W E L C O M E

I am grateful that you have visited my blog. I hope your visit is a successful one. Please feel free to comment, contact or otherwise interact with the site and with me. I'm beginning to spread my wings photographically, so please take a look at Paul's Photos on Flickr (on the right). which will lead you to my presence on Flickr. Again, your comments, feedback or whatever are very welcome. Let us assist each other in our pursuit of our own truth, our own Dreaming. Peace!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Too Long No Blog Posts; Here's why or partly why

Yes it has been a while hasn't it? Truth is there are a lot of reasons. Primary among them could be the little operation I had on my heart. No heart attack or anything like that; I had a funny pain and sensation, went to the doctor, had some heavy duty tests, ended up going to the big city for overnight hospital stay during which they put a stent (basically a wire tube that gets inserted by way of a tube inserted in an artery in the groin and pushed up to the affected area in the heart) in an artery in my heart to squash the 90% blockage and to let the blood flow freely again.
That was a month and a day ago, so what's the reason I haven't been here to post on my blog? Well I've been 'resting'. Taking it easy, trying to relax (virtually impossible for me sadly at the moment...well always really), recovering. I kept meaning to do a post. But somehow the energy hasn't been there. Still isn't really, but I'm making myself.
I sense that this operation has given me a new lease on life, that it represents a kind of second chance for me. Trouble is that right now I don't feel it. I'm depressed, tired, can't be bothered. But I am also an artist. And I refuse to stay down like this. So, therefore, here I am back on the blog.
Enough of the explanations. On with the show, I mean the blog. Well next post I'll be getting back to my mission on here which is to explore my life as a writer. Anyway, that's my plan and commitment. See you all there.
peace

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kerouac's #10: No Time for Poetry but exactly what is

On the face of it, this Belief & Technique from Kerouac (for a visit to my commentaries on the list so far, feel free to head there now or later if you prefer, and read them all in sequence.) seems to say no fantasy, no imagining the future, no reflections on the past. He seems to say you can only use what is in your poetry. And of course, by Poetry he means all your writing, all your artistic and creative expressions. I hope you all dig that.
But, wait a minute. Any of us remotely acquainted with Buddhism know that now is the only time there is; that we are at any moment the sum of our lives so far. Right? So that's the loophole you see. In this moment, right now, I could be thinking about something that happened in my past, or I might be 'daydreaming' or having a cool fantasy that I know is never going to happen in the real world. Or I might just be musing over the possibilities for my supposedly 'real' or imagined future.
Now, this doesn't mean we are dwelling in any of those imaginary places; it only means we are sorting them out into some kind of order in our minds. And that's okay. It fits with 'exactly what is now'. So when we write it we are engaging with the thoughts and feelings that are happening right now, even if those thoughts and feelings are a response to some imagining of past or future.
Of course old Jack is also here talking about truth in poetry (or as I say, in any creative expression). That's where the exactly comes in. Now, notice I'm not saying he's talking about getting your facts right: as we've discovered in these posts on more than one occasion, truth and facts aren't always going to be the same thing. Remember the old adage, 'This story is true, only the facts have been changed'?
Mr Kerouac, may he rest in peace ('cos he got very little when he was alive, dig?), is talking about my favourite topic: personal dharma. He's saying "Look people, if you gonna write poetry, then you gotta make it your truth. Tell it like it is man. There 'ain't no other way".
And what about time in this one? Of course it means that to use time in any other way than to tell it like it is is a waste of time. Easy eh? Maybe 'no time' can also mean this time, the now, this moment, the current hour, whatever. In other words, if you are going to tell it like it is, tell the truth of your heart and your life, then you might as well make it right now. No time to lose, dig this moment and record all that exists in this moment. You know why you have to do this of course don't you? Sure you do. It's 'cos this moment is all there is. What's that other adage that is a very groovy, cool and true cliche? Oh yeah: The past is gone, the future is a fantasy. The only reality (I use the word with caution here) is the present moment.
Peace and stuff to you all

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It’s a ‘Nam Thing: The Story of a Poem and …

Yes. A poem. By me as well. In fact, you might have already seen it: on my poetry page at my Wordpress blog? No? No matter. I just felt a sudden urge to put it in a post here today. Let me tell you something, just a little something, about it. And me too I guess.

When you read the poem, you will realise that my father was a Vietnam veteran. An officer in the Australian Army, he went to Vietnam the first time in 1966. Originally he was a part of what they called the ‘Training Team’. A fairly innocuous name for a group of army regulars whose job it was to teach other people to kill. And all the arts associated with that wonderful skill.

My father was in Army Intelligence. He was into the anti- insurgency, psychological warfare, counter terrorism, side of things. Was he involved in ‘torture’ and other ‘interrogation’ activites? The simple answer would be, of course: he was an army officer at war, and in Intelligence. But to what extent, who knows? My guess has been that he saw and did what you might think he saw and did.

Anyway, before long he was running what they called the Civil Affairs Unit which had the job of ‘winning hearts and minds’. In other words, their role was to play nice guy to the local people: build schools, clinics, take kids of chopper rides to the zoo. All that kind of stuff. Looks good on the surface, but it wasn’t done with the best of motives. Unless you’re at war that is. The idea of course was to get the locals onside, get them talking, passing information, rejecting the ‘enemy’. The ‘enemy’ being the Vietnamese people fighting for their country against the invasion forces of the US, Australia, and heaps of other countries.

I was 12 when he went. My father. He was away that first time for just over a year. At the time I didn’t know any better, and being a loyal kind of kid (I’m now a loyal kind of adult; only difference is I’m now loyal to other things), I supported my Dad and what he was doing. Natural really.

It wasn’t really until he came back that I started to change my ideas. He was so screwed up, so angry, violent, sad and just weird, that how could he have been in a good place doing a good thing. Of course, over the next couple of years I really started to watch and listen more critically to the news, to other people, to what was going on. By 15, I was a committed pacifist and campaigner for peace. I’ve never wavered in either commitment. Mind you, I’m not perfect and I have been pretty screwed up by how I was treated within my family (and what happened to the other members of my family). I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is not as bad as it used to be. But, to cut a long story short, I have dealt out my own share of anger and violence. Not now though. I’m a lot better now, as I said.

Well, a few years ago, a poem emerged: It’s a ‘Nam Thing. It’s an angry piece, as you will see should you choose to read it. But someone once told me it was the most powerful anti-war poem they had ever read. I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I hope it does serve as some kind of contribution to the efforts for peace.

That’s all I will say (it’s quite enough I think!). Here is the poem. Comment if you like. I would appreciate that.

IT’S A ‘NAM THING

My father, many times he hit me.

But, hey, it’s a ‘Nam thing

My father hurt my sisters.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father, he beat my mother.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father had a shrink at 150 an hour.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father tried to get sane.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, he kept his demons.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father used to run for trains.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, one day thought he was late.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father ran hard for his train.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

My father caught that train, of course.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, his heart attacked him.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing.

My father, on that train he died.

But, hey, it’s a ’Nam thing

Hobart Tasmania

19 February 2003

I offer this with love and in hopes of peace

Post originally appeared on my Wordpress blog, which is now kind of inactive. If you want to look, here it is.

Kerouac's #9: Dig those unspeakable visions man

It's been a while since I did a commentary on one of Kerouac's really groovy Belief & Technique for Modern Prose List of Essentials. If you're interested you can see the start of my commentaries here. But if you would like to look at #8, which was the last one I did here it is. As I say, I haven't done one for a while, and the whole process is taking longer than I'd like. But, hey, that's the writer's life isn't it? Kerouac has thirty items on his list: I guess you'll be reading them for a while pardners!

So, to #9:

The unspeakable visions of the individual

Now, you'd think that if something (in this case a vision) is unspeakable it pretty much means that it isn't writable either. After all, writing is simply another form of communication is it not? For my taste it's about the best form as well, but that's another story eh? Anyway, what does it mean, this unspeakable?

Well, it is about secrets. About things we keep quiet, things that come from the darkness of our subconscious, our fantasy life, or our dreams. It's also about the nature of the secret, or vision (more on vision in a minute okay?): we all have odd ideas, thoughts, fantasies, desires, etc, that are about stuff we'd rather not share with others. Could be a sexual fantasy, or a horror movie that runs in our heads or through our dreams. Or maybe it's about memories we'd rather not revisit. We've all got them haven't we?

