2006-02-1

Writing notes

Posted in on writing, scraps at 12:29 pm by percival

! write about stepping off the plane into a new city in a new country for the first time, and discovering everything you’ve been missing.

! write about what really happens when you hit the middle of your life. which road, and why? the choices made which you can never remake, the risks, the rewards, the regrets.

! what would you consider the best compliment you could get? what is important to you? what would need to happen in order for it to come true?

! could you truly live knowing you have loved, and lost, forever? would you care if you knew that the path you’ve chosen will be downhill forever, from an amazing high?

2005-12-22

The Will to Write

Posted in on writing, real life at 12:02 pm by percival

I wrote this nearly two years ago, trying to understand why I write, why I want to write. I read it again and wonder how much of it is still applicable.

To be heard. To understand. To create. What is the will to write?

I first started writing in ninth grade. I blame this sickness on a Mrs. Rosen-Kaplan, the English teacher who first realized that I could write, and fostered its development, regularly watering this dandelion of a writer whose worst subject in school up to this date had been without a doubt English. I wrote awful stories with Clovis, founder of the Frankish Empire, as a time hopping protagonist… I think the best thing I wrote in that class was actually a very witty play adaption of A Christmas Carol, except with the first season cast of the Simpsons as the players. Bart was Scrooge, Homer was the Ghost of Christmas Past, Lisa was the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Maggie was the Ghost of Christmas Future. This was all before the Simpsons ever became popular — they hadn’t even had their first holiday special yet. The only flaw I realized after the fact was that I had written Bart and Lisa as teenagers. In retrospect, I should have rewritten the story and submitted it to the show. I think many years ago, I saw them do the Simpson’s Christmas Carol, with Mr. Burns as the obvious choice for Scrooge — it wasn’t as funny. Ah well.

I continued to write because I was having fun, and apparently from everyone else, including the teachers, I was good at it. (Little did I know then that it was a curse, being good at something. Being mediocre is still, without a doubt, the safest path.) I went on to attend the UC Santa Barbara Young Scholars program in Creative Writing right after my sophomore year of high school. I think it was then that I learned I could just crank out random drivel and people would still like it (much, much different that than the pearl-like droppings I write now, really, I swear…). By the end of high school, I was the magazine editor for the school yearbook, the editorial editor for the school paper, and had my own short-lived editorial ‘zine. Dartmouth College was where I learned to first crank out non-sappy poetry — up to that point, the best of my work was still meditations on that ‘L’ thing I had never experienced before. Well, not actually about the ‘L’ word in the way most people think about. It was never for an audience. It was poetry for me, meditations of love of self. How that is different than now, I am not quite certain…

I still feel that something like poetry is a very personal medium. Its convenient rhyme, rhythm, and bite-sized packaging make it very accessible to a large audience, however. The result was that more people ended up praising me for my poetry, having only been exposed to those chewy bits of work, and none of my more solid, meal-sized written pieces. I quit writing my essays and stories and I did spoken word exclusively, fabulously.

I did L.A. coffee shops and private Hollywood Hill parties, back before they were showing it on MTV, and I quickly grew to dislike poetry. Working for praise is crappy, especially if you don’t like the stupid human trick you keep repeating over and over. The apex was when I was opening for Jim Belushi, hanging around with these casting agent sisters who were treating me like a rare side of prime rib. Fairuza Balk had just finished filming Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. She came with me and the girls, and she was opening for me — I had no idea who she was, except that she wasn’t cute, and her poetry about her mom sucked. I finished my bit, and some old guy who said he knew Jack Kerouac — drove with him across the country or something, while dude wrote — said I wrote just like him. I’d never read Kerouac or another Beatnik poet in my life. When I thought of Beatniks, I thought of really old, pretentious losers. And then some blonde bimbo who came with him, or Jim or whoever, was talking to me, and she was saying how she loved my reading. Thanks, I try, I say, and she saw my little legal notepad and said, ohmigod, you actually wrote your own poetry? You’re really good…!

That was the peak of my disgust. I quit, I think, right after. My dislike over the whole matter of misrepresentation — combined with my belief that the work on which people were praising me was no better than just ruminations of the day, a waste product of living — eventually led to a long hiatus from writing all together.

I wrote at times to understand what was going on in my life, but since they were my own words, my own symbol sets, I could not see beyond my field of vision. I merely polarized it. I wrote at times to crystallize moments in time and emotion, but the more I wrote, the more they changed from reality to artifice. I wrote at times to create something new, something different than the plague that was my existence, but anything I wrote just mirrored my prison.

In this, I slowly grew angry, and so I swallowed it whole, and let it sit in my belly for years. I would feel it stirring, but I would just go find more literary antacids: wine, women, song, all the things that would keep one in a state of perpetual distraction. Every few years, having rumbled for so long, it would belch forth in a foul, distilled ichor that would shove me from bed, wake me from numbness, and forcibly excrete itself from my being, through my skull. Eventually, I realized that such a process isn’t so painful, if the release is regular.

I guess that is why I write now. In order to live, I must write, or I will get sick, and I will die. So I guess I will just keep at it, writing without the desire to be heard, without the desire to understand, without the desire to create. I will write with the simple desire to live.

2005-12-8

Will write for sex

Posted in linkage, meta at 4:14 pm by percival

The next time you have writer’s block, maybe it’s because you’re not getting any.

Artists and schizophrenics get laid twice as much regular people, according to a new UK psychology survey which studies the correlation between creativity and schizophrenia. Sex apparently also increases as the artist further pursues art.

