Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Winter Change

It hadn’t occurred to me until now, with this topic, how little I think of actual publishing these days.   I keep wondering if its because I’m not writing faithfully, which is true, or if my gears have changed in another direction, which is also true, or if my life force is thinning.  Which is also true.

A few  nights ago I was preparing a couple of plays to send off to the Porter Fleming competition, having gotten lucky last year.  These were plays I hadn’t looked at in a while, they gave me joy.  While I was rewriting and tweeking passages of them I thought “Damn.  These aren’t bad.  For anybody.  I like these plays, even if someone else had written them, I’d still like them.”  They had soul, which is what I measure a work by.    They had fire.  And I wrote them!

Not only did I write them but I had that peculiar and scary pleasure of seeing my words come out of someone’s mouth in the spotlight.  Striding the boards.  That is a very strange thing, and a humbling thing  to see, your work interpreted by someone else’s art according to their own talent, their own way of seeing.  Of hearing  your flawed, occasionally wooden dialogue sanded down and smoothed by the tone of a human voice.  And then at the end, that terrible, cringing moment when the last line is spoken and the spotlights go out and you sit in the dark feeling like Dr. Frankenstein as the hot smoke is still rising from the neck bolts of your creation, waiting for the twitch of a finger, an eyelash, a caveman grunt, any sign of life.  And then the ripple of applause begins, and you can relax.  It’s alive! That is validation.

Sermons are like that too.  You work on a theme which has to be finished in twenty minutes, about 1500 words.  And that has to have soul.  Before you begin you have to ask yourself, how does my idea  rate another person’s time?  How does this thing that fascinates me show the way to be a better, a little kinder?  You have to know that before you begin, and as with other forms of writing, your understanding is constantly changing, and if it has soul, your topic, you find new colors when light is shone through it. 

And then Sunday morning comes, you’re nervous, a little afraid, the cabled kites go up in the lightning storm, the table with its bandaged figure rises through the castle roof and it all begins again.  Traditionally sermons are not applauded, its nice when they are.  But they are a different art, closer to theater than an essay.  You have an audience.  You want to reach past your own fear to touch your audience, knowing you’re not the wisest person to be doing any of this.  Its something you stepped up to do because you want to give back.

And then there’s age.  I’m convinced more than ever the energy by which we fuck, and pray, and write, all comes from the same place.  The desire is the same desire but with different masks.  When the energy is diminished the other things feel the impact.  The flame is there, but the candle is reduced.  You don’t see the people we grew up reading and dancing and listening to cranking them out like they once did.  It comes harder to them too, even though time and experience have vastly improved their  grasp of craft. 

It seems sometimes that the better we become at saying something, the less we have to say.


  1. I really haven't noticed that *you* have less to say, Garce.

    However, I think the Frankenstein metaphor is very apt.

    As for me, I'd love to see you publishing again. But it's your life, your art, your self.

    The trouble with the plays and the sermons is that only a very few lucky souls get the chance to experience them.

  2. If your muse speaks through the spoken word (plays, sermons, etc.) you just have to go with it, even though fewer people will be lucky enough to enjoy your work. Still, from what I've seen here, I agree with Lisabet that you have no lack of things to say, at least in very short story form. That's not much comfort, though, in terms of publication. Anthologies don't sell well these days, and collections, on the whole, are even worse performers. Just go where the ideas flow, take them wherever they lead, and don't worry about roads no longer taken. They may yet open to you again.

  3. Hi lisabet! I'm getting back to everyone so late, I apologize for that. I'm kind of scattered these days. I need to get some mental space to think about self publishing. But its still the same problem. We have to be ready to promote our stuff and that's my lazy spot.

  4. Hi sacchi! I worry that short story collections may be dying. I worry that kids today don't read much anymore and at a time when some of the best writing ever is out there. They still go to plays at least.


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