February 12, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on February 11, 2018

Feeling less “squirrel-y” this morning, in part I think because of some things in David Moldawer’s Maven Game newsletter yesterday (which I also forwarded to B.). He writes about hard work, lots of work – as a writer – but that, essentially, you’re writing the same story over and over and over again until it hits its mark. And even then, after success (which he claims will come…), you’ll still continue to write the “same” story.

For some reason, this seems incredibly calming to me and makes eminent sense – and I had never considered it quite this way. First, it’s calming because it implies that once you’ve found your theme, it’s okay to “re-write” it in endless variations, which, when recognized that this is indeed the very hub of the clockwork mechanism, takes an enormous amount of pressure off the need to “come up” with “original” content and ideas again and again. No, instead you just go deeper in the same spot, the theme. So, if, say, I take memoir, I don’t have to tell my “whole” life story in one go – or even tell it like a reporter or a police detective (“Just the facts, ma’am.”). No, I can transport myself (and my reader) to wherever and whatever the theme lends itself. Then it’s fiction and not memoir, true. But the memoir / memory is the underlying theme, the ground, and I’m just telling and retelling it in multiple variations. Musicians do this. Picasso did it (painters / visual artists do it). Writers do it.

For me, the theme would also be framed by an exploration of place – the sense of home, or its absence; the inability to settle down, commit to one place. Ruben Navarrette had a kickass column about his experiences, leaving his hometown, no longer fitting in, but now not fitting in anywhere – a thing he’s passed on to his kids, too: that is a memoir theme with a place-making (or -destroying) frame right there. Thinking about it like this gives me a license to explore my personal history as well as my more “intellectual” interests (urbanism, placemaking, cities) because these things all emerge from a central theme, namely, my life. I’m going to be the fucking Picasso of memoir (just like he was the Picasso of tits and bums). Just kidding! Just kidding? Well, maybe not. Style, fashion, identity, place, cities, friends – and the absence thereof (see Navarrette): it all comes from remembering one’s life (memoir) and then creating something from that theme, on that ground (“dig,” Moldawer would say), with those frames. Memoir, cultural critique, essay, philosophy, and fiction – it all comes from the same place, from the living artist.

Last night, reading Paglia on Byron and his “speed,” as she put it, also connected with what I’ve been thinking, as described here. Fashioning a sense of identity and of place and of story against (or with) a certain “spirit of the times,” which is in effect created by technological advances: all this, too, becomes part of the frame, might even be part of the toolkit for mining, digging into the theme. And it’s the same damn story, again and again. In my case, my life. My strange and wonderful life.

In other news, more snow on the way. Yesterday I slogged through slush and snow to go to the Y for a final Saturday schwitz, but otherwise didn’t go out. A “blizzard” is predicted for tomorrow, Monday. In five years from now, I don’t expect to be hanging around here every February, because every February (and often March) brings this kind of weather.

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