Negotiating Memory

Central to what we must confront as fiction writers is how to navigate the narrative past.

It’s both a logistical consideration as well as an aesthetic one: When we are referencing an event that happened before the ‘now’ of the story, what authorial mechanisms do we use - flashbacks, section or chapter breaks, font changes?

The conventions are well worn, and I’m not certain that there’s a good answer that doesn’t draw attention to itself, which could then result in potentially pulling the reader out of the story. (I’m reminded of Faulkner’s wish that he could have published The Sound and the Fury with different font colors to denote each character’s inner thoughts. We are all better for the fact that Faulkner didn’t get his way.)

This past week, I watched the third season of HBO’s True Detective with much envy - the creative team was able to evoke specific periods of time with consistent use of clothing, hair styles, even the color palette. The actors of course did much of the heavy lifting - their body language, speech, their non-verbals all transmitted which time-frame we viewers were in. (And if you haven’t seen True Detective’s season 3, do yourself the favor of watching it right now.)

Anyway, I’m currently struggling with an effective and creative way to evoke 3 distinct timelines in my WIP, and I find myself using well-known techniques—section and chapter breaks—and at least right now I’m bored with those options. We’ll see where I land after the next round of revisions.

And After Everything Ends with A Whimper?

At some removed juncture, years from now when American society has the space, the time and the clarity to review the Trump Administration’s impact on the health and well-being of American democracy, some think-tank should commission a study on the impact of Trumpism on the nation’s creative output.

Did the Trump era spurn or spark increased creative output?

I would have once thought that an antagonism to the current regime—which is what Trump and his barely functioning ilk pretend to be even though they are laughably incompetent at almost* everything—might fire the creativity of myself and the artists around me, resulting in some kind of Renaissance of artistic awesomeness.

Perhaps this is occurring outside of my ability to recognize it. Speaking for myself, I’ve struggled to maintain my word counts and my writing goals for the past several years. I recognize that’s not all due to a reaction to the Trump Administration bringing out—or perhaps just exposing—the very worst in America. But watching our nation fold hasn’t helped my writing.

Art just doesn’t seem to matter like it once did.

(*With guidance from an enabling GOP congress, Trump’s attack on the rule of law and their placement of right-leaning federal judges has been expert.)

Situation Abnormal

Not an excuse, but I can't deny that the current American political shit-scape has affected my writing. 

Creative acts haven't seemed as important as remaining vigilant and active to the many ways that the current presidential administration is trying to screw over the American people.

(I know this is wrong...not about the crass and openly opportunistic actions of the Trump administration and its salivating and obedient GOP lapdogs, but about creative acts. We must continue our artistic endeavors especially in times such as these.) 

This is not a political blog; however, I acknowledge that the personal is political, and when the political becomes personal, writing has often lost out on my priority list. 

So, like the rest of us, I'm doing my best. I wish I had more faith in American politics to correct itself, but the GOP is hopelessly lost, and the Democrats can't seem to organize or codify an effective strategy.

Partisan politics won't save us.

We have to push from the bottom up. We have to get out from behind our screens and engage each other. That takes time, and it takes energy, and it's the only way to fix this mess.

Thus I turn again to writing and the minutiae of my own life. Maybe I can finally complete a project.

We Are Not the Normals

Whether because of age or circumstance, the place that writing--or really any creative act--maintains in my life has shifted, refocused.

I can now acknowledge that during my 20s, I needed others to acknowledge me as an artist, as someone different than the normals. Special because the writing I strove to accomplish every day set me apart.

I thought that's how artists of any discipline behaved.  

Now in my, ahem, mid-to-late forties, creative work and meditative practice are virtually synonymous, and the thought of being outwardly acknowledgement seems....odd. Wrong, even. The practice has become the reward, and I know that to be a creative person in no way separates me or sets me apart or makes me special. 

There are no normals. Just us. 

On Advice of Council

I used to be better about taking time out for purely aesthetic experiences.

Granted there are legitimate obstacles to doing that these days: I have two young sons, a more than full time day job, a home and family which are certainly blessings but they bring with them more responsibilities and tasks in a given day than I once had.

Days, as you all well know, have a tendency to flow one to the other in a rush if we don’t pay attention.

Still and all, I should like to be better about taking time out to listen to music, take in a film (do they still make films; not movies, like the kind that I take my kids to, but actual films?), read some poetry or spiritual texts and contemplate.

It’s not fair to compare my life now to when I was in college, or to those rough years immediately afterward when I was apprenticing my writing (and being absolutely broke in the process). And yet I do miss giving over entire hours if not days to creative, artistic and aesthetic experiences. I miss that primal hunger.

The world being what it is, chasing beauty while we can is essential.