Of course it has to be said here that those unspeakable things aren't necessarily of the negative or 'bad' variety: there are many many delightful and 'good' things we're not able or unwilling to speak aloud. Yes?

There's another aspect to 'unspeakable'. A thing may not necessarily fit the aforementioned secret type categories, but nevertheless be unspeakable. It might simply be that we don't have the words, or the means to speak it, whatever it is. We may really want to speak (or write) about these things, but just can't find the way with words that we need. Or think we need

Now, the vision thing. Here I think Kerouac simply means the things we see, think, feel, dream, fantasise and so on. Not actual visions as in angels appearing for example. Mind you, I mustn't discount the possibility, nor should you, that such visions may occur. I suppose if I were to be honest here (and of course this being a blog devoted to truth and all that, I am obliged to do so), I would have to admit that there have been times when I have seen visions. Just a little tangent: when I was in my late teens I drank a lot of wine. I never touched dope etc, and friends and assorted party companions would say, how come you don't do dope man? And I would say, 'I prefer wine because it gives me visions'. Cool eh? Now, I won't say just now if it really did or not. Maybe it was more about a fear of drugs and stuff ... another time okay?

Let's get back on track. I think that's enough about the vision thing. Except to say, we all have visions of one sort or another, literal or metaphoric.

And, have you noticed that our friend Mr Kerouac is not actually saying we have to speak these unspeakable visions. Oops, forgot the individual bit. That's you, okay? Not plural you, just you, yourself. He speaks of the visions you have that are yours, nobody else's. Dig?

I think he just means we have to acknowledge that we have them, these unspeakable visions. I think he is suggesting that it is essential for writers to have these visions. Or, and I like this idea, to be visionaries. Hey, that's me! You too! Visionaries. (the topic of visionaries is too big for this post. I'll make a note to think about it for another time, okay?)

So, what do we do if we don't have unspeakable visions. Ummm. You don't think you have them? Sorry, you do. We all do, as I said, in one form or another. Maybe old Jack is trying to say acknowledge those visions man. And as I say, you don't have to force yourself to speak what is unspeakable: it's about the idea that having such visions can inform your writing, sort of sitting in the background leading you, giving you ideas (and inspiration).

In a way, this idea is about spending time reflecting. Get in touch with your visions, whether they are from your dreams (the day ones or the sleep time ones), your memories (the good and the bad), your fantasies (the dark and the light ones), or from wherever they come from.

I'm not sure Kerouac was a supreme example of this, but here is one last idea to think about: the time spent in reflection on those unspeakable visions may have one more benefit. You may find that by getting in touch with your own visions (of both the unspeakable and speakable varieties: never forget there are lots of speakable visions we all have too), by acknowledging the existence of these 'visions' and then pending time on reflecting on them, may actually enable you to find a way to speak them. It will also be a powerful exercise in its own right. And for any writer, or any human really, this can only lead to growth and development.

Thanks for reading!

Peace

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wish the world truth & honour as you sign your emails and letters

Recently I reconnected with a very good friend. We'd been out of touch for a few years, and I tell you: it was really good to hear from him again. I think we've kind of taken off just where we left off. Anyway, I was looking at some printouts of old emails from him (he used to send his poetry out to people on his list; ah, the good old days when you had to actually email people to share your writing, thoughts, ideas, whatever), and I noticed a really nice sentence he used on one as a way of signing off. He wrote:
Vishwa dharma ki jai

This is Sanskrit and means (according to my friend), 'victory to universal truth and honour'. When I read this expression, I was moved. Now, I don't have a problem with 'yours sincerely' or 'kind regards' and so on, as ways of signing off in an email or (just imagine) in a letter. Indeed, I think those salutations (is that the right word?) can be meaningful and can carry heartfelt and sincere wishes from one person to another.
However, as with all things we do 'automatically' and as a matter of course, these expressions seem to have lost much, if not all their true meanings. In fact, how often do we get emails with no such signing off, and with merely the sender's name at the bottom? Actually, now I think about it, I remember some emails that don't even carry the sender's name as a way of signing off. Now, that is rude on the surface, but in reality it's also meaningless: people and the way they communicate are changing; I guess some of these so-called 'niceties' are just naturally going to be lost.
So, when I read my friend's Sanskrit salutation, I thought, hey, I'm going to make sure that I for one do not forget these traditional expressions of good wishes and salutation. And what better salutation for a truth seeker (that's me) than my friend's?
It might be that a wish for the victory of universal truth and honour sounds a bit old fashioned, a bit formal even. Not at all: how up to date, how necessary in our materialistic, fast-paced and sometimes lonely and corrupt world, is it to seek truth and to act with honour. Honour isn't the fuddy-duddy, formal term you might think. Look it up: it's about honesty, truth, right behaviour integrity, all that good and right stuff.
So, I'm going to try to use this great salutation whenever I can. And my message to you, dear reader? Vishwa dharma ki jai

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Beauty, Simplicity and Fearlessness: Art will take you there

Nicholas Roerich was a Russian, one of those crazy Russians who believed in beauty and art and culture as being the way to a peaceful world. Well, if he's crazy, then I sure would like some of whatever he had. Bring it on, that's what I say. Here's just a tiny snippit of what he said, as quoted in a very groovy book called Nicholas Roerich: A Master of the Mountains by Barnett D Conlan:
'... every Art creation is a dynamo charged with uplifting energy and a real
generator of enthusiasm and he (Roerich) looks to Art as the most effective instrument for
leading towards a life of 'Beauty, Simplicity and Fearlessness', to a
'Fearlessness which possesses the sword of courage and which smites down
vulgarity in all its forms, even though it be adorned in riches.'


In the years before World War II Roerich set up what he called Centres of Culture around the world. I don't know too much about this stuff, but I plan to check it out. His idea was that Art and Culture were the perfect tools for attaining peace. He was a painter (I went to his house in Naggar in the Himalayas in India which is now a gallery and museum: his paintings are almost not of this world; ethereal and radiating an energy of their own), an explorer, linguist (he was the first to put together dictionaries for various Tibetan and other central Asian languages), and a writer.
Here my main thought is about how every work of art is a dynamo full of energy. Isn't it so? Don't you feel that with your own work? Whether it's words, paint, clay, fabrics, or whatever you work with? And don't you sense it when you look or read the art of others, at least sometimes?
I do, and I'm sure you do too. And isn't it also true that so much of the 'art' and what passes for 'culture' is vulgar? I mean vulgar as in lifeless, made to service the needs of ego, the market or other mundane purposes.
I do not suggest for a minute that artists (whatever their medium) shouldn't get paid or otherwise recognised for their work. All I say is that it is intention that is key with art. And surely it has not escaped your attention that most art with 'soul' doesn't earn its creators a lot of money. No?
I guess what I'm getting at is all of us who are trying to express through 'Art' and who have as our aim the recording, reporting or whatever of truth, should be encouraged. Every time we create something from our hearts, from our souls, with goodwill, then we set loose an energy that has a life of its own. Of course, the other side is also true: Roerich said every work of art is a dynamo: the resulting energy is there, for good or for ...
Beauty, Simplicity, and Fearlessness. There could not be a more positive, more true reason to get creating Art ... whatever that means for you.

Peace from me to you

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Got Oldies? They're ALL Goldies!

I don't usually read stuff in the papers about health, medical or death related stuff. (yes I know: how can I say I'm conducting an exploration/experiment in truth without looking at the inevitables of life like death. Good point, okay?). But on the weekend I found myself reading a column about the writer's sadness and problems with caring for his mother who was in a nursing home, nearing death from dementia.
He talks about his not so close relationship with his mother and her on-going deterioration as the dementia takes more of her mind. It's a cruel cruel thing, dementia. Anyway, as the months go by, he finds that his mother is less able to recognise him, except on the odd 'good day'. But, then, even those good days disappear and he is left sitting trying to cheer up this poor lady who he knows won't remember his visit, and who doesn't know him anyway.
Then, after many episodes of sitting and thinking sadly about the situation, many times of frustration about not being able to communicate with his mother, he starts telling her stories about shared experiences (there aren't many: as I said, they hadn't been close and he hadn't really lived with her for much of his childhood).
He sees that the times when he tells these stories are the only times his mother smiles and seems to be 'happy'. Of course he still knows she won't remember any of it, but so? He thinks the moment is enough. He feels better, she feels better. It's a happy result. For now at least.
Anyway, I want to share with you the last couple of sentences of the piece, as I think it applies to writers and other creative people 'suffering' a block or a low mood. I know many creative people also suffer from depression and from other mood problems: it goes with the territory I'm afraid. So, here it is:
Try this. Tell them the old sweet stories. It's a lot better than sitting there feeling sad.

