October 14th, 2004


time a glacier

I could file yesterday under frustration. I worked on the book most of the day and managed to write virtually nothing. I made extensive notes for the next section of the prologue (not something I often do), which I will hopefully begin today. I gathered up the music I need to set the mood for that section (lots of sixties, early seventies stuff, Procol Harum, Jefferson Airplane, Eric Burden and the Animals, etc.). I read back over the first section and revised, tweaked, polished, and so forth. I looked at photos Spooky and I took of Ipswich, MA back in July when we were scouting locations for the book. I did some research on shotguns. Stuff like that, all necessary to the book moving forward, but none of it actually writing. And there was other business, e-mail with my film agent about The Dry Salvages, e-mail with Ted Naifeh about "Alabaster," e-mail with an editor at Marvel about a couple of projects, news from Subterranean Press that the signature sheets for the "Mercury" chapbook will be arriving soon.

Today, perhaps I can actually begin to write the second section of the prologue.

I think I'm labouring beneath more than the usual weight, the weight that must be managed if I am to write. The weight that would rather have me do nothing at all. Yesterday, sitting here, I thought, It's really such a small thing. It took me a moment to realize what I was saying to myself. Slowly, I realized that I was saying that the act of communication which occurs between me and any given reader via a novel or short story, that connection, is such a small thing. I'm not saying that it isn't significant or important. Hell, it's one of the two or three reasons I keep doing this. But it is, nonetheless, a small thing. And sometimes it gets blown out of proportion. In my head, at least. Frell. I'm lost in this paragraph. Lost in this thought. Lately, I seem plagued with inarticulate moments, one thing I absolutely cannot afford, ever. Never mind.

The following comment was posted to my LJ day before yesterday: Artists do better work when they're suffering, or at least broke...An empty wallet is the fastest acting remedy to writers block.

docbrite has already said much about this wrongheaded and rather sadistic comment, and she's probably said it better than I can. But I feel I shouldn't let it pass without having at least said something. Speaking for myself, speaking as someone who spent her childhood and much of her early adulthood in terrible poverty which I wish never to revisit — bullshit. Some people confuse cause and effect. They prefer that carts precede horses. They mistake the degrading situation in which authors so often find themselves, the poverty that arises because society has so little concern for art and even less for artists, as the creative spark itself. They believe, wrongly, that squalor and suffering is a state prerequisite for inspiration. They think that because it's necessary that an author has experienced a given situation to skillfully, knowledgeably write about it, that said state must continue indefinitely. They romanticize hardship, finding virtue in squalor, perhaps even believing it might be a shortcut to enlightenment and genius. They point at the legions of starving artists as justification for their beliefs. But they're wrong.

Though I am presently far from free of financial concerns, my writing has allowed me to rise above my former poverty. I have health insurance for the first time in my life (I've only had it for two years). My teeth, which kept me ill throughout my twenties and early thirties, are finally in decent shape. I am finally in a position to carry my own weight, something that's very important to me. I don't have to fret about the rent or groceries or the electric bill. And because my health has improved, and I am freed from so many of the worries that once dominated my life, my writing has, not surprisingly, improved dramatically. I don't think there are many people who would argue that The Five of Cups, written in the last years of my own poverty, is a better novel than, say, Threshold, which was written at the height (so far) of my fiscal success, when I was doing a monthly title for DC/Vertigo. Likewise, I believe Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels are both far superior to Threshold, and one reason is that Threshold was written when I was very ill from the effects of two abscessed teeth, teeth that had been neglected because I'd not previously been in a position to afford dental care. I was horribly sick and almost constantly in great pain and then recuperating during the entire writing of Threshold. It's my sick book, just as The Five of Cups is my "poor" book. And neither of them, in my opinion, can hold a candle to Low Red Moon and Murder of Angels, both of which I was able to write relatively free of illness and money worries. The Five of Cups, Silk, and Threshold are, for me, triumphs not because the going was hard, but in spite of the fact that the going was hard.

For me, writing requires an enormous effort. It requires a clear mind. It requires focus and concentration. It requires some degree of physical comfort. The more of these things I have, the better my work becomes. A sense of security is good thing. Anyone who would suggest that writers should keep themselves in poverty and sickness for the sake of their art is an asshole or an idiot or both.

And that's quite enough said about that.

Is there anything else interesting from yesterday? Well, I saw Ben Browder on The Screen Savers yesterday, which was cool, even though the guy interviewing him was a doofus and had clearly never seen a single episode of Farscape. I loved Browder's description of Farscape as the anti-Star Trek (something I said in 2001, when I also described Farscape as "Star Trek for goths") and his candid admission that "our science is crap." Browder seemed very aware that the strength of the series, as with all good fiction, derives from the strength of its characters, not the peripheral, cosmetic trappings of science fiction. The buzz about a possible Farscape feature film continues to grow. Oh, and they aired about a thirty-second clip from Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars. We only have three days to go, four if you count today, until the mini. I almost wish there were more time. It's going to be over far too soon.

For dinner, we made udon noodles with a blistering concoction of asparagus, beef, red bell peppers, red curry paste, zuchinni, and baby porta bella mushrooms.

And I see it's getting late, so I have to go. The words will, hopefully, have their way with me.

P.S. -- Lest anyone take offence at the above comments regarding Star Trek, be assured that I'm actually quite fond of the original series, ST: TNG, and ST:DSN. I wasn't trying to praise Farscape at the expense of Star Trek, nor do I think that was Ben Browder's intention.
  • Current Music
    Eric Burden and the Animals, "St. James Infirmary"