I am Reviewing the Situation….
‘Lethargy, that toothless crone
Skims perpetual indifference
From the cream of richer care…’ (From A Shadow in Yucatan)
When I want to know what I think or feel I write a poem. It’s my personal pendulum. It takes five minutes and then I sit down with the inescapable and try to decide what should be done. The poem that follows is far from my best, neither subtle nor ambivalent. But this post is to reveal the multi-dimensions of the creative process and what feeds in. I intend to un-peel without editing, corrections or censorship. The Editor within will be ignored. She has never done me any good. I am determining my future so be forgiving, please. We’ll start with the conversation with my subconscious- never able to obfuscate…
Coming to Terms -(You have only yourself to blame)
‘It is the latest newest insight
You dream your own existence,
You shape your everyday,
No fault accrues to others
For your malignancy.’
‘Until yesterday I harboured hope
Hope would soon deliver
Hope would celebrate
I had but to stand ready to catch
The flowered coronet
The leap to opportunity
The harnessing of stallions
The flying mares of surf
Last night I gently smothered hope
Blocked her future breathing
Closed her eyes with copper coin; Removed
From her hand, the close-clutched quill
Laid belief in a bassinet.’
‘Of indifference you’d forged a Charter
Of rejection a lipsticked rent
You defied all attempts to trim the sails
Of time or confidence. Took life
Like a bull at gate.’
‘Am I just tired of bruising encounter
The shrug and politesse?
Exchange paid up, or forward
In tips or lists or kisses
The ‘likes’ bestowed on pages
Suffice to keep us moving
The cliff face of despairing
Steepens with every step.’
‘You have smacked hard against the reckoning;
That walking itself is the journey,
Loneliness never diminished
By singing in a chorus
Or beating a common drum.’
‘I don’t remember choosing
The noose of solitude, or
Ideas above my station, or
A love affair with words.
I accepted your single servitude
To fashion gifts in kind.
I have wrung out a new philosophy
(Mostly saline soaked)
Scratched graffiti on the sidings
When wit offered me a wink
Impromptu painted posters
(Vivid, dripping wet…)
Nobody is listening’
‘What made you think they would?’
Strand One. Pretty close to despair.
I acknowledge that I came at the self publishing world backwards; no platform, no fellowship, no facility with IT, no community, nor a group of colleagues, a lifelong solitary so very few friends. The main book I felt was important ( Involution-An Odyssey) was the longest autobiography ever written. It began on the Serengeti plains circa 3 million years ago ( if not earlier) and ended with what the Russians were doing the day before yesterday. Yes also acknowledged as mad. (See Chris Graham’s kind guested post ‘Are You Mad?’)
The Authorpreneur. If anyone can come up with a less attractive concept or word I’d be glad to hear it.
Since then two years have been spent in catch up, site designed, blogging nearly consistent, daily hour or more reading others and commenting, I have been interviewed written articles and been the subject of a generous near obituary by Brian George. A lesser book published ( to offer a small easier introduction) and a loyal and warm community of ? six or eight followers that consistently help retweet and comment. There are (apparently) over 800 ‘followers’ and less than a handful leave their avatars when (or if) they darken the door. I am not whinging, it is clear that (as the poem declared ab initio) it is MY FAULT. I just am laying down the ingedients.
I have cast about for diversions ( short stories, and interviews) to get away from me and my bleedin books and if anything readers are falling away. It is clear I am failing at greater velocity. I gave it a last shove by letting a professional enthusiast SEO my site, and today I got a tweet from a psychotherapist ‘Not very modest is it?’ Well I have been modest for forty five years. I have never publicised the plagiarist who savaged the first draft but went on to write something pretty similar four years later and land the Templeton Prize (A nice clean million). Nor rebuked the esteemed Fellow of All Souls who asked for a priority sight of the manuscript ‘in hard copy’ and four months and fifty pounds later said ‘unfortunately I will not have time to read your work’. Modesty has been a ill serving wench.
I am reviewing my situation… I cannot pretend to have content except books. I cannot write books if all I am doing is loud-hailing. Nor can I return to writing books that I now know for certain will not be read ( unless I go on to devise other CONTENT- grammar tips, or recipes about which I know niente) That was why an interview with Viv Tuffnell expressed everything I wanted to say too. I hoped that would start a conversation, but it seems to be a conversation nobody wants to have for fear of suggesting failure. We must all pretend success, and success will come sidling in. To me success would be twenty readers a month, no, make that ten.
If Involution had not had pretty outstanding reviews by notable people, similarly from recognised professionals, charmed the few readers who have opened it on Amazon I would just have to shrug and accept it was no bleedin good. Or that it might be fairly good but is wrong for the age of Twitterati. Much the same holds true of the slimmer volume of Yucatan. Both have won prizes, so I may be a literary Okay writer that was never read.
So here’s the thing. Do I give up? Only readers validate the reason to write ( once the autobiography is out of the way- mine was the biography of every reader as well)? What remains? The daily Facebook update, the pointing finger, or a savage satire for Television on speed dating only the already married ( married to their own books natch), the self congratulatory world of Indie publishing where writers talk to other writers about how competitive our ‘products’ are.
I recently reviewed an outstanding book by Melissa Studdard entitled I Ate the Cosmos For Breakfast. She might just have saved my bacon because today she posted a poetry challenge called Changing Form, but which she suggested using a form used for other purposes to shape a poem so here is my recipe to book end a minor crisis of confidence.
Recipe for Social Media Etiquette
Firstly finely chop Content: Useful, Practical,
Sprinkle through sieve of sparse allocation
Arrange on a plate of snack separation
Drizzle with images, comic cut humour
Offer on frequent toasted smiling
Sweep links un-used to the composting bin.
Plan for the long haul picnic parade
Dress in cream whipped with the personal
Withdraw the moment a critic waves caution
Let irrelevance trail sweet bait to the books
Be spare with the chilli sharp word or the cynic
Bland is now new gourmet black
Take time to build a kissing collection
Distract with bullet list, opinion, new chatter
Answer agreement with approved thoughtfulness.
Post snapshots taken to seem spontaneous,
Keep drowning but never ever stop waving
Mostly keep on writing books.
Tired? You say. Well that is expected
The Marathon never was for the faint hearted
If you don’t believe enough to press forward
Why should we care in the deluge of options?
Shout softly, all obvious selling is vulgar
The trick is to camouflage, deceive in the dressing
The only game is skilled pretense.
An Editor flags with bright grammar ‘pointers…’
Novels peak out from the ‘how better’ guides
Runners are hooked with ‘let me help’ contracts
I’ll host your party, just relax.
Take a course, revitalize, pay in installments
We’ll get you there. Just keep the faith.
The Market is changing, it’s fish or it’s vegan,
Haiku or novella; the six word portrait
All serial books, (or post-its instead),
Less is more, the long form is passé
Help hopefuls re-shape, retreat and re-edit,
Ambition has a limitless pocket
Feast on almost certain failures
Above all, master encouragement.
How then cook a Cassoulet steeped in a lifetime?
Serve a fresh salad before it wilts?
Beat up a short story culled from the garden
All stages are set for immaculate timing
The play was billed as ‘Writers Reach Readers’
But all I found was ‘Talking Heads’.
Since I posted this I have had a letter from Narrative Magazine saying that a short story called ‘Nuisance Value’ is their Story of the Week. This was written at a similar point of despair, on behalf of the couple who inspired it. You can find it here. You might enjoy the bittersweet dish served cold! Maybe I’ll just write for myself, and blog for amusement and to hell with preneuring!