Tell them the old sweet stories. And the not so sweet too. And if you are like me, a creative type who is constantly frustrated at not being able to get the stuff out that you want to, and which you know is there, then don't sit around feeling sad (which is what I do a lot of the time. How boring is that?), tell them some of the old stories.What kind of stories? There are many stories we all have: memories, ideas, opinions, fantasies. You name it. As a writer or other creative type, you know what I am saying.
Who is 'them'? I guess it's anyone who'll listen. It's the computer keyboard. It's your blog (hey! I could do that couldn't I?). It's your diary or notebook. It's any way you can get it down and out into the world. Which is where, after all, stories belong. Of course on a blog, or in your notebook or in a file on your hard drive, your writing may not be read by anyone other than you. But, it is the first step isn't it in the process of getting it read by others? You've got to start somewhere.I was feeling VERY sad today. Like I say, it's my usual way of being. So I sat in the local bakery, had a hot chocolate (just one: the other drinks I had were decaf coffee) and wrote a few pages in my journal. Then when I got home, I got out my laptop and started on this post. Nobody will ever read my journal (I think), but maybe someone will read this blog post. But you know something? I don't feel quite so sad, 'cos I've told you this little story.
Thank you for that.

A NOTE:
I hope nobody will think I am comparing my pathetic sadness with that suffered by the son of a parent who is losing their mind and their life to dementia. I cannot begin to get my head around that kind of sorrow and pain. Indeed, I hope that, by telling this story and adapting it for my own purposes, I do honour to the writer of that column, as well as to his mother who, after all found escape from what had been a hard life in that other world that is dementia.
I thank them for this story.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True. Cool quote eh?

Well, this post is not about the quote I've used for the title, but it is kind of related. As this blog is titled, in part, Dharma Dreaming, I seem to be attuned to any mention of the words or concepts when I come across them in books and stuff.
Now I've said that I have no idea what I was reading when I came across yet another definition of Dharma; it's one I've never seen before. This source said that an 'almost literal translation' of Dharma is, 'duty towards self'.
Nice eh? Just kind of resonated for me when I read it. Makes sense I think. If Dharma is the truth, the law (and I also read somewhere, the lore) of the universes, a guide to life, and on and on, then it makes sense that inbuilt in all that would be a duty to self, or a responsibility to yourself.
We always have a duty to tell the truth of course. But what we often forget is our duty, our responsibility, to express our own truth(s) in our actions, behaviours and attitudes. And we are certainly, many of us, guilty of not being consistent in our duty of care towards ourselves and our well being.
Of course you know what this means: eat right, do right, think right, treat yourself right. All that eight fold path stuff from the Buddha's teachings come into it as well. But in this context it's all about YOU and how YOU look after YOU. I'm not saying be a selfish so and so. Not at all. This is really more about being really you, and being the best you you can be. If you know what I mean. Too much use of you here for my liking!!!
And if you (and me) are the best you can be right now, right here (doesn't mean you're perfect; doesn't mean you have sorted it all out and life is all hunky dorey [what does that mean?], it really, I guess now I think about it, is about being fully present to what you're doing, who you're with and how you are.
Just about care of self. That's all. Of course it sounds really easy; if you're human, you know it's not so simple. All we can do is do our best. And if you do that, your best I mean, then you are truly and really being true to yourself. And that's about as perfect as anyone can expect you do be. Even if that someone is you!
Peace

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Let's Get Back to Kerouac: #8 Belief & Technique for Modern Prose

Yes folks, it's time to get back to Kerouac and his writing tips. All you legions and hordes of readers of my riveting blog will recall that a while ago (when was it?) I set out to write up a commentary on the a list by Kerouac called Belief & Technique for Modern Prose List of Essentials. My plan at that stage was to do one a day-and I kept that up for a week. Alas, I found it too much for some reason at that point. I think probably I was wanting to think of other things (not to mention my need to rid myself of the compulsion and rigidity when it comes to aims, goals and things I set out to do).
So, here we go again. This time it will be more of an occasional revisiting of the list. Well, I expect we will eventually reach the end: there are only 30 items in the list. But they are pretty wild items, and really get you thinking about writing, and your role and place as a writer. For the tiny minority of blog readers who haven't seen my commentaries thus far, please feel free to go back and read the Introduction, which is followed, of course, by posts which include my commentaries on the items I've covered up till now. Now, here we go folks.

Write what you want bottomless from the bottom of your
mind.

Now, don't say you always write what you want: who does in reality? Well I guess there are some people who just write what they like for themselves for fun kind of thing. Then there are the obsessive journal keepers (cest moi!) whose meanderings will never be viewed by another. Of course, for my part, I plan on leaving mine to some library: must be somewhere a library which collects the journals of people other than the famous ones.
But, for most of us, writing is about having it read. After all, isn't that what writing is about? A vehicle to communicate ideas, stories and other stuff to a wider audience? And few, very few of us can claim that all that we've written is exactly what we have wanted to write without exception. After all, even writers gotta eat, right?
What Kerouac is saying is just write what you want. That's it. Forget eating. Forget the requirements, restrictions and other freedom killing dictates of the world and its money making minions. See? Simple. No crap. Just write. Like I'm doing here I guess (gee how lucky can you readers get? Should be charging you for this stuff!)
Bottomless? I guess this one's self-explanatory, you think? Not sure it is now I think about it. The first 'bottomless' I think could translate to something like, let it all hang out, just write without limits imposed by, well, anything. The second one refers to the writer's (that's me, maybe you too?) mind. Dig deep, try to get your internal censors out of the way, at least for the first draft type stages, you dig?
But it isn't only about the ridding of our own censors and even inhibitions when it comes to allowing our fingers to fly their own ways. It's about digging deep in terms of finding what is there. Long forgotten memories, old ideas, snippets (cool word: snippets) of conversations or of people's faces from the past that rise to the surface from time to time without warning and with no explanation. All these things reside at the bottom of the storage box in our heads.
You can dig deep as in a kind of proactive exercise where you go hunting for stuff. Or you can simply grab hold of the odd things that you see poking up asking for attention from that bottomless pit (I mean that in the nicest possible way of course). How do you put yourself into the right place to be picking up this stuff, seeing as it's buried pretty deep in that pit?
Of course we all know and have heard many times about taking notice of our dreams, writing them down etc. This is a great way to pick up on stuff that is trying to rise above that bottomless place. Then there is the old 'walk on the beach/in the forest/around the lake/wherever' method of getting the whole system open to creative input and it sure can jolt up that bottom dwelling stuff like memories, old visions, and all.
How's this for an idea? Get a friend or someone to write you an opening line. Doesn't matter if it's of the 'Dark and stormy night' variety: the key is to have it written down for you. Then you sit in front of a blank piece of paper, or a blank document in Word, type the line and don't stop. That's right: don't stop, don't 'think' with your conscious mind or whatever you call it. Just type (or write if you're using paper. Blimey, imagine that? paper!).
Many writers have stories that have come out of such an exercise. I wrote one that got a distinction in a course i was on that started with NOTHING but the line, 'This day had been a long time coming'. Nice story too. Quirky and it brought up memories of a friend from school who'd had a hard time, thought life would be over by 21, so he was going to kill himself. (he didn't: he ended up moving states and joining the Socialist Party. Which some might say is a suicide of a kind).
And there must be lots of other ways to either actively access this bottomless place in our minds, or to have ourselves made receptive to what might rise from the surface. The key is to realise there is a bottomless place that can be used for our writing.
Write what you want, from the bottom of yourself and without limitations. You may not be able to use the resultant words to sell to a publisher (though of course you might be able to), but you will have helped yourself unleash (I was going to type untether. I think I like them both, those words) that part of yourself where creativity, truth, honesty and freedom live.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Possibly Amusing Picture and Poem Combo


Quite a while ago, 2005 to be precise, I was a student sitting in a poetry class, when the teacher gave us an exercise. 'Write a job advertisement looking for a muse in the form of a poem,' she said. Now, I wasn't really much of a poet (still not actually), but it was a groovy right brained balance to all the other non-fictiony, grammary, computery kind of classes I was also doing. So, as it was really just a class exercise, I thought, yes, I can do that. Mmmm.

