Wednesday, January 21, 2015

In and Out of The Zone

Distractions, Pseudonyms, and the Work Ethic: The Zone When I want to write, distractions, like the last two episodes of Ripper Street, abound. I can admire someone else’s writing and postpone my own, watching a brilliantly written but seriously underappreciated bit of costume drama. Perhaps Ripper Street’s costumes are a bit too grubby for modern tastes. The setting is the Whitechappel District of London in 1890, perhaps the armpit of the city, or perhaps lower than that. All I know is, the writing and presentation felt careful, concise, and totally entertaining. The show took on several hot button issues, including different forms of prejudice still prevalent today, 125 years later. It also provided an ending (the series was cancelled) that presented the audience with several stories to follow into our own imaginations, and of all the characters only one who found his true nature to be good. The others, even those who seemed to be good, showed their ugliness, and that ugliness led to failure within each of them. This from a bunch of early forensic crime solvers no one watched. I understand about small audiences. My own audience is microscopic. It’s a shame, really: those who have tasted my words tell me how much they enjoyed the read. My friend Jean Saltzman just the other day told me how enjoyable my novel Amber Waves is, and I know she was not just being kind. It is a ripping good yarn. Her opinion is another encouragement to write the sequel, even with the realization that, unless I hook into a major publisher or agent, that book will also sell poorly. But sales or the lack of them will not stop me once the muse strikes. So when I sit down to write, distraction calls. When I answer the distraction – when I watch Ripper Street or some other program or sporting event, or when I am wiping the toilets with bleach at my mini-job, the writing calls to me and offers its own distractions – called ideas – that get hastily scribbled down in the notebook I carry with me everywhere for just such occasions, then set aside for that precious hour or two “when I get to it.” The biggest trouble is that I get so many ideas. When I can translate an idea into a poem or a short piece of prose, I know I can finish in a timely fashion. But when the idea relates to a larger project, like the planned sequel, the notes themselves can be intimidating at the very least. Add to that the constant worry, “Am I really the one to tell this story?” – All of a sudden those distractions can’t come at me fast enough. In that spirit, I often wonder if I should use a pseudonym when I write longer pieces. I ask myself if writing under another name would give me the freedom to be bolder and more honest in my work, protected from the gaze and criticism of the people who matter to me. For example, if I took the name of one of the main characters for my new book as my own, would I have more courage to “tell it like it is?” I still have not decided, and I still use my own name, and I think I am still honest, though not exactly blunt. I also wonder if another name would be more melodic to the ear of a potential reader than my own. If anybody wants to offer me feedback on this point, feel free. Finally, however, an idea or set of words grabs me by the (expletive deleted) and compels me, like the exorcist compelled the demon to leave that little girl. And I write. And nothing will stop me. Be it a poem, a blog, a short story, an essay, or a book, I am now firmly in the Zone, and will be for the duration, and nothing but nothing will distract me unless my dog Meg needs to go outside or it’s time for dinner.

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