What’s not clear: does creativity lead to a more active sex life, or does more sex lead to more creativity? Think I’m going to have to do some more research…

2005-11-23

Who edits dreams?

Posted in on writing at 11:07 am by percival

When I have dreams, they are drawn with ultra-vivid details, as if I were reenacting the favorite scene of a movie. Camera angles, panning, blocking, smoke in the air, wrinkles in skin — and since it isn’t a movie, touch and smell as well. The experience in dream becomes more real than mundane memories of real-world events.
When I awaken, I remember only the important key elements. The dreams were originally written well, or post-edited in the waking process. Either way, we have the intrinsic capacity to sort out the flotsam of life and distill from it the stuff of dreams.

Now if we could just harness this ability consciously, and apply it to the trite we hammer out when we write…

Action item: the next time I write a scene, I’ll highlight the things I think I would remember, if the event took place in a dream.

2005-11-21

The Legendary Anh Brothers

Posted in original work, prose at 12:59 pm by percival

[First volley across the bow. Have at it — written in about an hour, during this morning’s pre-dawn. — P.]
A thousand years ago, in the ancient lands of modern day Vietnam, terrible floods ravaged the land for five whole years. On the fifth year, as if the sun itself could suffer no more, the summer burned exceptionally hot, boiling away the waters, which finally surrendered and withdrew after stealing countless lives.

The following spring put forth its best effort to make up for the previous years of suffering. The fruits on trees grew twice as plenty, twice as large, and twice as sweet. In a small village in the foothills of the Hoang Lien Son mountains, on the first full moon of Spring, after a long and painful birth, five sons were born to chief Anh, a large man who raised chickens, and his wife, who was twice as small, yet twice as loud as her husband.

The couple had been married for several years, and had been trying to bear a child, but nothing would come. Nothing good would come during the floods, the people had believed. On the hottest of summer nights, with the moon hanging overripe in the sky, their efforts finally bore fruit. The chief had lost his parents and his eldest brother in the floods, and saw it as a sign that they were protecting his family from the afterlife.

The boys looked so similar, it was hard for their parents, let alone family and friends, to tell them apart. As tradition had it, the eldest was named Second Brother, and the rest followed: Third Brother, Fourth Brother, and so forth. The last to leave the womb was named Sixth Brother.

Five sons were the greatest blessing after the five fruitless years. They grew tall and strong. The Anh fields grew, their rice stores grew, the chickens grew louder and louder. Soon the boys were no longer boys, but men who ran in the streets, until the streets met the edges of the forests.

It is time for them to leave the village, said their mother. They are a blessing from the gods, and we have kept them for ourselves for all these years. They will become great men. And so handing each a satchel of rice and eggs, she sent them away to become the great men we know them to be.

Of course we hear the most of Second Brother. On his journey across the country, he learned of injustice. He parted with his brothers to save his country. The successes of his military victories are detailed in the country’s history books. In uniting the multitude of warring tribes, he founded the great Anh dynasty.

Third Brother was not a king like his brother, but richer than many kings of the world at the time. On his journey across the country, he learned of hunger. He spent the rest of his life never hungry again. He set up trade routes throughout all of Asia. Every piece of gold and jade traded in the country was touched by his hand, if only indirectly through one of his agencies. It was in part his gold which held together the Anh dynasty as long as it lasted.

Fourth Brother had no love for money like his brother. On his journey across the country, he learned of ignorance. Finding it unbearable, he spent the rest of his life seeking to abolish his own ignorance, and became a great philosopher. He traveled across all of Asia with Third Brother, learned to speak forty languages, and was one of the first to bring Buddha to the land. When he died, it is said his body burst into a brilliant light, and he directly ascended to the heavens.

The brother least spoken of is Fifth Brother, though we know the most about him. Fifth Brother served beside Second Brother in the great wars. From the profits of the wars, Fifth Brother loaned Third Brother the money which would found his merchant empire. And when he was only a child, it was Fifth Brother who would read the old stories aloud and seed in Fourth Brother wonder of the world. Fifth Brother came home after the wars and married a young widow who lived across from his parents’ fields. He had twelve children, and those twelve children had forty children, and those forty children had two hundred children, and the descendants of those two hundred children still live today, carrying the Anh name a thousand years after his death.

We know the least of the youngest Sixth Brother. We know he did not fight in the wars. We know he was not rich. We know he did not join the church. We do not know if he had any children. When Second Brother was buried, he attended the grand funeral. Sixth Brother was said to have been traveling through Portugal when Third Brother vanished off the coast. Sixth Brother protested when Fourth Brother was declared posthumously as a Buddha. And when Fifth Brother died, his wife, now twice a widow, cried and cried in Sixth Brother’s arms when he came home, because they looked so similar.

One of Sixth Brother’s grand-nephews asked him when his sister-in-law soon died after her husband, with so many great brothers, what was your greatness? What grand lesson did you learn? He shrugged and said, I’m still looking for my greatness, and walked down the road through the village until it led into the forests, and never to this day returned.

Write here, write now!

Posted in meta at 12:49 pm by percival

My name’s Percival. Welcome to Write!, which will document my subtacular path to becoming a professional writer. What better place for a sketchpad, rant sheet, and soggy bar napkin than at WordPress’s wonderful new blog hosting service.

I love you guys. When my first book is published, I’ll invite you all to the reviewer flame fest. ^_^