Anyway, I didn't like the result, but the teacher and my fellow wannabe poets had a good laugh, and a couple even clapped. So, does that mean it's good or bad or just funny? Who knows? Who cares?

I came across the poem in a notebook the other day and typed it up. Better late than never I guess. Then I had a brilliant poetic kind of idea. I have a lot of photos of a statue called The Three Muses which is in a town just up the road from here called Deniliquin, or Deni to us locals. You dig? My big idea was to somehow put the poem together with a photo of the Muses. Cool eh? So, thanks to Photoshop and my lovely laptop, here is the result. You might like it; you might hate it. Why not tell me? A bit of fun anyway, and it got some creative juices flowing that have been pretty stagnant of late.
Enjoy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Are we there yet? I'm sooooo bored!!!!!

Boredom. Don't you hate it? Nothing to do, and if there is something to do you've done it a million times. Nothings happening, and you are bored, with a capital B. Now, I'm not going to get into a rave here about how, at least those of us fortunate enough to be able to read this blog (I mean no immodesty here: I refer to the access many of us have to the marvel which allows us to read it should we choose...and who wouldn't really?), live at the most materially prosperous, the most technologically advanced, the most information rich time in human history. I read a cool sentence the other day: We in the 'west' live in a culture of distraction. (While slightly paraphrased, it is still a very groovy description of our glutted, rich materialistic lifestyle don't you think? But that's a different story than the one for today. So, no lectures about getting over the boredom and enjoy your riches ... whatever form they take.

No, I am inspired today by a report I read today about a study put out by East Anglia University in England. Seems they did some heavy duty research into what the article called 'decades of studies on boredom'. If you ask me I can think of very few things more boring than studying boredom, but hey, whatever gets you interested, or whatever gets you the research grants, right?

Anyway, the report says that they published a paper last year that concluded,

'boredom should be recognised as legitimate human emotion that can be central to
learning and creativity'.

I think it's easy to see where they're coming from here. What happens when you come to be bored by something? I mean apart from complaining about it like I know I do sometimes. You try and change things; you try to fix whatever it is that's causing the boredom. Of course on a long train ride, let's say, you're not going to be able to make the train go any faster simply by wanting to relieve your own boredom. Hey, far out example eh? (not!)

But, for writers, boredom is an opportunity. It often strikes me when I'm 'not in the mood' for writing', or when I'm blocked, or when I'm tired. Whatever and whenever; it still hits hard sometimes. So, what to do? Well, I wouldn't mind guessing that I'm not the first one who's ever said to you, 'if you're bored, find something to do'. Am I right? Sure am.

Can't write? Then sort files, or 'shuffle papers' as a friend of mine use to say. You just never know what treasures you'll dig up. I found a poem, over a year old and long forgotten and neglected, the other day just by leafing through a notebook in a moment of idle boredom. (It isn't a treasure ... not yet anyway). Not in the mood to write? Then don't try; read a book, go for a walk, watch TV (please take care with this last piece of advice). Sleep even. The Dalai Lama said, according to my trustee daily Dalai Lama quote widget on my home page: Sleep is the best form of meditation. And we all know that Robert Louis Stevenson actually dreamed a lot of the stuff in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. When he was asleep that is.

Boredom is a powerful tool for creative types: I guess it can relate to what I was writing about yesterday: being driven to complete something, being overly goal oriented when it just isn't flowing, can lead to boredom. Better to stop pushing and just groove on the boredom; see where it takes you. Going with the flow I guess.

And boredom can strike anytime and anywhere. I think it can even happen when things seem to be going really well: the words are coming out, but they just aren't saying it. Know what I mean? Pretty scary when a writer is bored by her/his own stuff even while it's being written. Probably time to stop, give it up. Give into the boredom and leave it alone; do something else for a while.

So, I guess those researcher wallas might be onto something: boredom should be recognised as legitimate (sure feels that way when it hits don't you think?) and not denied or pushed through. A recognition that it can lead to a way towards creativity and its expression, will help us to acquire this recognition and acceptance more readily.

Now, I don't know about you, but I am starting to bore myself. So I am out of here. (Not really, it's just that we have a DVD to watch, and I am soooo easily distracted by such things)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Almost No Post today; Boy, are you lucky or what?

Yes, that's right: almost decided not to write a post today; I just couldn't be bothered. Tired I guess and it's been a long busy day. But, you see, I am a driven sort of person. Not that I write a post everyday; even the most casual of readers will be able to see that. It's just that today (and the last little while I suppose) I said, got to do a post. So, here I am. No real subject in mind of course, but there you are.

Perhaps we can think about being driven and what it means for a writer to be so inclined. There's the school of thought that says being driven is good: it's being determined, persevering and all that jazz. For me, being driven is a nightmare of stress, pressure, guilt when I don't do something and generally speaking, a real downer. Oh, here by driven I mean obsessive or fanatical or full of push push push. I don't mean the driven as in being driven in a car or taxi or whatever from one place to another. That kind of driven is very nice thank you very much. Of course it depends on who is doing the driving I guess.

But, back to driven as in being crazy possessed to get stuff done. What's the point? If it isn't coming, it isn't coming. Shouldn't we switch direction and put the pen down, close the laptop lid and pay attention to something else. Of course it's okay for that something else to be connected to whatever it is we feel driven to do: reading, thinking, going for a walk, making coffee or tea (tea for me please: trying to cut out the caffeine for now), or whatever else caters to our creativity or feeds our muse (mine also drinks tea and makes sure I don't drink coffee).

So, why am I doing this blog post? Well, I did eventually say to myself, no, you are not doing it; you have nothing to say, you are tired and you are just wanting to watch TV or do other quiet non-demanding stuff. Okay, then I went on and checked out a couple of sites I'd been meaning to look at, read a couple of emails (didn't answer them though) and just took it slowly for a time. Then, out of the blue, I opened up this blog, and just clicked on new post, and there we are. Or rather, here I am.

You see? All that mucking about, doing other routine stuff somehow got the creative juices flowing and as I said, here I am.

Cool eh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you a hoarder of the writerly kind?

Are you a hoarder? I don't mean do you have a closet full of clothes you don't need, or a house full of 'stuff' you think might come in handy one day. I'm referring to the idea of storing up ideas, thoughts, creative impulses. Are you saving all those wonderful ideas, great lines, perfect rhymes, for the perfect story/poem/book/whatever, to use them in? Do you have a kind of reluctance or unwillingness to actually get these things down on paper?
You're not alone! I'm like that; and I think it's not an uncommon trait for writers, artists and other creative types. For me I'm coming to realise that it's possibly a problem. Like, it it is a kind of fear or protectiveness of some kind. Maybe it's paranoia that my brilliant ideas might be stolen, used by others without my consent. Who can say? All I can say is that for me I am starting to feel that it might be the reason (or at least a part of the reason) that I experience a block sometimes. Quite a lot of the time I am consumed by the need to be creative, to create, but I just can't.
I was thinking about all this, then the other day I read a story in the paper about a short story writer who has just published her first novel. In the story she's quoted as saying:
'I realised that the impulse to hoard is the opposite to the impulse that you
need to be creative'


Suddenly I thought, yes! That's exactly right: like when you have logjam in a river that stops the water flowing freely. It's exactly how I feel so often lately: all blocked up, nothing able to flow freely. The author goes on:
'What we need to do is just keep giving it all away, keep spending it all, keep
putting everything down on page.'

