On the difficulties engendered by total editorial freedom.
Some time back I eyed using a service like Substack or Medium for some vein of my blogging, but after some more thought I've pulled back on the idea. The biggest problem with them is the same thing I have with Facebook and Twitter and the like: you're at the mercy of a platform that you don't own and can't control. Building a livelihood atop something that capricious just seems nuts to me. I know, I know, plenty of "name" bloggers and journalists have done it, but that's because they have existing name value they can bring with them wherever they go, not because platforms like Substack are such sizzling great ideas.
We shouldn't confuse tragedy with misplaced sympathy for the devil.
I didn't originally have plans to see Cruella, but some part of me is now curious about it, if only because of the arguments it's spawned about what sense it makes to try and give wicked characters a justification for their wickedness. Many of us, I think, are subtly uncomfortable with the idea that we should just dismiss some people as evil, and I agree up to a point. It's not that we should be incurious about evil people, but that we should not be mistaken in our motives. We shouldn't confuse tragedy (the process of the corruption of fierce good intentions into bad behavior) with misplaced sympathy for the devil (the excusing of bad behavior born of corrupted good intentions).
Or: Set a timeframe for your work, or someone else will. And you won't like theirs.
I bumped into a blog post titled "Unbounded Possibility is Bad for Productivity", a plea for setting structured limits on one's creative work. Its core advice is good and is in line with other things I've come to believe:
I've found that arbitrary deadlines, like arbitrary goals keep me motivated and focused. Without some sort of deadline or goal, I feel adrift and it's difficult to force myself to work on anything for a significant period of time. So I create artificial deadlines and goals, sometimes completely arbitrarily. Often times, I'll just pick a date on the calendar based on nothing but gut intuition, and then I change it later if necessary. ... [H]aving any sort of plan at all gives focus to your efforts and it guides you through the haze of infinite possibility. Even if your deadlines are completely arbitrary and can be changed at will, having them is the most important thing.
Selectivity is not just the essence of art, but the essence of making art. I go back to that Scorsese quote all the time, about cinema being about what's in the frame and what's out of it. It applies not just to the contents of the work, but the process of making those contents.
Word broke the other night that Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, died earlier this month of an aortal dissection. "Devastated" doesn't begin to describe the feeling.
Word broke the other night that Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, one of the most meticulously realized and genuinely ambitious stories I have ever read, died earlier this month of an aortal dissection. "Devastated" doesn't begin to describe the feeling. It was like someone telling you the moon had vanished.
Berserk was Miura's life's work, about which I have written in these pages before (and I plan to write about them again for Ganriki at some point). One of the dangers of any project that long and involved is the danger you'll never see it to completion, at least not by your own hands. Miura died at the age of 54, with forty-plus volumes of Berserk on the shelves, and something like an estimated fifteen more before Berserk would have been anything like finished.
I'm experiencing a resurgence of that feeling of how human life, my life, is a limited thing.
Over the last eighteen months or so I've experienced an explosion of ideas that stand a very good chance of being developed into full-blown works. Some are resurrections of older ideas in new forms (Nâga); some are proper gestations of ideas that kicked around for a long time underdeveloped (Shunga-Satori); some are totally new (Absolute Elsewhere, and the newly unveiled Charisma).
It hit me just now, in a way I haven't felt in a long time, that there's a nonzero chance I might never see all of those things come to fruition.
I'm not saying I'm going to be dead of something in six months, although in theory anyone can be dead of something in six months. Cancer, space junk, cars hopping the curb, disgrunted ex-coworkers with guns. (That last one is exceedingly unlikely in my case, but you get the idea.) Only that I'm experiencing the resurgence of a feeling that comes and goes throughout my life, that of how human life, my life, is a limited thing.
On how the dharma is for doing, not talking about.
There's a pretty good YouTube channel that got recommended to me on the basis of my interest in Brad Warner's channel, called "Doug's Dharma", a slightly more formal and polished exploration of Buddhism (generally early Buddhism). One of the recent videos, about the parable of the raft had a few lines that went like this: The dharma is for practicing, not for memorizing. The way I put it to myself: the dharma is for doing, not talking about. As are many other things.
The greatest liberation about doing it yourself: gleaning from it the freedom to figure out what you really want to fill your days with.
The one book that had more impact on my life as a writer than any other was not a book of fiction, and was not even a book about writing. It was Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, a wonderful tour of the American indie/punk scene through the 1980s. Bands with no money, barely any gear, little more than word-of-mouth connections, and a whole lot of spirit pooled cash scraped from the couch cushions, pressed split 7" EPs, performed in each other's basements, sold their records out of car trunks, and Did It Themselves. The more I thought about what I wanted to do and why, the more the punk/indie record company model seemed like the one to follow. Not slavishly, though -- just in the way I could under my circumstances.
On the absolute primacy of the present moment (part 6,312).
DC-era punksters 9353 had a disc with the title We Are Absolutely Sure There Is No God, a beauty of a title right in line with many of their other album titles (UFO's Sideswiped Our Reform School Bus And That's Why We're Home Early, Mum). Inwardly, I came up with a joke variant, We Are Absolutely Sure There's No Future (as per the Sex Pistols).
One of the less palatable bits of Zen I came across early in my studies, but which makes far more sense now, goes something like this: the mind of the past, the present, and the future ("triple time", as they sometimes call it) are all unknowable. The past doesn't really exist because all you know of it is scavenged or reverse-engineered from evidence left behind. The present is only what you get through the tiny windows of your senses, which are limited and incomplete. The future is conjecture. To say that we "know" any of these things is not really accurate.
At first I hated this stuff because it sounded like pure defeatism. Later on, when I had a better understanding of the framing for all of it, it made more sense.
I've not lived a storied life, and I know it.
An old story I've told before, but one I revisit often: In college, when I took a writing course, the professor had a talk with one of the students that enraged me. The student was trying to come up with a story idea and was drawing blanks, and the professor started grilling them about how old they were, what their life had been like up to that point, how many times they'd moved around, etc. Eventually the prof said something to the effect of "Maybe you don't have enough life experience to write good fiction yet."
First time I heard that, the top of my head almost melted off. Over the years, I thought about it differently: Maybe he was trying to say something like, don't beat yourself up over this, live a little first, but just didn't know how to do it diplomatically. Then I realized, if there's someone in this world who needs to be able to speak diplomatically and precisely, it's a writing teacher.
Moderna Dose 2: Something Something Boogaloo.
Monday afternoon I got in line to receive the second dose of the Moderna vaccine. The first one left me somewhat sore and headachey; big fat deal. This one has left me with a headache that gallops like a stampede of buffalo and body aches that make me wonder if I woke up in the middle of the night and sleep-crunched my way through the 7 Minute Workout.
This page contains an archive of posts in the category Uncategorized / General for the month of May 2021.
New York City
Other Lives Of The Mind