writing, websites, racism, parenting in covid, etc.
I have been writing, and living, working, parenting, homeschooling. Dating. Running. Writing a few things on Medium, deleting them, editing them. Why not blog here, on my sadly neglected website where I should have so much more of my art and writing on display? Blogging might be good for me.
Also I have been helping, mentoring friends and colleagues, basically for free, and trying to help younger members of my company in that sense, just starting out in sales or technology careers. I parent a nine year old which is super life coach like, especially with remote learning as like so many I have had to become a tutor and teacher, administrator, tech support, etc. for this child. She identifies as female for now, and Abhaya is also a major subject of my third book, a memoir/novel which is currently several hundred pages long, a few hundred edited and revised a lot. I was reading Substack, The Ponder, where they talked about the shitty second and third and fourth draft, which makes a lot of sense to me. The shitty first draft, from Bird by Bird, is a very helpful idea, if you think your first draft will not suck. Not only does it suck but your perception of your own writing may be so skewed that you will see it as so much worse than it already is. Or if you are delusional you may think it is not shitty. Maybe it's not. But most work gets better with edits. I see this with my child. Her writing has improved a lot over the last two years, with a lot of help from tutors and maybe her parents. She has awesome teachers too. Helping her, maybe it has helped my writing. We both like to be brief, and then we don't. When she is answering a question for homework about a book she is not that into, her answers are succinct. When she is talking about Wings of Fire dragons in her journal she gets quite wordy! Like me when I talk about her or myself.
Abhaya goes to a private school, St. Pauls in Oakland, which is incredibly diverse. Not only do they have a multi-racial, ethnic, economic, gender faculty and student body, but her teacher is a black man. I feel that if my father and grandparents were alive to learn this it would be very uncomfortable for all of us. My father and his mother were very racist and I wonder how much their love for Abhaya would soften this. The whole scene, this ultra-liberal scene, would make them cringe. And that would be good, but I'm glad my daughter, as of yet, does not have to hear anything negative from family about her school. My mother was a bit harsh about how dangerous Oakland is, but this is nothing compared to the reaction some would have to the diversity of St. Pauls. We are lucky to be there and I am glad she lives in a diverse place like Oakland. I prefer more nature but for now we will continue to go into the hills for hikes, and enjoy the amazing food nearby, which you don't get in the country.
I was feeling a bit scattered tonight but did some writing around this list of 50 questions and then ended up here, which is a result of maybe just needing to write, I don't know. I forgot I changed the home page of my website. it looks better than I remember.
One issue I have with my art on the site is that it's all on my phone and Instagram so it's hard to upload to my website from my laptop. I created a new Insta account just for my art, but most of it is on an account that also has random fun stuff, memes, etc. Some of which could be great photos you could print and frame and hang on your wall, but Insta is hit and miss, mostly miss with selling art or photos so far. Paintings etc. My second novel, as difficult but good as it is, did not take off. My first novel was self-published a long time ago and has a lot of errors in it even for experimental prose. But novel #2 should sell more and does not. I know it's not easy to read for some but a famous writer said you should not dumb down your work. Maybe I just did actually dumb it down too much and should stop trying to make my memoir more readable. It's hard when you do have to fix basic things and your natural tendency is to want to be fairly clear.
From the interview above with Eugenides:
"I tell my students that when you write, you should pretend you’re writing the best letter you ever wrote to the smartest friend you have. That way, you’ll never dumb things down. You won’t have to explain things that don’t need explaining. You’ll assume an intimacy and a natural shorthand, which is good because readers are smart and don’t wish to be condescended to.
I think about the reader. I care about the reader. Not “audience.” Not “readership.” Just the reader. That one person, alone in a room, whose time I’m asking for. I want my books to be worth the reader’s time, and that’s why I don’t publish the books I’ve written that don’t meet this criterion, and why I don’t publish the books I do until they’re ready. The novels I love are novels I live for. They make me feel smarter, more alive, more tender toward the world. I hope, with my own books, to transmit that same experience, to pass it on as best I can."
I have been thinking about this. I have some very smart friends who have read my current work and have loved it and/or offered suggestions. The smartest friends I have understand my writing and like it, usually, but sometimes send this letter back with some suggestions, sometimes heavier ones that require thought and work. If Joyce or Borges or Kafka had sent me, or you, a draft of their work, when they were unknown, what would you have said? Weird, wordy, depressing. Borges might get more encouragement...how could you not encourage your blind, gifted friend? In this sense, perhaps it means I would not have been the right friend for Franz to send The Penal Colony too, I don't know. I think Beckett's Molloy would have blown me away no matter what. Here is the opening in case you missed it:
I am in my mother’s room. It’s I who live there now. I don’t know how I got there. Perhaps in an ambulance, certainly a vehicle of some kind. I was helped. I’d never have got there alone. There’s this man who comes every week. Perhaps I got here thanks to him. He says not. He gives me money and takes away the pages. So many pages, so much money. Yes, I work now, a little like I used to, except that I don’t know how to work any more. That doesn’t matter apparently. What I’d like now is to speak of the things that arc left, say my good-byes, finish dying. They don’t want that. Yes, there is more than one, apparently. But it’s always the same one that comes. You’ll do that later, he says. Good. The truth is I haven’t much will left. When he comes for the fresh pages he brings back the previous week’s. They arc marked with signs I don’t understand. Anyway I don’t read them. When I’ve done nothing he, gives me nothing, he scolds me. Yet I don’t work for money. For what then? I don’t know. The truth is I don’t know much. For example my mother’s death. Was she already dead when I came? Or did she only die later? I mean enough to bury. I don’t know.
I read that in London when I was in school there in 1987 or 88. I was losing my mind or getting ready to and it helped me get through that difficult time, along with the Castle.
What books or writing, music or film are helping you get through these difficult times? Just because we had an election and vaccines does not mean life is getting better for everyone. Feel free to comment or contact me with any questions.