Saturday, November 27, 2010

Back to the Reinvention Lab

by Jeremy Edwards

I’m here today at the invitation of the great Ashley Lister—fiction and nonfiction writer, poet, wit, critic, sage, scholar, teacher, friend, and mensch, all par excellence. An author who knows how to make me laugh, again and again. And laughter is gold to me.

Needless to say, I was touched and honored to be offered a turn at the rostrum during Ashley’s send-off. Of course, like all of us here, I wish he weren’t leaving the Grip. But, like all of us here, I know he’s made a sound decision and he’s doing the right thing. And (like all of us here) I look forward to observing and applauding whatever amazing stunts the rascal gets up to next. One can only hope that if he finds himself with a clone one day, he’ll send the extra Ash back over here.

Though Ashley didn’t know it when he invited me to participate in this week’s OGAG, “New Beginnings” is a topic that feels timely for me, too, in a way. There are areas of my creative life in which I could use a new beginning right about now. I might even settle for a slightly used beginning, if it were in good enough condition.

I’m at a juncture where I may want to partially reinvent myself once again, from the artistic point of view. Yes, I’ve done it before; and luckily I had the foresight to keep the lease on the reinvention lab active. In addition to being an erotica author, I’ve been a songwriter-bandleader and a playwright; a humorist and an ad writer; an entertainer or, if you will, showman. (That’s showman, not snowman. I suppose “snowman” could be a good next move, except that I get chilly far too easily.)

Please don’t misunderstand: I have no plans to cease writing and publishing my erotica. [Pauses for spontaneous lightning storm of flashbulbs. Not a sausinge. Strikes pose like Nora Roberts at keyboard, but misjudges podium dimensions and knocks coffee cup to floor.] But for various reasons, I feel I also need a new vehicle—to park in the garage next to the Eroticamobile. To put it another, even more sexually suggestive, way, I may want to get outfitted with another peg to hang my hat on.

In any case, my attitude toward new beginnings is like the aphoristic attitude toward new friends:

Make new friends,
But keep the old.
The new ones haven’t heard all your jokes yet,
And, who knows, the old ones may eventually return some of your books and DVDs.

The point is, even when I am ceasing and/or desisting from some area of artistic activity, I try not to burn bridges—even internal ones. Instead, whenever possible, I merely rope them off with plush purple snakes, while leaving them intact. After all, you never know when an older model of Me may be called out of retirement while the current version takes five. Or maybe Older (i.e., younger) Me will have a cameo in Newer (i.e., older) Me’s next big picture. I’m sure We can come to terms: I’ll have My people start drawing up the contracts first thing in the morning.

Getting back to the topic of new-beginnings adventures ... I’m pleased to have seen that when we undertake them, we get to keep what we’ve learned as we move forward. Isn’t it interesting how the same sorts of situations, challenges, personalities, and frustrations crop up in the different contexts we explore in life? Thank goodness a new beginning doesn’t mean starting from scratch in terms of one’s hard-earned wisdom, judgment, savoir faire, and familiarity with the basic realities that largely carry over from one endeavor to another.

And here’s another thought: In reading about the professional lives of creative notables, it has struck me that people much more talented and much more important than I am have routinely had to wonder, at various points in their illustrious careers, what they would do next—for both internally and externally generated reasons. To a large extent, I think the constant need to embrace, seek, or make new beginnings goes with the creative life.

That said, I’m the kind of persnickety person who’d rather lie dormant than embark on something new just for the sake of embarking on something new. My interests and ambitions are eclectic, and I wait for those inspirations or opportunities that feel truly suited to my dealio. (Fortunately, I’ve convinced myself that I do not actually age during those waiting periods.) So at present, though I may be in the market for a new vehicle, none of the vehicles that I see around town look quite right for me. [End of automotive metaphor—and not a moment too soon, as the 4:58 railroad metaphor is pulling in, right on schedule.] Instead of hopping on a passing train, I’ve also pondered designing my own locomotive from scratch. But the big risk in doing that is that you won’t fit the gauge of the existing infrastructure, and you’ll end up stranded in the station yard. This I know from experience—and I have the OshKosh B’Gosh overalls to prove it.

