just the dreamers
just the dreamers
Be and ye shall be…
…is a Dream
It is my pleasure, privilege, and honor to present to you a whirlwind of wisdom and intrigue from the author of HAWSER, our IABS&R Volume 3 selection.
Or So You Say
by J Hardy Carroll
Tell me the truth, now.
You always dreamed of being a writer. Doesn’t matter whether your dream took the shape of Erica Jong in a penthouse sipping Moet while talking into a Dictaphone or Hemingway slouched over a café crème wearing down a stub pencil in a composition notebook.
Your dream isn’t of fame, of wealth or even of the admiration of your fellows.
No. Your dream is much simpler.
Your dream is to be paid for your unadulterated idea.
It is a strong dream, a storyteller’s dream, but it is a dream fraught with questions.
Who are you to tell a story?
What makes your idea worth anyone’s time?
How in God’s name can you call yourself a writer?
You know the facts. Writing badly is easy. It just comes. You’re so pleased with it. You are proud. Until you forget.
You forget that writing well is ridiculously hard, a series of tasks, many unrewarding and some downright unpleasant. Self-delusion lurks in every dark corner and all your worst tendencies get laid out naked on the slab in public view. Your clever clichés and trite situations and penchant to lecture form a kind of cesspool though which you wade, dragging for a story as though it was the body of a murder victim.
My, how you do go on.
But tell me the truth.
Secretly, you think you’re great. Admit it.
Well, maybe not great. Not yet. But good. Good enough to get published, anyway. Except for the fact that there aren’t any publishers these days willing to take a chance on somebody without an MFA from Iowa or Emerson or Columbia.
Or maybe it’s this: maybe you’re not so great. Maybe you are only great at lying to yourself.
So start another story. Maybe this time it will turn out better. Maybe this one will actually be something you can open in six months and read with a degree of pleasure or even pride.
Did you read that piece on Andre Dubus, about how he would take a year to write a single story, how he would trim 150 pages down to twenty, how one perfect sentence followed another?
Did you read about how Jack London pawned his bicycle for postage to send out his manuscripts only to have them come back months later with form rejection notices tucked inside the self-addressed stamped envelope?
Did you read about Annie Proulx writing cookbooks?
By the way, who in hell do you think you are?
You didn’t finish college. Your father was a professor who taught Chaucer and Beowulf and who never wrote anything down. You dedicated your first novel to him but he died before he got a chance to read it. In his life he finished only one short story, the one about his father called My Father’s Dreams that you read when you were in high school, the one that made you cry and wonder why your dad didn’t write more.
Or at all. Your dad could talk an acorn into an oak, but he never could finish anything. How many stories did he start and never finish?
Is this about him? Is that all there is to the dream? No? What, then?
Don’t give me that shit about how when you first read Faulkner, hacked your way though the twisted vines of his prose only to find yourself lost in a thicket, befuddled and a little angry, how you went back and started again, trying hard to not be bored, trying hard to be smart, trying not to give up and re-read that Trevanian book instead.
Don’t give me that shit about Faulkner being hard because there was that afternoon when you realized what the story was about, when you saw that the pattern of random rocks in the road was a secret code of musical notes scoring a symphony that only grew in richness over the span of years.
Don’t give me that shit about Vonnegut, either, about how you read Breakfast of Champions at the age of sixteen when you were so depressed you wanted to kill yourself. Don’t tell me that reading that book made you decide to go to the hospital instead of jumping off the parking structure of the Pioneer Hotel. The part where you were going to be polite and wrap yourself in garbage bags so as not to make too much of a mess is pretty funny—irony—but I still don’t want to hear it.
You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care what makes you want to do this thing. I am not interested in your ambitions to have people read your work. People read your work all the time, read it and like it.
I’m not interested in your quest for a perfection you will never achieve, not interested in your heroes or even your opinions on truth, war, love, loss, fatherhood, death or any of it.
So what, then? What interests me?
I’ll tell you.
It’s the act of writing. Writing every day, writing something. Think of the hummingbird. Think of the shark. Think of the way your heart is beating away in your chest at this very moment. No rest. Ever onward.
Don’t give me your reasons. Don’t give me anything. Don’t think about it. Don’t think at all.
Empty yourself out and get to it. You can think about it later.
And by God, you probably will, too.
ere the sol’s passing
ere the rising of the night
burn with passion bright
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Edition 003-15 is germane
UPDATE: Look, I get it and I’m sorry. I understand that there are forms of depression so severe that asking someone who suffers from such to do what I’m saying needs to be done in this insensitive post would be like asking a quadriplegic to hop out of her wheelchair and go for an invigorating walk (Geez, even that sounds insensitive…sigh). My sincerest apologies to those I have offended by implying that just by doing what we know needs to be done, like eating healthier and exercising, will make our lives less depressing. While it may benefit most of us, it will do little for those truly suffering. And I’m sorry if I’ve caused addition suffering. Especially since I’ve known the mental health challenges so well…both manically and a depressively. Spending a year on high doses of the steroid prednisone was quite the long strange trip. While I rarely wrote when deeply depressed, I did write like, well, a maniac when I was manic. Though I’ve taken down most of those posts I wrote when on that trip, I left a couple up and added them to the “mental health” category if you’re interested. Again. I’m sorry. I should have known better.
