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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.

Comments

( 32 comments — Have your say! )
oneirophrenia
Oct. 14th, 2004 05:52 pm (UTC)
"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.

He sure is right about that. I was watching a few hours of the Sci-Fi Channel's Farscape marathon or whatever it was and, quite frankly, it made my skull ache. I've always been a big believer in never letting the facts get in the way of a good story, but...I just can't wrap my brain around any sort of "sci-fi" production that strays so far away from actual science that, for all intents and purposes, it becomes epic fantasy (like, for instance, Star Wars or Star Trek, or virtually everything by H. G. Wells). This doesn't mean that it's necessarily bad but identifying something as science fiction that does not ground itself in actual science is a bit ingenuous and misleading. I've recently seen the term "science fantasy" being bandied about a lot in the SF review circles, and I would say THAT is a very good, definitive description of the particular genre that programs like Farscape and films like The Chronicle of Riddick partake of.

Yeah, I know, ultimately it's all just wordplay, but when you've been doing literary and genre analysis for as long as I have, you pretty much develop a strangely adamant need for proper definition of terms. Even when you sometimes have to make them up yourself.
greygirlbeast
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:01 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I know, ultimately it's all just wordplay, but when you've been doing literary and genre analysis for as long as I have, you pretty much develop a strangely adamant need for proper definition of terms. Even when you sometimes have to make them up yourself.

I agree, actually, and much prefer the term "science fantasy" for Farscape, Star Trek (which is really only slightly better with its science than it Farscape), Star Wars, Babylon 5, and so on.

When I was writing The Dry Salvages, I think I let myself get far too bogged down in trying to make the science perfect, something that's practically impossible when writing about future, possible technologies, societies, etc., but at least I didn't do it at the expense of the story and characterization. So, when writing "Bradbury Weather," I only gave a nod to the science and made decisions based instead on aesthetics. The hard sf critics might not be pleased, but I'm much more interested in "science fantasy" and "space opera" than hard or nuts-and-bolts sf.
(no subject) - marlowe1 - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - grandmofhelsing - Oct. 14th, 2004 11:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
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marlowe1
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: New Grub Street Blues
Although Raymond Chandler might have similar experiences.

Except he was selling the book rights to Hollywood fairly early wasn't he?

Never mind.
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Re: New Grub Street Blues - marlowe1 - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - tagplazen - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - marlowe1 - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - greygirlbeast - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - marlowe1 - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - greygirlbeast - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:25 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: New Grub Street Blues - marlowe1 - Oct. 14th, 2004 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: New Grub Street Blues - greygirlbeast - Oct. 14th, 2004 08:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: New Grub Street Blues - greygirlbeast - Oct. 15th, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: New Grub Street Blues - greygirlbeast - Oct. 15th, 2004 02:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
greygirlbeast
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: New Grub Street Blues
Raymond Chandler once said in an introduction to a collection of his short stories that a writer should be reasonably sure noone is going to take the chair out from under him while he is writing, and that for most of his writing life he'd felt as though that chair was going to be snatched away any second. And his point was whatever good stories he was able to write in that position was in spite of, not because of, walking the tightrope of poverty.

Nice. I'd love to see the actual quote.
marlowe1
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:10 pm (UTC)
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.

Don't worry. There's room for people that like The Addams Family AND The Munsters (although I always felt the Munsters paled in comparison)
greygirlbeast
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:13 pm (UTC)
Don't worry. There's room for people that like The Addams Family AND The Munsters (although I always felt the Munsters paled in comparison)

I also prefer The Addams Family and have said before that the difference between the two is rather akin to the difference between the Marx Bros. and The Three Stooges, respectively. I've always vastly prefrerred the Marx Bros., but have no problem with the Stooges now and then.
(no subject) - grandmofhelsing - Oct. 14th, 2004 11:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Oct. 15th, 2004 12:04 am (UTC) - Expand
wishlish
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:19 pm (UTC)
One more vote here for "not poor > poor". People forget that the brain requires nutrients to think.

By the way, you might want to try a video game my wife and I are playing called "Katamari Danacy" for the PS2. It's a Japanese game about recreating the stars by rolling a ball around the earth. It's sublime, wacky, and truly fucked up. And it's actually fun and addictive. Plus, it's only $20 new.
greygirlbeast
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:22 pm (UTC)
By the way, you might want to try a video game my wife and I are playing called "Katamari Danacy" for the PS2

Someone mentioned that one yesterday. Right now, though, I'm on Sudeki, and there's Fable and Ghosthunter waiting, and soon there will be the next Ratchet and Clank. Too many games!
(no subject) - wishlish - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Oct. 14th, 2004 06:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tarots - Oct. 14th, 2004 10:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greygirlbeast - Oct. 14th, 2004 11:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tarots - Oct. 18th, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
robyn_ma
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:23 pm (UTC)
'Artists do better work when they're suffering, or at least broke...An empty wallet is the fastest acting remedy to writers block.'

if only that were true.

i will say that i have never been more productive than when i was recovering from the breakup of a 2-year relationship. but that was after i had gotten my old, much-missed job back, and there was some indication that my life would not be dog smegma forevermore. i had an incredible burst of productivity/creativity that i believe came from relief, not suffering.

in my experience, artists work best from a place of comfort and stability (there are, of course, exceptions) -- goddess knows i didn't get jack shit written when i was in that relationship and working at a job i despised. afterward, i was able to use some of that angst in my writing. during the horrid period, i was too busy self-medicating and wondering if slitting one's wrists hurts a lot. i am using too many italics to make this point, but you get the idea.
marlowe1
Oct. 14th, 2004 06:34 pm (UTC)
I suppose poverty is a better kick in the ass to writing than working a soul-sucking job. But neither substitute for actual sales and deadlines.
stardustgirl
Oct. 15th, 2004 05:59 am (UTC)
Artists do better work when they're suffering, or at least broke...An empty wallet is the fastest acting remedy to writers block.

That troll was a few clowns short of a circus if they genuinely believe that. Being a little hungry may motivate you early on to work harder to get your work out there and have it seen, but as far as enhancing the creative process itself, that's a crock.

n my experience, artists work best from a place of comfort and stability

Exactly. When I'm suffering, I don't care about things... I'm too busy being stressed. If I'm working on something I want to put my name on, I damn well want to care about it, so being in a comfortable spot is necessary. I can work around it if it's not there, but it sure isn't an asset.
setsuled
Oct. 14th, 2004 11:15 pm (UTC)
Artists do better work when they're suffering, or at least broke...An empty wallet is the fastest acting remedy to writers block.

I wonder if this attitude is generated at all by the ol' Puritan work ethic--If a hard days work is what God has ordained payeth thy bills, then the common misconception that writing is pretty easy might prompt some people to think good old God makes up for it by making perpetual pain a requisite for artists.
greygirlbeast
Oct. 15th, 2004 12:02 am (UTC)
I wonder if this attitude is generated at all by the ol' Puritan work ethic--If a hard days work is what God has ordained payeth thy bills, then the common misconception that writing is pretty easy might prompt some people to think good old God makes up for it by making perpetual pain a requisite for artists.

I almost said something this morning about the Puritanism inherent in this attitude, but decided not to.
( 32 comments — Have your say! )