I guess that, when we don't hoard anymore, when we are in the flow of giving it all away, getting it all down as it comes, when we stop being so miserly with the words we are gifted with, then maybe the miracle happens: new ideas, and even more productivity just might rise to the surface.'

As that writer said, 'It just keeps on coming downstream'.

Ideas, as we all know, are such fleeting sensitive little things (or big things sometimes?) and they just sink and disappear forever if we don't let them out, give them free rein to do their thing. And I have another interpretation on that writer's 'giving it all away': I think it can be taken literally, as in giving the idea, the writing, the story away-to the world; to other people. We can get all fearful in this too can't we? We want to hang onto the brilliant (in our own mind) ideas for ourselves, either for ego reasons or for hope of future earnings or other rewards.

Well, now is the only time there is as all the self-help gurus will tell you. So, let's all just give it away. Get it down and out there. Who knows what will happen then? And if someone does steal your idea and write the next blockbuster or next Booker Prize winner? Karma. That's what will happen to them. Meanwhile you have shared the gifts you have been given with the world at the same time of clearing that stream of your own consciousness that will allow the flow of your own future winners.

By the way, I posted a newly written poem in my last post. I tend to hoard pieces like that. More out of shyness and inhibition that anything else. But it was that story I've quoted here that prompted me to put it right out there. Want to read it? Here's the link. Go!!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Share with Me: The Birth of a Poem.

I finished a poem today, and I would like to share its birth with you, my faithful readers (if indeed there are any of you out there). It began, this poem, as I sat as a passenger driving through the country near our home here on the Murray River. And I finished it over a cup of tea at our local bakery following a stroll and a lie down on a log staring up at the speeding (is the word scudding? Sounds like a nautical thing) down by the river, listening to the whistles of the river paddle steamers as they plied the tourist trade.

Now that I've got you all psyched up, the poem has more or less (not sure which is correct; help me out here?) nothing to do with either the river or the country around or the bakery or me being a passenger which I'm not very often as it happens.

It's about my father. And another person he met on the day in question. Sad story all round really. But let the poem speak for itself. I lay no claim to it being a 'good' poem-or otherwise really. In fact it really is a first draft; I have only just now finished the first typing of it into my lovely laptop filing system.

So,here it is for your interest. Any feedback will be gratefully welcomed-whatever it is that's said. It is a gift anyway, from me, to you. Whoever you are.

A Sunshine Coast Meditation Session

Sitting close, thigh to thigh

on the tiny two seater settee.

Left hand on the one, clutches the right

of the other.

Fingers entwined in desperation

as they both, the two of them,

teeter on the rim

of the waiting

yawning

all devouring

abyss.

Alone—and lonely.

Loneliness oozes from the pores

of aging skins. The psyches

too, are lost.

Spiralling towards

Annihilation.

Echuca Australia

September 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Can Type. Can You? Try it: You'll Like it

We all use keyboards every day. This means we all type in some form or other every day as we interact with our keyboards. And of course this doesn't just apply to the writers (or wannabes) amongst us: even to keep the most basic of blogs, one has to type in the words.
But how many of us can actually type? I mean as in with all fingers, in the right order and without having to watch each finger as it struggles to find the right key. According to some research I read recently, there aren't many computer users who can type in a structured way. Most just peck away, one or two or more fingers at a time, struggling to make the words come out on the screen in a readable way.
And what's worse is that this same research suggests that as time goes by, the number of 'real typists' using computers is set to decline dramatically. Of course there is the argument (used by many to justify their own lack of skill in this area) that it's only a matter of time before speech recognition and keyless computers become the norm.
Well, I'm no tech geek, but I figure it's going to be a while before we reach that wonderful state of affairs. Sad or not, we are going to be using the old QWERTY or some other keyboards for some time to come.
I guess there are many many people who are quite happy using the reach and peck method, or are contented to be using two fingers to type a word every minute. But what of all the others who might want to get the words onto the screen just a little bit quicker?
About 20 years ago (actually it was 24 years now I think about it, but hey who's gonna count?) I decided that I hated my handwriting so much, that I needed to do something about it. Also, times were such that submitting articles and so on to newspapers etc, had to be typed to be taken seriously. Also I was seriously into letter writing (remember letters? That's another cool topic for another day), and nobody I am sure enjoyed getting my scrawled pages. I figured that nice, neat typewritten pages were what my readers deserved.
So I found a night school class at the local high school. Ten weeks I think it was, though it might have been five or six. A couple of hours one night a week of torturous drills and repetitive exercises. I was convinced for most of that course that I would never be able to type accurately, much less with any kind of speed.
Then, on the second last night I think it was, I realised suddenly that I was typing. I was using ten fingers, hitting mostly the right keys, without looking, without even being conscious of the process. I tell you people, it was magic, truly magic.
Since then I have had jobs that I wouldn't have had if I hadn't been able to type; I've progressed from typewriters, to word processors, to desk tops computers, to this machine I love so much: my laptop (which is actually on my lap as I type). My speed had increased so I now type I guess about 60 words per minute with reasonable accuracy (most of the time at least). In summary, I can't imagine not being able to type.
I've often said that learning to type properly was one of the best things I ever did in my life. And, yes, I think it is. Certainly from a work, writing, communication point of view, there is no doubt: being able to type as I do has been a liberation, on a par with learning to drive and having my own car. A miracle? In a sense you could say it is, yes.
As I said, it seemed hard at the time, like I would never get it. But, there I was that night just typing. Just like now, but probably a bit slower.
So, for anyone wanting to improve their ability to communicate; for anyone wanting to be able to get their words and thoughts out as quickly as they come to mind (well I do think faster than I can type, like most people I guess. But it beats doing it with two fingers); for people who just want to be able to interact in a more intuitive way with the amazing technology we have at our disposal, then learning to type is for you!
There are night school and other places that put on typing classes. And there are quite a few online programs, and it seems many of them are free. Of course there is a load of teach yourself typing software you can buy. There are a lot of options.
So, why not? I love that I can type as I do with all my fingers,without looking at the keys (or even the screen if I don't want to or can't for some reason), without thinking about every letter. It is freedom for anyone who uses a keyboard.
I say try it. You won't regret it and you will probably, like me, surprise yourself at how useful, how much fun, how rewarding and satisfying it is to type well...or touch type as we typists call it!
Good Luck

I Can Type. Can You? Try it. You '

No Kerouac Today, the vibe has gone away

To all my millions of valued readers, I am sorry. Today I am having a break from my commitment to write a commentary on each and every one of Jack Kerouac's writing techniques. I've done seven in a row, and somehow today, the muse is saying, hey man, give it a rest can't you? So, what is a writer to do? One can't just ignore the muse can one?
I intend to get back to it though, so never fear. Kerouac's list of writing techniques under the name of Belief and Technique for Modern Prose is truly invaluable, and I would like to continue my reflections on them here, on this blog for your benefit. Mine too of course. For any of you who have not thus far had the good fortune to connect with my post on these techniques, you can go to the first post simply by clicking here! I don't think you will be overly disappointed.
Meanwhile, I might just see what comes up for today's post, which of course is not this post.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blow Deep, Blow Hard: Be a Writer Man

Blow as deep as you want to blow

‘Ain’t this the way to live life? Just go for it. Just do it man. Dig? Simply get down and boogie with whatever rhythms your life offers up to you. Seems all there is to say today. So that’s it. No more from me. No, only kidding. Thought you were getting off easy didn’t you? Not with me you don’t. So, stick around, see what happens. Go with the flow, okay?

I dig music, like most people. But I don’t play an instrument, and I am not overly expert on musicology, nor do I have an understanding of all the stuff your average muso talks about. I guess I just dig what I dig and not bother with what I don’t. Know what I mean?

Kerouac, on the other hand really did know his stuff. His jazz stuff that is. You only have to search out on YouTube or whatever to for clips of Jack reading On the Road or something else and I think it’s when he was on, is it, the Ed Sullivan show and the guy is playing a couple of piano riffs (hey, I do know this music lingo...groovy), while Jack reads. You can really feel the music in his language. In addition, I’ve really got this since I’ve been reading the scroll version of On the Road: one long paragraph, less controlled or edited language than we find in the published version of the novel.