A couple of days ago I had an interesting discussion with my new friend pixie over at her cool site Pixie Dust Beach.
She’s got a lot going on there – you should really go check it out.
And our discussion was in response to her thought-provoking review of Chris Guillebeau’s self-help book The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life. . .
And I kind of been mulling over this discussion ever since…
You know, I’ve never been much of a self-help kind of guy, but there have been key points in my life where I have benefited from the motivation gained from the so-called Self-Help Expert. Tony Robbins helped me quit smoking oh so long ago…what, almost 25 years ago now…sheesh. I will be forever grateful to him for helping me be rid of that nasty habit. And recently I have completely changed my outlook on life all because of my new Personal Pope, that Greatest of Gurus, Dr. Wayne, The Wonderful, Dyer.
I love him.
So I, by no means, am not down on the Self Help massive exploitation market of pain and misery…at all.
If it makes you happier and healthier, whatever the crutch may be, I’m all for it.
But, really, the answers to the complexities and challenges we face in this one big quest of a question mark we call Life are actually quite simple and fundamental.
We, all of us over a certain age, anyway, for the most part, already know what it is we need to be doing to make our lives less hard and less painful and less depressing…
Admit it…deep down you know what it is you need to be doing to improve your life…
But, unfortunately, it’s not just the knowing that gets it done, is it?
It’s the application, the doing…
And it’s this dang doing of what we know to be true that is so frikkin’ hard.
The doing has got to be done…
So, come on then…
All of us.
All together and gung ho and supportive like…
All Nike mass exploitative marketing like…
Let’s all just do it.
Let’s all just do what we dang well know needs to be done.
Every dang one of us.
The Foo Fighter’s new song “Walk” friggin’ rocks and, like most inspirational works of art do, it motivates me into action, particularly because some of the lyrics really speak to how I feel about what I have been dealing with this past year and a half and will continue to have to deal with for the rest of my life.
“Learning to walk again…,” lyrics from the song’s chorus, speaks specifically to what I have gone through while dealing with my neuropathy, the side effect from all of the chemo I got juiced up with before and after my bone marrow transplant. Because of the nerve damage, I literally have been learning to walk again, this time with numb, unresponsive lower legs and feet. Not having complete mobility has definitely given me a new perspective on the basic physical dynamics of living and it has taught me to not take anything for granted.
And as I think about it, “Wasting Light,” the title of album that “Walk” is on, also speaks directly to me. To paraphrase what David Grohl, the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, says at the end of “Back and Forth,” the recently released documentary about the history of the band: Grohl wanted to name the album “Wasting Light” because the older he gets the more he appreciates how short our time on earth is and how important it is to live his life as fully as he can within the limited time he is given.
True, so very true.
On the night of October 12, 2010, the eve of my hallowed wedding anniversary, I worked through the final revisions to the third draft of my novel, the story I had been fitfully writing and, at times, reluctantly engaged to, for the past seven and a half years, and hesitantly, but thankfully, declared it completed. It’s finished. Finally. I did it.
There were many, many times throughout those seven-and-a-half years, mostly when I was engaging in idle, non-productive life-killers like watching television or surfing the net for hours for nothing in particular, or even as I worked on the novel, which often meant only staring at it on the computer screen without ever writing anything, if I would ever find enough resolve to complete it. To be honest, I had given up on it so many times, sometimes not working on it for over a year at a time, that I didn’t think I ever would complete it. I didn’t think I could.
Then came the cancer.
It may sound cliché, but surviving a no-joke, life-threatening disease and then having plenty of recovery time to ponder deeply over life and the limits of one’s mortality really is a wonderful motivator. Fortunately, although I had given up in my mind, in my heart I never really gave up on the novel. Completing it always remained a goal, no matter how slight, and no matter how many times I told myself I had quit. Now, after coming to terms with the facts that I’m not invincible and that this party I call my life can be shut down by the authorities at any time without notice, I finally had found the resolve and motivation to reach that goal.
And now that I’ve reached that goal, it feels pretty darn good, I must say. I don’t know how good the novel is, or how important it is, or if it will ever be published–I hope it’s good; I hope it’s important; and I hope it will be published–but it all doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the goal has been reached and now I can start focusing on new goals, writing and otherwise, with the knowledge and comfort that, with the continued love and support of my family and friends, I do have the ability to reach them.
To read a synopsis of the novel and the first chapter, please visit the Book page.