Monday, June 14, 2010

'Old Journal Entry', 2006'

I found this old journal from the last year of my high school teaching career. It wasn't long after this that I left. It also talks about 'Blackout Blues', the screenplay that is being 'shopped around Hollywood' now. Since I've once again been on re-writing 'sessions', (calling them sessions instead of 'jags') I thought it was relevant. Yesterday, I finished re-writing another play, 'Under the Desert:Part Two: The Pig Hunter' I've been a little obsessed with it, I admit, but I'm coming out of it today. As always when I do a re-write, it becomes my favorite play. This one was a tough one in many ways. The re-writing was a joy, but the material is a little crazy. Anytime havelina pigs begin to ascend on your house, you have to deal...

Journal entry from 2006.

Bertold Brecht, the German playwright, wrote that what made interesting people and characters was the antithesis in each person--the polar opposite of flaws and talents, the co-existence of ups and downs, and the most complicated structure of completely opposite psychological behavior patterns. When I was drinking, my episodes Would end with days and days of writing, sometimes in a euphoric state of a desperate attempt to balance out the damage with the art. For some who have found a more moderate approach--it’s probably difficult to understand the insanity that goes along with this kind of pattern. I find myself, Saturday night, the four-day end of a writing 'jag', in opposition of this marvelous inside feeling that something very powerful has somehow happened. I've tried to explain this before, but do recognize it in many of the so-called 'screwed up' writers. Hemingway, (no comparison to me only an example) worked diligently everyday for months and months with a regiment that was extremely difficult, and then of course, when the writing was done, it was off the sea of fine whiskey. So, there is this very uneasy balance that occurs in opposition to each other--nonetheless, it must be considered in some ways--level.

I completed the screenplay of 'Blackout Blues' or at least the draft to the end. It's a sad and yet poignant story, of the damaging effects of alcohol and drugs upon those around them, (not very original) but re-occurring enough to still be relevant. The residual effects on the children, and the children's children are a never-ending cycle. I realized that in being on this most recent jag, (it's been a while since I've written like this) there is a place where the compound effects of life must manifest somewhere, or the top is sure to blow. I think, although writing can take on a very self-destructive form, it is why art can be so powerful, and there is a certain argument for saving lives. 'Blackout Blues' was a difficult play to write, and became that much more a screenplay. The ending is not a happy one. It was, however, and remains, an exhilarating experience. It is also one of extreme isolation. Everyone in 'real' life disappears except those who are taking action in the story. There is a complete disappearance into the experience. Tracee said, "what's wrong with your eyes?" I ended up writing seventy pages in three days--notable in screenplay terms, Frightening in destruction to the body terms. In it's midst, jobs, family, relationships take on the surreal notions, and the people in the story become those in which you begin to relate and care about. Without boring you with the synopsis of the story, thematically it is the long-term effect of the fathers drinking on the family. On any given night, with everything to live for, the alcoholic can plunge into a place where everything can be destroyed within a day or three--depending on the duration of the episode. It is also about how this drinking act begins to alter the whole state of connections, decisions, and living and dying from the lifting of the one glass. Another antithesis, "when he's not drinking he's the greatest guy, it's just so hard to understand". The understanding is in the disease.I do also love that place where in the writing there are never thoughts of what will happen to this piece of writing. I maintain that the greatest writing is achieved this way. It is the procuring of the moment, or the hours and days, whatever the case may be the living the experience in the mind and heart that is the journey that makes it worth the depletion. As pretentious as it sounds, I remember to this day taking 'my vow of poverty', and I think my mother gave me this understanding, (and I hope she still remembers this) that you truly must love the work. I am at odds with the opposite position, that writing is a means to and end. It is not. It is a way of life. It is a lifestyle that must keep it's integrity in the quest for understanding life's journey, and I think a reminder for writers. I do live an austere life, but one I've chosen, and I maintain these ideals through choices that I have often made in secret. I have no qualms with the chasing of the publications and the Hollywood romance, but in the end, the work, and doing the work is ALL. When someone asks me who my influences are, and although I have issues with my Mother, she is the first person I name because the body of work and the ideas that are so prolific, and in even in my differences, I understand the notion of the ensuing differences of moving the interpretation of life through words.

This is the job that writing does. There are times I despise the writing manifest in my especially immediate family, but mostly, I recognize that this is what I am, and mostly, it is an interesting way to understand trying to live this life. I have at times, cursed the choice I made, when I thought that I was somehow trying to send my Mother the message That, "this is how it’s done." I often find, however, that the message is plain that she mostly instructs me that this is how it's done. My younger brother and I are mostly simpatico in our pursuits, although I don't think that in the final analysis, my cousin and he figured me for Hollywood material. I will do it on my terms, and lessons have a way of turning them around. I think I understand the experience that Mom and Aunt Linda may of experienced working with me in my young brash days, that I perceived them as not hip enough. My ace in the hole, and always will be, my connection to the teenagers that surround me each day, they provide me with a language that is rich in youth, and formidable in power. And so the struggle continues, and the words find play, sometimes straight into the abyss, sometimes on the website, sometimes in the hands of someone who says he is a producer, sometimes to each other, and sometimes, to inform us of what we are.

So, the character of Buck in my story has lived and died on a couch, for want of a drink. In an attempt to save yet another alcoholic, Becca, our female heroine, the savior is left with the mess to clean up, but there is still a fine dinner on the table albeit three in the morning. Her son Joey, has yet to manifest the residual effect of all these men who have dined, and this one. As most of them were, the man who many said was a rare talent and a good man. I maintain it is the universality of those captured by the drink--no matter how brilliant or promising, the demise is exactly the same.

I am still experiencing a sense of isolation at times, and still struggling each day to get myself to work. I'm still dealing with some pain without the medication, the whispers of a middle age man feeling soft, and the days when I'm attempting to make sense of the living and the dying, but tonight, I'm feeling good, and my characters are all waiting for me--the re-writing is the most fun of all. I still flirt with self destruction, still genuflect the past, regrets are harping from time to time, but not so many that I can't at least tell. Status at school is waning, (familiarity ensues, and the cruelty that comes with sickness trumpets the retreat), but through it all, I have a few good moves in this mind and body, and the best is yet to come. Hope ensures beauty. Easter looms, and men rise.


Gerry said...

Was watching the Tony Awards while I was reading this that Doc recorded last night. I was thinking that sometimes in order to write the play you have to stay somewhere to do it that might take years, but in order to get the best take on the story that might be what is required, for some tales take a longer time to write. So Blackout Blues goes way back and you are still trying to take it somewhere to another audience because there is still interest in such a difficult story. So however long it takes, the writer stays on the story until some kind of goal with it has been reached. And therein lies contentment. And purpose.

Chuckh said...

Well, for me I think the tools for writing are seeing in your mind what you want to put down on paper. So, you have to have the imagination to see, kind of like wakeful dreaming, only your more in control, then you have to have the facility with language to describe what you are seeing - the way you want the readers to see and hear it- kind of like filtering it through a camera in your head. And yes the characters seem so alive and the real world can seem foreign, like an intrusion into that world in your head. But, then you have to get objective once it's on paper and start seeing how closely you were able to paint that picture and if the emotional intent works...a lot of work! It is draining.