Another thing that comes across in the Scroll version is the real deep way in which Kerouac and Cassidy really blew, really dug what they were doing. Just read the sequence near the end where they’re in the brothel in Mexico and there’s music being played really loudly over loudspeakers. The scene really vibrates with the music that the reader can almost here. Well this reader could anyway.

What Kerouac is talking about when he says for us writers to blow as deep as want to, is just that. Really let it all hang out, put our hearts, souls, whatever into the words. Just like a jazz horn player. In Kerouac’s books, we meet them now and again and they really do just blow. Jazz is their world, their language, their, expression. Their lives really.

And isn’t that the case for us really truly type writers? Those jazzmen blow 'cos they ain’t got no choice: it’s who and what they are. Of course, they, like you and me and everyone else are lots of other things too: I’m not just a writer: I am a man, I am a husband, I am a groovy dude. You name it, there is no limit to the number of ways we can define ourselves with old misleading, limiting I am.

Anyway, getting badly sidetracked there. Sorry about that. Where was I? Yes. Most of us write because we have to, we can’t help it; we are not the same when we can’t write. Which for some of us, like me, means we are not quite ourselves a lot o the time! On my profile I have a sentence I like as a way of defining me: I write, therefore I am. Cool eh?

Same with the jazzman: he blows, therefore he is. Basically, put aside all this waffley stuff I’m going on with. You just gotta write, dig? Just blow! You can even apply it to all those other areas of your life that inform your writing: live to the full man. Just blow real deep in whatever you are doing or being or whatever.

Enough crapparooni from me. Today’s technique from old Jack isn’t too complicated, doesn’t take too much explanation, analysis, dissecting, or intellectualising. Not too hard to understand at all. You just gotta blow as deep as you want. And, man, that’s all there is to it. ‘Ain’t no writer ever born who amounted to anything who didn’t understand, who didn’t really and truly dig this advice.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Be a Dumbsaint: It's the groovy writer's way

Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind

Kerouac uses wors like crazy, dumb and saint an awful lot. I’m not sure I always like his usage or agree with it. But, hey, it’s not for me to say is it? His work is his work and I’m only the reader. But as advice for writers? Well, I think there is much here to reflect upon, or to be honest, to just dig!

I think Kerouac is using the word crazy to mean extremely enthusiastic or unrestrained. Or perhaps bewildered, bemused and or wandering. Not sure he means to tell us to be insane or mad—at least not in the mental illness context of the words anyway. Mind you, having said that, I feel obliged to point out that there is quite a lot of evidence for mental illness amongst his characters. That, however, is not the topic under discussion here.

I think any writer wanting to get to the truth, to the essence of their experiences has to be a little crazy in that positive, free, unrestrained and cruisy kind of way that Mr Kerouac talks about. There are a couple of other synonyms for crazy that my trusty Oxford Dictionary has thrown up. It can mean ‘full of cracks or flaws’, and ‘made up of irregular pieces’. I think they are kind of self-explanatory don’t you think? Good for a writer to think on for a bit though.

It’s kind of groovy that he has combined dumb and saint into one word. I think it should be in the dictionary: dumbsaint.

Dumb has many many meanings in the dictionary and a whole pile of synonyms in the Thesaurus. I’m not going to go on about all of them, so you can relax! For me, Kerouac is using dumb to mean empty headed, in that nice way of a cultivated emptiness which is required when one want to be open to receive new experiences, knowledge or whatever. Foolish too, in the sense of being the Fool about to step on the road, take the leap, get to the fork in the road and take it. You know? It’s the beginning of a journey that’s worthwhile (in this case the writer’s journey.

He might even be thinking of dumb as in silent or quiet. A prerequisite if true learning is to take place, and if one is going to be fully open and ready to dig what’s happening.

Now we get to saint. A nice word even if you don’t go in for all this analytical stuff. A saint is a very holy person (holy can mean a lot of things on its own: look it up), a virtuous person, respectful. A mystic who approaches life reverently. Otherworldly too, in the sense that they are or strive to be, in this world but not of this world (I really dig that idea, how about you?). That doesn’t mean unworldly (which Roget’s stegosaurus tells me is also a synonym for saintly): that would suggest a bad case of negative naivety or something. It’s more about a holy innocence. You dig?

So, I don’t know about you, but I would really like to be a dumbsaint. Innocent, other-worldly, the Fool embarking on a wonderful journey and open to the insights, knowledge and experience that go to make up not only our life journey, but all that we wish to write about, to to say in our writing.. Quiet too. Too often too many writers (just like the rest of the human race) like to talk too much, make too much noise. And if they aren’t making the noise, they are swamped in it from outside.

Oh, forgot the mind bit. Hey, us dumbsaint writerly types aren’t into that mind trip, you dig? We just groove with vibe of the incoming. Amen!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Can You Feel it? There's something forming

Something that you feel will find its own form

This one is so much about how I think, feel, and want to live my life-and write. It is a summary of how to live a good life-and how to write too. I'm so in tune, I dig it so deeply, that I hardly know what to write about it here. But I will give it a good try, while trying not to muck it up with an overly intellectual analysis and so on.

It is very Buddhist, don/t you think? It isn't hard to see where old Mr Kerouac is coming from here. It is a basic Buddhist type teaching that we are the products of our thoughts, or feelings. And of course it is a basic concept we hear a lot about in the self development, spiritual development, even the foodies tell us we are what we eat. You KNOW what I mean, right?

And in an ideal world, all writers (as well as everyone else) would dig the idea and go with it and let it be a part of their lives. Of course we don't live in any kind of ideal world do we? But it's an idea we can take on board as writers. If we feel it, or think it, then we can allow ourselves to know it will take some kind of form-in time.

It may that the form it takes isn't the one we had in mind, or that we tried to force it into. Feelings are really their own things, just as thoughts are. And the forms they take are also their own things. Not up to us to interfere too much I think. I guess it is a kind of intuition thing: the feeling comes, the feeling develops, and takes shape and form. In writerly terms we could say: the feeling or idea comes, it evolves in our minds or in our notebooks or whatever, then spews out the other end in the form of a story, poem, article, essay, novel, or some other written or creatively genius type form.

This leads me to the other thought I had about this. It might be that the 'something' that you feel is not so much a feeling as in emotion or even idea or whatever. Dig my meaning here please. In this kind of case it isn't so much a feeling of yours that needs to take form; it is full blown entity (I use the term loosely here, I think), a full blown formed story. You know how it is: a full blown narrative or poem or whatever bursts into mind fully formed already. Your job then is to get out of the way and let it come out in its own time and in its own way. It's time to get the pen moving across the page or the fingers pounding the keyboard. It is like we become the channels for the thing-this something that Kerouac refers to.

It's important to have faith in those feelings, whether they are 'feelings' in the normal sense of the word or when we feel there is something bursting to get out. It's about trusting that these somethings are are capable of taking their own forms, with sometimes minimal help or input from us.

The last thought that strikes me is that things we feel (in both the senses I mention above) will take their own form, whatever we do. We can struggle and resist, struggle to help them out, and perhaps distort the form they take, but they will take form regardless. Or we can trust our feelings (again in both the senses discussed) and let them flow, get out of the way, and let them take the form they are meant to take, the forms that will perhaps serve us better anyway. For a writer this is invaluable advice. Harks back to No. 1 I think: Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy.

I think if we can move beyond the need to control or manipulate our feelings and thoughts and allow them to take their own form, then we can move closer to the point where we can say, I am a writer of truth and real life.

Enough. Hope it doesn't sound too much like waffle. Just typing wildly is all.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Life is for Loving: Yr Life that is. Kerouac's No. 4

Be in love with yr life

As I did some research (and being a writer, I just LOVE research. Sure, I hear you scoff) on this, Kerouac's No. 4 Technique, I was astonished to see the number of conversations happening across the 'net on the topic. More specifically I was looking at the idea of 'love vs being in love'; many others are thinking about this question too. So many heartfelt, clearly thought out and expressed ideas took my breath away. Thanks to those people.

At the end of my research I've come to the conclusion that love is love. You know? But being in love is thought to be either that early falling, the intense emotion that goes with that first attraction (to a lover or whoever), or it is an intensity you can grow into over time, after that initial attraction gets labelled love and so it goes from there.

