Tuesday, February 2, 2010

'Time Strips the Flesh From the Bone'

It's been hard to write today, hell, its been hard to do anything. I'm not exactly sure what's plaguing me, perhaps allergies, perhaps a touch of the blues. As not wanting to waste a day, I read most of the day. Maybe it’s the book I'm reading, 'Crime and Punishment'. I find myself excited by the density of the writing, but a little depressed by the subject matter, still, I am reading. After I had my operation back in December of 05', for the first time in my life I found it difficult to read. I'm not sure what led to this malady, as I've always been a veracious reader. I was told that anesthesia can sometimes affect the brain in odd ways. It was if I couldn't focus on what I was reading. I was also told that it could be caused by depression, but I'd been depressed before, and could read my way out of it. In any case, for the past year, I've been able to return to the reading with a renewed vigor, depressed or not.

Its odd how one can have such a brilliant day, go to sleep satisfied with accomplishments, and then wake up the next morning and have difficulty getting out of bed. Perhaps its something that happens in the subconscious, and the progress of the previous day has nothing to do with it. Although I'm certain weather has much to do with it as well, we have had a week of grey days, rain, and cold. I know that getting out and walking has a profound effect on how my day will go. Then there was the last performance of the play for awhile, and even though I know its not abandoned, performing a play in a consistent manner can give you such a feeling of accomplishment.

Last night I wrote a letter. A real letter, that was on paper, with cursive writing. I had forgotten how differently thinking is applied when pen and paper collide. I remember writing so many letters this way, feeling elated at the end of them, staring at the way the words spread out upon the page. I remember when I was young, the few letters that my father wrote to me. He had this beautiful handwriting with lots of swoops and curves, it made me think of how letters written this way are a form of art. Not only in their content, but the nature of the penmanship. I had this thick paper left over from the programs, and of course the G2 pen, (is there really any other pen?). It made me think of all the conversations with teachers in the teacher's lounge, passionately talking about pens. As if these pens were children that we could not live without. I intended to write a short letter, to a student who had written to me in this form, and challenged me to write back a 'real' letter. I found myself consumed with the writing, writing page after page of nonsensical information, but the nature of the writing was in full recall. Perhaps it's leading me somewhere, important to pay attention to this form, or maybe it was just memory recall, waxing nostalgia on the page. It was pleasurable, to say the least, it was almost two o'clock in the morning when I finished. Maybe it was that nostalgia that tripped up my day.

Reading Dostoevsky is again, quite an experience. I had never read 'Crime and Punishment', for some reason I thought it was more of a non-fiction work, but quite the contrary, it is passionate and full of amazing thoughts and ideas, presented so clearly just by his telling the story. Amazing! This was the first time I have ever read a book and noticed some weird things that must have happened in the translation. I don't speak Russian or read Russian, but if you take a word and put it in the context of a sentence, sometimes the word can reveal the labored language of the translation. I won't bore you with details, but it was interesting to notice these things. As I get older, the nature of writing becomes more profound. I find myself more in notice of the way the words and sentences are put together. Language and writing is an amazing art form, I wish sometimes I could have come to these conclusions much sooner. I think I had so many really bad English teachers, teachers who made the actual writing rocket science. Further, teachers who made writers into rocket scientists. I'm not saying that many writers were not masterful in their form, still, it would have been so much more beneficial to have a teacher who understood the writing process, and less about the mechanics of doing it. Of course, we moved so much it was hard to get really grounded in a solid curriculum, so I may have missed out on a complete education in regards to writing. I do know that reading is essential in the writing process, if one reads enough, much of what is taken into the subconscious mind in that process will reveal itself when one is ready to write. Perhaps that became my 'real' education, reading good books.

My God, I'm reading this back thinking, "My God, what a boring f-----ing entry, still, I'm putting words on the page and getting it written to the end. Since it's been hard for me to get anything really accomplished today, I will have at least accomplished a boring essay on the nature of writing a boring essay. So be it.

