point my head - but I'll know. I'll read the words, and I'll know.

I am quite sure that those two generic locations, along with the specialized desk of a swanky, well-furnished den and probably the bedroom itself, would prove to be the most common amongst writers, though I have heard faint whispers of those foolish enough to encounter the perils of la salle de bains, where any number of diabolical traps are set against the creator and his or her quest for expression. Equally as reckless has been the sordid tale of writing amidst other humans, a task this natural introvert is not quite ready to undertake.

Therefore, subconsciously chaining myself to those familiar stops, I need something else to help me leave behind the slate grey cushions and voyage throughout my imagination, and if you've been masochistic enough to be a regular reader, you know exactly what that is. No, not a case of wine, you bastards, the other thing. The question is, am I writing where the notes take me, a terraced ledge overlooking a hilly street in Providence, a smoky Paris café, or am I writing in a nondescript, suburban bungalow south of Cleveland? Does it allow me to write better at all, or would I come up with the same, tired drivel if I had been scratching illegible marks on the paper in dead silence seated in the middle of an abandoned warehouse?

Music is the constant, the portal that always draws me in, the accelerant, the fuel that transforms the creative spark from a smouldering ember into a full-blown inferno. It is also part of the psychic shield, and some pieces are more effective than others in placing me where I best write. Notes and tones shift as I travel, my physical body changing the CD, the rest of me looking out the moving window at the checkerboard fields below, admiring the baroque architecture of centuries-old stone lining a European avenue, stopping along the side of a dirt road to watch the sun set below the horizon crowning the vineyards. I know where I always start, and I'm never sure exactly where I'll finish. I hope the location is a memorable one.


The Cunning Runt said...

Whatever you're listening to this evening, Dude, it seems to be doing the trick.

I can't have words worming their way into my ears when I write; but then, I don't write like this either.

Mary Ellen said...

Gee...I would respond to this but since I think with my loins, I just don't get it. ;-)

Beautiful Randal, well done.

pissed off patricia said...

Oh my, you expose a new side and it's a beautiful side too.

Randal Graves said...

CR, thanks, but I caught the link to one of your rants over at Freida Bee's place and you yourself can write a mean screed. I can't compete with quality stuff like that, hence the snarky political crap.

ME, merci, but that was the last time I ever compliment one of my friends in English, because all it gets me is grief. ;-) Next time I get a Splotchy-esque writing assignment, I'm tagging your ass!

POP, merci for your kind words. Every now and then I can write without using 'fuck' every other word. :)

La Belette Rouge said...

I think if you write that well with a bic, on a notebook in the living room in Cleveland( Am I talking about your writing or am I playing "Clue?")--Don’t go changing. Well, actually courting discomfort can be a hallmark of good writing. Perhaps that comfy feeling of the couch is just too darn comfortable.
Try the bathroom or the Starbucks, maybe with a different soundtrack. No, scratch that. If I wrote this post I would be sure to do repeat the exact same writing ritual daily so as to try and strike lightening twice, so to speak. :-)

Mary Ellen said...

POP, merci for your kind words. Every now and then I can write without using 'fuck' every other word. :)

So that's what was missing!

ME, merci, but that was the last time I ever compliment one of my friends in English, because all it gets me is grief. ;-) Next time I get a Splotchy-esque writing assignment, I'm tagging your ass!

Now now, Randal, I think revenge is a sin. Besides I can't expose my inner feelings, it would ruin my persona of the "kick your ass nun". ;-)

Your writing is beautiful, I honestly mean that. And that's the last compliment you get today. :-)

My Inner French Girl said...

Bonjour, Randal! What a post. Your voice is most certainly unique, and I love how it just curls around my ears and plunges into my brain and inspires all kinds of dark -- but not dreary! -- images.

Do you do most of your writing longhand? I regrettably abandoned that habit a few years ago, and now I find it difficult to even write in my journal. My laptop monopolizes my writing time, which isn't so bad because at least I'm still writing, but there really is something so pleasurable in the tactile experience of pen and paper.

Have you discovered yet? I love listening to it when I'm typing away in public, especially in a place where someone might be tempted to talk to me. Headsets seem to discourage all but the rudest from interrupting my reverie. I've discovered many a new musician (well, new to me) on that site.


Randal Graves said...

LBR, don't listen to Colonel Mustard, I didn't do it! I swear! And you might be right, since discomfort, misery, ennui, despair, loss is the source of a lot of writing. Perhaps I'll try that Starbucks thing in the future. Et merci pour les gentils mots. :)

ME, good thing I don't buy the sin thing then, huh. ;-) And don't worry, I'd never ask you to spill your emotional guts, just to write a little bit of fiction if the situation calls for it. :)

MIFG, oh, nearly 99% of the time, save blog posting, obviously. I have to write and that requires pen and paper. It just feels odd any other way.

I've never heard of that site, so I'll have to check it out. Since I don't use the computer to write, I'm stuck with the old fashioned discman. But I'm sure I can find the time to check it out at work. ;-)

Candace said...

Randal, you do realize that words as lovely as yours are slumming in spiral notebooks, don't you? They should be writ in nothing less than a Moleskine! (mole-ah-SKEEN-ah) No, that has nothing to do with mole skins!

check out this link for the U.S. market:

then, check out this one for the devotees:

I ADORE Moleskines! I have several, in different sizes. I'm especially fond of the little pocket ones. Also, I have a City one - for London, natch. You will want the one for Paris.

They also come in sketchbook paper, graph paper, and I'm not sure what-all.

(I do have one tiny little problem with them, however... I can't quite bring myself to actually WRITE in one. I HAVE worked on this problem. It was once even reported in the Moleskinerie website, and lots and lots of people tried to help me with it. So far, I am able to write on a POST-IT, and put the post-it on a page inside the Moleskine notebook. But, you probably won't have that problem. It doesn't seem to be very widespread, anyway).

Candace said...

Ooh! Here's the link for the Paris City Moleskine:

Randal Graves said...

Merci, but mon amie, I just clicked on your links and there's no way I could write in them. They're too nice! Hell, they even have one with heavy paper for using acrylics! Good thing I haven't painted in awhile or I'd be even more tempted to buy one and not use it. :)

Anonymous said...

This writers porn, Randal! Writers porn. I'm turned on, but I feel sooo dirty.

Excellent post. Seriously.

Randal Graves said...

Then my job is complete! But thanks. Seriously.