We’ve hit the 25th day of 100 Days, which has been relentless work. I’m curious to know how other people are working, what they’re working with, how they’re working through problems, and what their “workbenches” look like.
Day 25 for me saw a return to Computer Leon, who persists for me as a fun and comedic character. He could get into all kinds of interesting problems. One of the items I’ve realized is that I don’t want to leave Pelgram and The Rabbit stories alone for long. But returning to these characters and their narrative implications requires distance as they really don’t taste of serialization.
I still have a lot to think about with experiments. But a major insight I’ve had about my own writing is that 1) I work with internal voices in two ways: I listen for narrators and for how characters sound and 2) following 1) I listen for how structure and plot emerges from the language and 3) I try to feel out action and event from the ideas I’m interested in.
Stylistically, I’m aiming for story language that conveys as much with as little as possible but, hopefully, doesn’t restrict for restrictions own sake, a language that keeps cutting away at the slab, the stone, or digging at the dirt for that unlikely or unknown nugget. That might be key, and is something I look for in my colleagues’ work. I’ve discovered a number of things: Leon, Pelgram, and all the other hes and shes that have emerged, and would never have emerged, without these stories. This is significant: withal, I’ve uncovered new voices, new places, new people, more ideas to consider.
For example, Cruz in The Mirror was a nice find for me, but he didn’t become a find until Maricela ends the story with a statement about Cruz: “The Cruz that not even I, and you, can escape.” The story progressed in fairly linear fashion. Cruz gets an idea about mirrors, Maricela just happens to be his girlfriend, and he follows his line to a point and the notion is closed by Maricela. But she throws an idea into the mix that made me think about future issues with Cruz, who sounds somewhat focused/obsessed and interested in mysteries. Maricela, who is the same Maricela of Weeping Bird, can’t escape Cruz. What does this mean? And how did Maricela get from an island in danger of attack, and out of a TV program, to Cruz? Cruz must be pretty interesting to attract an ex-special forces, bisexual bird-woman.
I could spend the next 75 days following each of the characters in these stories. I could also write the next 75 stories in one of several rooms or with a hat on or with a ribbon tied around my pinky finger. The point is not to plan on anything. For example, at this moment, I’m thinking about the Oedipus myth and how that might be fun to play with. And what if Computer Leon decides to reprogram his mobile phone? Is Pelgram in Shantou? Or is he that smoker smoking in the dark near a coffee shop on Carlisle?
First of all, happy 25th day! Relentless is right, but fun also. Creativity is a relentless mistress, as I found out in April, so taming it has been easier this time around.
As far as the work process is concerned, I’m finding that there are gaps in my work ethic. The days that I’m afraid to interpret a story into a poem are really the days that I need to make myself sit down and throw words out like there’s no tomorrow.
I know you asked me about technique a couple of weeks back, and I’m trying to hone in on combining imagery (hopefully, it’s vivid) with distilled moments.
I’m trying to make the least amount of language deliver the most meaning without spelling out the story (just as you are), but make the poem independent enough that it can be read without needing background context. Personally, I like for the readers/audiences to draw from their own contexts. Concentrated meaning, in other words.
Overall, I’m teaching myself how to work my craft really well before I go learn another one.
Cheers on 25 days! I haven’t settled on an overarching method for what I’m doing. When I think I know, the next piece of art is that much more difficult to make…until I let go of whatever ‘strategy’ I’ve settled upon for making it. On some days the art comes easy — almost disconcertingly so. On other days? Those other days I’m trying to figure out how to make things happen. I push and fiddle and force. But the more I do that, the less I like what takes shape.
I keep expecting there to be a day (i.e., a full 24-hour period) where I just can’t do it. I’m surprised it hasn’t come yet.
I tend to get caught up in the language and try to come at images from that direction. And sometimes it works. Often, however, it does not. On those occasions, I find myself looking at the world anew, considering what ideas or “myths” (Roland Barthes) the objects around me can express. Molecules? Coffee cups? TV static? What do these things say to me? (Well, duh…everyone knows what messages are hidden in the TV static, but the other things are probably worth a bit of consideration…) *smile*
One last thought: My participation has come to feel like a blessed opportunity to atone for the fact that I make some part of my living doing commercial graphic design. This is art for ‘the good’ (if not art’s sake) rather than ‘for profit’.