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.