But this is a tip for writers, so let's keep it in mind shall we? Being in love with life. No, sorry YOUR life (or as Kerouac put it, yr life) most likely means saying YES to it all. It all being the ups, downs, quiet times, good times, bad times, fun times, poverty times, riches times. All times. And places that you find yourself in, or have chosen to be in, for good or ill, as the expression goes.

It means a full on, emotionally committed engagement with all that your life is and what it brings to you. Isn't this what writers do? I guess if they are really writers they do: they really dig life. Or as Robert Heinlein wrote in Stranger in a Strange Land, really and truly grok the whole deal.

You don't need me to tell you that life stinks sometimes. And it's hard to think about loving (or being in love with) those bits. Life can occasionally (or even often) be a real downer, and it can be hard to imagine just why or how we could love it at those times. Actually, anyone who has read Kerouac, will see how much of his life wasn't exactly a bed of roses or something easy to fall in love with. But, again those same readers (this one included) will also say that it is clear he was in love or loved his life. He just dug it. Yes?

Whatever my research told me, I know that for most of us, 'being in love' is a romantic notion, most often attached to a lover, girl or boyfriend. We sure don't talk about being in love with our cats do we? Mind you. Looking now at one of mine (Lofi is his name: a variant on Lofa which is Tongan for love by the way) curled up on his favourite paddling blanket on the end of the sofa, I could begin to wonder if it is possible. But, whatever, we usually only 'fall in love' in that romantic sense. Still 'romantic' does have other meanings than that which we associate with lovers loving., marriage and all that. That's a subject for another lifetime I think.

No, maybe it isn't . Maybe that's what Kerouac is saying: marry your life. Now that's a thought isn't it? Follow the link for the meaning of grok: it seems to me to be a lot like that intuitive (as opposed to all this intellectualised, researched stuff about the subject) understanding most of us have of being in love. And, as for the relevance to writing and writers (and to other creatives). Well, as it says on that entry in Wikipedia:

...a grokked concept (in this case your life) becomes part of the person
who contributes to its evolution by improving the doctrine, perpetuating the
myth, espousing the belief, adding detail to the social plan, refining the idea
or proofing the theory.



Sounds pretty much what we do, don't you think?

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's only words. But words are all I have: Kerouac's No 3

Try never get drunk outside yr own house

A quick googley and you get a million sites and blogs that cite this one. About the deepest comment I've found on it is a discussion on the shortened your as in yr being pre text messaging abbreviations. Heavy. Oh and there was a joke somewhere else about not yelling like you are drunk outside your house...especially at a cop. A bit better that one.

But nowhere does nobody have any real stuff to say about what the heck Kerouac means by this one, this is especially mystifying if we realise (as we should if we are reading this series of posts on his techniques for Modern Prose) that it's a piece of advice directed to writing and writers. Problem here is that there aren't many writers I've ever met, read, heard of, read about, who don't get drunk outside (and inside) their own houses. And I think this includes poor old Kerouac himself.

No, it's not as easy as that. It can't be. Let's see what a bit of free flowing thinking will do. Or should I say, let me type on for a bit and see what comes up. I got a clue last night when my partner said to me that it sounds like one of those Zen sayings, a Koan even. A good place to start, eh?

Read carefully the structure of the sentence if you will. It doesn't say Try never to get drunk outside yr own house, as you would expect if he meant 'Make an effort to not get drunk outside...'. It's as if he could be saying, try a thing called 'never get drunk' outside yr own house. It's like a concept of some kind, this never get drunk. Now, I see you roll your eyes: that makes no sense at all. And, sadly, you might be right.

Anyway, let's move on. Let's say it is an advice to try a concept, then Kerouac is saying try it outside yr house, as opposed to inside. Maybe it's something you've already tried inside your house; maybe it's something that you've never tried, but do it outside anyway.

So, this advice may not be about getting drunk, or rather not getting drunk. It is (perhaps) about some esoteric, mysterious (or is it mystical?) concept of never get drunk. And that, my dear readers out there in cyberspace, could mean anything.

Anyway, here are my two first thoughts when I read this tip of Jack's. Actually, I had three thoughts. The first was, I have no idea what this means. Then I thought, oh maybe he's left out the to (just as he shortened his your to yr ... simply shorthand Dr Watson) and it's a simple piece of advice about staying sober (as if we could give such advice by old Mr Kerouac any credence whatsoever). But, then I thought, no the 'missing' to just doesn't belong there. It didn't feel right.

And then I thought, it's advice to not go airing your dirty laundry in public. Meaning, I guess, stay cool, be objective, don't get involved with your 'subject' (as in you being a writer that is and all what happens being the potential subject for your writing), keep your mouth shut so you can hear what's going on. And on and on. Get the picture?

If you do, you're a better analyst of such things that I am. In the end I still have little idea what Kerouac means here. It could be, in the end, as simple as 'Don't get drunk in public, stay in control (you being a writer and all), get private kicks at home, keep the public ones on an even keel'.

Still, it does read nice don't you think? Try never get drunk outside yr own house. I like the shortened your. I like that there is no to (by the way, what part of speech is the missing to? Anyone? I looked it up but got muddled.

I was leafing through my (very much UNread) The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (by Kerouac of course), as I tried to puzzle my way through this thing. I came across something that I feel really fits with the occasion. Good advice for me. Good advice for you.
''When you've understood this scripture, throw it away. If you can't understand this scripture, throw it away. I insist on your freedom.''

I don't think it gets better than that. I pray that one day I can take that advice on board completely, totally and freely without reservation.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Be Ever So Humble-and Feel the Power!

Submissive to everything, open, listening.
This, the second of Kerouac's techniques for Modern Prose writing, seems on the face of it a little confusing. Kerouac submissive? Hardly. He was a rebel, stood up for what he believed and did his own thing, never (hardly ever) kowtowing to anyone's authority. He sure as hell wasn't passive, and you could never say he yielded to any authority. Docile? Not Kerouac. Subservient? Never!
Of course I think there could be some argument that all the above might not actually be correct. But, not being any kind of expert or authority on Kerouac, I can't get into that discussion-at least not right now. So, let's just think about our general kind of impression of the guy, the one we get from On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and so on. Submissive is not a word most of us would use to describe the Kerouac we encounter there.
What about as a writing technique (we will get to the open and listening bits soon)? Could we say that he was submissive when it came to writing? I think we can-definitely. I think what Kerouac means by be submissive to everything is to give in to it all. Be humble in the face of all we do and experience; don't put ourselves 'above' others or situations. I guess, in a sense he is saying something like, 'don't judge' a situation or person or event or whatever. Just dig it. That's what he's saying. Do you dig?
Could he also be saying that, as writers, we should be submissive, that we should yield, to our ideas, intuitions? To the muse? (whatever our particular muse might be) He is saying, don't judge those ideas, intuitions whatever; go with it. Don't analyse or rationalise your way out of obedience to those things by a 'superior' kind of attitude that comes with a tendency to not want to submit or 'give in'.
Humility in our approach to our writing, to the ideas, the intuition or the guidance of our muse, that's what he's talking about I think. Surrender to the flow of our lives, to whatever happens is his message. Of course, we Kerouac freaks know he was the great surrenderer (in this context at least) don't we? You only have to dig On the Road, or even better for me The Dharma Bums. Yes?
And here we get to the be open and listen part of the advice. Open to firstly the flow of ideas, intuitions, to the muse. Yes. Then it's also about being open to other people, to the stuff going on around us. Also within us I guess. Open to the messages of our heart, our 'soul' you might say. Open also to the people we meet and what they have to say. Of course we also have to keep our minds open, but not so open that our brains fall out (where did that silly idea come from? Must have heard it somewhere).
Part of being open, of course is to listen. With our ears, of course. But, again, with our hearts, minds, souls. Our bodies even. And we have to listen to our hearts, to our minds, to our souls, and to our bodies. Probably good to listen to other people too while we're at it! Here he means, I mean really listen. Dig?
It really is all about being submissive to everything isn't it? All good and true writers must be. Never means that we have to become Uriah Heap (the Dickens character, not the very groovy '70s band) and wring our hands, grovel, or 'yes sir' anyone. In fact, a true submission to what our lives offer us is really nothing less or more than an acceptance-of the flow of our lives. And, when you think about it, that really is quite a powerful position to be in. It puts us in the here and the now of the flow of life. And that means that we are exactly where we should be if we are going to be the true witnesses to life that as writers we are aiming to be. Well, at least that's what I'm aiming for anyway. Among other things.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kerouac's No. 1 is my No. 1. Read it and weep for joy

Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr [sic] own joy.

