Friday, June 3, 2011


"There's nothing to writing, all you do is sit down and open a vein."  I was mistakenly attributing this quote to Ring Lardner, Jr., but now I am told that the writer Red Smith coined the phrase.

At its best, writing is a kind of a creative suicide, and it's not surprising to me that many great and many very good writers have ended their own lives.  And some have embraced a kind of living death, as writer Henry Miller describes in his Time of the Assassins, the best book written, I believe, about the creative struggle of the artist..  Now I am not espousing suicide here, just trying to be realistic.  The best writing leads to a death of the little self, is another way of saying it, but that doesn't quite capture the pain of the struggle.

It's not just about writing, it's about creating.  I always felt I would become a better writer when and if I ever found a creative community to live in.  I was correct, though in a way I never could have imagined.  Amazingly enough, the community I found had existed for over 30 years when I finally discovered it, and it was only 4 and half hours from my home at the time.  Little by little I surrendered my old community and friends, my marriage, my business.  I leaped into the unknown.  Not everyone can do that, thank God, this poor world is insecure enough without more of my type jangling everyone's nerves.  My poor wife to whom I was forever announcing changes.  "We're moving to Chicago, we'll live over a laundromat and I'll work at the 7-11, we'll meet new people and we'll be poor again!"  No wonder we had to divorce.

Does there ever come a time when we artists can move into that creative realm, work for a time, and leave it quietly to be resumed another day?  With the faith that that wonderful place we had just found, could be discovered again?  I mean, can we do this without driving everyone around us crazy with our intensity, our obsessiveness, etc.?

I once read that Mel Lyman, when he was engaged in a good piece of writing, learned to just simply put it down just when it got flowing really well.  Why would any artist in his or her right mind do such a thing?  I have thought about this for many years.  It seems to me that that energy that we tap into in those times is not "our" energy, not even "our" thoughts.  It is something from out of this sorry world, if it's any good at all.  Anything else is just practice, and I'm not talking about that.  This is just practice, what I'm doing right now.

The writer Michael Ventura once wrote that the day after he wrote a good essay, he felt like he'd been hit by a truck.

Something else that Henry Miller wrote, whatever you do as a real creation, you have to give it away freely.  It is a free gift to your fellow man, if it is anything at all.  Making a living as a writer, or artist of any kind, is something else again.  So there is definitely a "vow of poverty" involved here, whether we recognize it or not.  Miller never had a checking account until his fifties.  By that time he was no longer writing so much as he was painting.  "To Paint Is To Love Again," is the title of a book he wrote about that transition.

I'll revisit this subject.  This is all I have time for today.

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