And so dormancy sometimes has its place in my creative life. Stagnation, on the other hand, is to be avoided—if only because of the brackish odor. And then there’s wheel spinning. But that sounds suspiciously like an automotive metaphor, and I promised.

14 comments:

  1. Jeremy,

    Thank you for joining us here at the Grip. Excellent post. And you've managed to make me laugh and cry and ponder philosophically all within the same stretch of 900 words. There are not many writers I know who have that ability. It's a genuine pleasure to read your work.

    I was struck by the wisdom of these lines:
    Getting back to the topic of new-beginnings adventures ... I’m pleased to have seen that when we undertake them, we get to keep what we’ve learned as we move forward. Isn’t it interesting how the same sorts of situations, challenges, personalities, and frustrations crop up in the different contexts we explore in life?

    That is so true. And it also allows us to make the same glorious mistakes again and again and again and...

    Best,

    Ash

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice post. At the moment I seem to be reinventing myself every few weeks, though the one nagging thing I have is that, with feet in the camps of erotica, science fiction and horror, and various types of more 'respectable' training and educational materials, I have the feeling that my different audiences might not be entirely comfortable with each other.
    That said, it would be cool if I found that people who pay me for training materials turn out to be reading my erotica at night without knowing it's mine...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nobilis - The old friends are holding onto the DVDs so that you'll never say goodbye.

    I'm with Ash in that I liked the comment about getting to bring our life experiences forward with us. That goes with my philosophy that no experience in life is wasted. Painful, sometimes yes, but wasted? No.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Jeremy,

    Knowing you as I do, I can well imagine that this re-invention will be a rich and interesting one!

    I too loved your essay. Plenty of laughs and strokey beard thinky comments to enjoy and absorb.

    As for your comment, I might even settle for a slightly used beginning, if it were in good enough condition.

    I happen to have one, garage kept, driven by a little old lady who only had new beginnings on Sundays. Leather seats, stereo, sunroof, turbo charger...

    Give me a call. I'll give you a great deal.

    All the best,

    Craig

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you so much, Ashley. I admire you immensely, as a writer and as a person.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks, Fulani! I'm glad you enjoyed the post—and I can definitely relate to the hope that readers from one area of activity are also fans in another.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm with Ash in that I liked the comment about getting to bring our life experiences forward with us.

    Thanks, Kathleen!

    So, when are you going to return those 8-track tapes I never loaned you? ; )

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you, Craig!

    Plenty of laughs and strokey beard thinky comments to enjoy and absorb.

    Since I've never grown a beard, I was really winging it on that part.

    I happen to have one, garage kept, driven by a little old lady who only had new beginnings on Sundays. Leather seats, stereo, sunroof, turbo charger...

    Thanks for the lead! I'll send my mechanic around in the morning. If he comes back with a good report, I'll know the new beginning and I are a good match.

    If he doesn't come back at all, I'll know he and the little old lady are a good match.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a wise, beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your insight with us, Jeremy.

    "I might even settle for a slightly used beginning, if it were in good enough condition."

    I seriously laughed out loud at that.

    And then later at this:

    "End of automotive metaphor—and not a moment too soon, as the 4:58 railroad metaphor is pulling in, right on schedule."

    I also liked what Ash quoted. Perhaps it's just more concise to just stick with my first comment(s) and say I really enjoyed this post. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, Emerald! Your praise warms the boiler of my steam engine. : )

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jeremy, I just checked my light bulbs, and my room really didn't just get brighter -- I simply feel illuminated after reading your marvelous piece! My word verification is "joyst," which sounds like "joist," and I am indeed beam-ing over your support!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you, Confidant! (And I love the structural integrity of your comment.)

    Spamword: monfics

    (A flawed but well-intentioned nod to my short stories from a Franglais bot??)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you, Jeremy, for a great post!

    You know, though, we don't always know when we're about to reinvent ourselves. For me, at least, it has just kind of happened... leaving me to peer back down the road and wonder whether I should have seen it coming!

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you, Jeremy, for a great post!

    Thanks, Lisabet!

    You know, though, we don't always know when we're about to reinvent ourselves.

    Yes, excellent point.

    ReplyDelete