Yesterday, I was down to the last 1.86 cents in my bank account. A miracle appeared in the mail, a fifty dollar bill from my good friend and fellow writer, Chuck (last name I will keep anonymous). Even though I was down to that amount of money, as I said, I had a beautiful and productive day. Chuck could not have known how timely this 'gift' was. But that has been one of the many miraculous 'happenings' of this journey. I immediately went out and bought forty-five dollars worth of groceries. I know that in my writing I write about my finances, but I want you to know, that I write about them so you will know how a writer keeps going, how he has to have time to write, and consequently, read. What about the rest of us? You may think, why doesn't this fellow just get a job like we have to do? What many forget about me is that like many of you, I started working when I was fourteen and have worked all sorts of menial labor, which I write about in 'the book'. It has only been these last two years that have taken me on this quest to find a way to make a living, (however meager, and however desolate it becomes) with an art form that is sometimes misunderstood. Without writers and art, we destroy our culture. I really believe that. I believe it to the extent that I am very willing to live this way, to quell (in my case) the pride of temptation that saps the entirety of my energy in getting a 'real' job. So, as I write these 'essays' I need to include this in the story, because it becomes part of the motivation to create good work. Even then, it’s a gamble as whether this work will 'work' for me or against me. I've lived an interesting life to this point, I am resigned to the idea that what is left for me is 'this' kind of work. As I read Dostoevsky, it is apparent that it is very difficult, (even without money) in this country to experience the kind of poverty that he experienced. The kind of poverty that knocks you out for weeks on end, dressed in rags and wondering how you are going to get a piece of bread to sustain you. I have bread, plenty of it. My attitude has become such that if I run out of bread for awhile, I will lose the weight around my mid section that haunts me. I will be okay. Dostoevsky wrote, not only to give his gift to the world, but to survive in a world that not only was class ruled, but a world that death came often in forms that we are not accustomed to.

I will leave on a lighter note, I have finished the writing today, even though I did not want to sit and do it. Again, the writing relieves the anxiety of a day, and tonight when I sleep I will enter another world, that of my subconscious, another dimension where time strips the flesh from the bone.

If you snail mail me a letter, I will write you one back: It's fun! And we don't do it anymore. My address is:

Raymond Shurtz 3600 N. Hills Dr. #261 Austin, TX 78731


Chuckh said...

I find I get depressed when I don't have any plans or anything to look forward to when I get up in the morning. I plod on in my work, trying to better myself through experimentation and study. I would love to find a great art teacher but I cannot find anyone in this area that teaches the way I want to paint. I want to learn a particular technique, as I know basically about observation, seeing as an artist, etc. I have found a few videos of great artists that I admire and have followed somewhat what they teach. But basically it comes down to the same thing that always makes great work. Practice, practice, practice. As for writing each day, it is a discipline. I don’t really think you can teach great writing, maybe you can teach someone the rules and structure, but you cannot teach them what words to put down on paper. As Forrest Gump would say, some people just take to it “like a duck to water…”

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

I enjoyed this long, rambling entry as you try to find the 'light' for yourself. Trying to find work with singing and art is not easy, a struggle for any artist and takes courage to keep on going. One thing I know is that if I can't find the path that interests me...no one can. I can't really find anyone else's path; they have to do their own.
All I can do is yell, "You GO, girl or boy!" That's rather fun, but you still have to come up with a direction to go. I'm interested in the daily struggle.

Gerry said...

I was so happy to have a blog entry to read when I got to my computer. I got up at 5 am to make a new photo album for Facebook. That's always fun, picking out old photos, scanning and uploading. I find that little shots that don't look like much from the old days can be enlarged until they are quite spectacular, so modern tech enhances the old photos just as the computer takes the drudgery out of the old typing ways. Oh, I am glad to leave that hard pounding on a manual behind just as I am glad to leave the pen to paper where I about ruined my left arm from writing so much by hand. Hey, I was afraid Gary and you were going to work at hard labor far too soon since you both took 8 hour a day jobs when you were 15. I feel relieved that you are trying to save yourself for creativity now you have got your hip replacement and need to slow down. I have always said you have to buy time if you want to be a writer because you need to practice as Chuckh says, practice, practice. You have some good writing projects in mind that are going to require part time work for you to be able to accomplish them. Keeping to the bare necessities of life may be necessary to get them done, and then you will be happy to think you accomplished so much. It is always a gamble, a leap of faith to try to be a writer, an artist, a performer, let that become your work instead of becoming consumed by a job that does not reflect what you are capable of doing. You have the talent, so this is not a misguided choice. You have people around you who believe in becoming the writer or artist. I have always thought that if you want to be an artist you can't work at something else full time or you will never be able to realize your full potential. Buying the time is what is scarey. The big gamble, so keep on writing about the risks you are taking and maybe more people will understand. I am still getting hassled about writing and not being 'successful.' For some people the life of the artist is never going to be respectable work.

vooman's voice said...

Don't you know that Crime and Punishment is one of the most difficult books there is to read. I remember when I struggled through it. I think it is the book that happened in days...too.
I, too, enjoy your blogs.
A Linda