How often have those of us who've taken creative writing classes heard the advice, 'have fun with your writing', or 'write about the things you like/enjoy/care about', or 'if you don't enjoy writing, don't do it'. Or many other similar pieces of advice.

But, how many of us actually take this advice on board? Sure some of us may end up writing about things we like, we may actually enjoy writing sometimes (or maybe often if we're lucky). But when you think about it, when you're totally honest with yourself (and I include myself here), how many of us can say that these ideas truly represent our motivations, our reasons for getting to our desk or keyboard and actually writing? I might be wrong, but I reckon there are very few writers who can truly say they in it for the fun, enjoyment, joy, whatever.

We all have different reasons to write. Money, for those of us who have to eat is a biggie. So is the drive to see our names or our words in print. A desire to be free of the constraints of a boss is another reason some of us choose to be writers (of the freelance variety I mean). Of course there are the many many very often brilliant writers who define themselves as 'amateurs'. They are the ones who will tell you they are in it for the joy of writing, for fun, for interest, an so on.

But, even with them, it's hard to say that joy plays that big a part. Again, it is often (in my experience with writing groups, classes, etc) the desire to see one's name and work in print, a competitive spirit, that provide the drive to write.

Not many of us, I suspect would just sit at the keyboard whip out 'wild typewritten pages' just for the joy of it. We're too busy worrying about grammar, or who will buy the piece we're working on, or will i t win the competition, or will so and so like it. On and on go our inhibitors to joy filled, wild abandoned typewritten pages.

By the way, I am typing this on my laptop, which is literally on my lap as I sit in my living room. I wonder what Kerouac would have done with a laptop. Talk about the tool for wild typewritten 'pages'. When he sat down to write On the Road he typed onto a scroll of paper; this is well known of course and the scroll edition is truly a wonderful, wild read. But he didn't just grab a telex role like I always assumed and use that. He actually taped many pieces of paper together to form the scroll. He actually prepared himself for the typing and writing stint that was to come: he didn't want to be interrupted by having to change the paper in the typewriter. How fortunate we are that we don't even have to think about such things: we can type till we want to stop and then some.

Gathered around him as he wrote On the Road, Kerouac had his many notebooks, filled over the years as he went about his life and adventures. He himself said these, along with memory, were key sources for the material that went into the novel, as well as his other books of course.

These 'secret notebooks', what were they? Were they diaries? I think he did keep a diary, at least at some point: I've seen quotes from it. But mostly these notebooks were filled with his observations, names, dates, all sorts of stuff he recorded along the road. The secret part is interesting. Kerouac used to say he would 'sketch' a scene or event in words, on the spot or soon afterwards.

I guess there were many reasons why these notebooks were secret: whipping out a notebook and pen could easily become a real downer as one goes about getting one's kicks, I think. Also, if you keep a notebook or diary, you know yourself that they can interfere with the actual living of the life one wants to record in those pages.

But I think for Kerouac, secret has another meaning here. These notebooks were just for himself. Who knows what they contain? Other than the above mentioned observations that is. Fantasies, secret heart reflections, you name it. It's probably all there.

He says, with this first 'technique', that if you are to write, really write, you need to do it at least sometimes just for yourself, nobody else, and for no other reason than because it is for you. And for joy too of course. How hard this is! We always think everything we do has to have a purpose, a goal. We think of something that is done for no other reason than to please ourselves is frivolous, selfish, self-indulgent, a waste of time that could be better utilised doing something else.

Well, I for one am totally sick of always having to have a reason for every little thing I do! I think it is really appropriate that this technique is number 1 on Kerouac's list: it is a number one top notch, very groovy, and right on piece of advice.

Everyone who reads this (assuming anyone at all does read it) has the tool at their fingertips to indulge is some wild typing (by the way, I read an article that says a huge percentage of computer users can't actually type 'properly'. I did a night school course many years ago and can say it is one of the very best things I have done in my life, if you know what I mean. Now I touch type 40 or 50 words a minute and think of it as a miracle. Do it yourself and you'll see what I mean.

Get a notebook, if you don't already have one. And if you do have one start using it with abandon; keep it secret, as in from others as well as in terms of what you put in it being just for you. Some call this a writer's or artist's journal or diary. Doesn't matter what you call it. Just go for it.

I'm going to do it anyway. Never been that uninhibited with my writing, even in my personal journal I've been keeping for 30 odd years (imagine that?). Thanks to the blogger who put up Kerouac's techniques and Kerouac himself (I have a hell of a lot to thank that dude for), I now have a tool and the incentive to really let go, be myself, go wild with my typing. Who knows what will eventuate? Who can say what gifts I will receive by opening up, letting go, being free.

That's it for today. Can't wait to think about technique number 2 and share some of my thoughts on it tomorrow. Until then, good writing!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kerouac's Belief & Technique for Modern Prose: My Commentary Begins

I heard about Kerouac's list of writing tips called Belief & Technique for Modern Prose from the search I have set up in Tweeter for anything Kerouac (being a bit of a Beat, as well as beat-lower case-tragic). The tweet led me to a blog on which the blogger had posted the list, along with a list of tips from Kurt Vonnegut. As anyone who knows Kerouac's writing would already be guessing, his are a bit crazy, a little way out there, some verging on the mystical, others on the edge of reason. I don't really know Vonnegut's writing at all, but his tips are a bit more down to earth and even more directly related to the craft of writing-at least in the sense of mundane technical skills and so on. Also he has a nice succinct list of eight, while Kerouac has 30 on his list.

As soon as I read the Kerouac list I was blown away - just as it seems many people have been judging by the comments over at that other blog. Oh, almost forgot to give you all the address. It is: www.halfdesertedstreets.com/ . And an interesting site it it too. Very inspirational and friendly too. The blog owner calls themselves a book dork. Now that is something to be proud of, don't you think? I'm happy to have that label on me too. Just have to read a bit more first!

Anyway, I had this idea I would like to comment on at least some of 'tips' Kerouac offers. Then I thought, why not do a full blown bit of a commentary on a few of them that really struck me? But I thought then (lots of thinking going on here...makes a change my friends would say!) I would take the list from start to finish and comment on each tip in turn. It occurred to me that this may be the best way to do Kerouac's list justice. After all he chose to list the tips in the order that he did; maybe he was thinking clearly when he did it and prioritised the tips, or maybe he was off his face and was just rapping and it all came out in any old crazy and irrelevant order. Who knows? Hey, maybe someone out there does know??? Wow, that would be groovy. Let me know please!!!

So, that's what I'm going to do: Starting tomorrow I am going to work through the list. What a challenge; what a way to hon0ur one of my writing heroes. (which is not the same as saying he is one of my heroes for my life; but that's another VERY BIG story for another far off day).

Number 1 on Kerouac's list says:

Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr [sic] own joy.

Isn't that wild? Oops. Not now. Tomorrow. I want to sleep on this idea and let it just sink in. I want to really dig it before I go spouting off about it.

I feel one thing about Kerouac that needs to be said here and now. I believe strongly that he always struggled very hard for the truth. Not always in the way you or I might (or would dare?), and not always in ways that actually led anywhere useful (useful being a matter of perspective of course). But the search was genuine, of that I have never had any doubt, nor have most other serious readers of his work. This is why he fits here, on this blog. Besides, he is also a great writer: any tips he has are worth at least a little thought for any writer.

It is kind of a nice fit that his work was for a time influenced by Buddhism and his interpretation of the Dharma. And he was a dreamer too, wasn't he? And many since have used his work and life to inform their own Dreaming, their own searches for truth and life.

So, tomorrow then. I thank my fellow blogger for sharing these tips with all of us. Of course I and anyone could have found (perhaps should have found them before now) this list on our own, but the fact is, I didn't. Now I have. As I wrote on my comment on that blog: VERY GROOVY.