Monday, March 19, 2007

I Shouldn't Be Doing Something Else

One of my ex-boyfriends told me that I'd be a great mother to a retarded child by way of a compliment. You're patient, you never stop trying to get things to work, he said. In the exact case, it was a crappy dishwasher, but I also sent his poems out for years. Most of them were accepted to small journals quickly, but one remained at large. It was a favorite of his, and I think nearly editor in the continental United States saw it. It finally got published in a journal that had illustrated it with a picture of an evil mangy-looking dog. Not the New Yorker, but it was something, right? What can I say? I'm Broadway Danny Rose! Anyway, the compliment did not make my heart race, but like many casual observations, it is true. Some people call this trait a revolutionary patience, some pounding your head against a wall, and others refer to it as this is fucking stupid, Michelle, give it up. But I can't. Once I set upon a path, I can't stop. This has served me well in my writing life, during the long deserts of little encouragement and adulation. All along the way, there are plenty of people telling me to give it up and do something easier and while I'm at it, a little more lucrative as well. Nobody in your life needs you to be a writer, and in fact most of them need you to be something else. But I hold the position that you should try to be around people who support you. It's one of the things I tell my students -- if people around you aren't encouraging of your writing (this does not mean they have to like everything you write, only that they like your writing in general), find new people. The world of endless rejection that the best writers face is hard enough.
My friend Hank used to say that if you do what you love, what you're passionate about, talent will follow. He taught himself the blues this way. He went from not having an iota of skill to being able to play Stevie Ray with the best of them. I've always felt best when I'm writing -- as Gloria Steinem once said, Writing is one of the only times when I feel that I shouldn't be doing something else. And when I can only sit and stare at the computer screen or piece of paper or I can't figure out what's working in a story, I don't know what to do except pray to the good Lord that something will come. It always does. I usually have to go to a dark place that I resist. It's a strange business, putting yourself on the page. Sometimes you don't like what you see. It stings. But like with everything else, that's how you know it's working.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"You can ask the people around me. I don't give up... and it's not out of frustration and desperation that I say I don't give up. I don't give up because I don't give up. I don't believe in it. " Johnny Cash

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: The Departed

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday, dear readers! I hope March is treating you well.
23 days until The Sopranos airs!


Charles Gramlich said...

Not giving up is largely how I got through graduate school. Smarter people than I dropped out, but they weren't as stubborn.

Vito said...

I tried giving up being a homo on the Sopranos. In the end, I got stung with a pool cue.

Phil Leotardo said...

You were a disgrace to the family, Vito. That's why you had the crap beat out of you with your mouth duct taped and a pool cue shoved up your ass. Even Tony Soprano couldn't control my revenge. You faggot!

Saddam Hussein said...

The Americans threatened me with a pool cue, but I laughed it off, telling them that I was Cairo billiards champion at age eighteen. The Egyptians liked my poetry, too.

D.W. Griffith said...

I thought "The Departed" was one of Scorsese's weaker films. By the time the film ended, one couldn't tell the good guys from the bad guys, which was probably Marty's point, but I yearn for the days of clear-cut good and evil.

Omar Sharif said...

Saddam should've been doing something else in Cairo. His bridge game stunk and his hookah manners left something to be desired.

The Mothers of Invention said...

Don't bogart that hookah, my friend.

the walking man said...

You can quit writing when you run out of things to say and words to say them with; until then shut[the fuck] up and write. Unless of course your goal is to teach 5 comp one classes every semester from now until they name the school after you.

Remember the day I walked into your office a couple of years ago and said that was it I quit, fuck this writing and you told me to just take a break because of everything I had already written. Do you remember how long it was before I brought you new work to read? A week. what was that 250,000 words ago?

Buk called it a fire in the belly that has to come out and you my friend are a volcano that could no more stop having lava flow than the ocean could go dry.

I believe it's called an avocation and one you would have to do no matter how you made you dollars or ever got fame and fortune from it.

By the way drop down to yesterdays second post on my blog "What's the Matter Dear" was directly inspired by yesterdays writing of yours.

Marvin Gaye rules and Johnny Cash was a hell of story teller, even when he was in a Ring of Fire.

Much more storms


maybe I should have upgraded my sattelite service because all of these Sopranos references make no sense to me and the things I see on A&E Keep making me think of the De Niro and Crystal movies
"Analyze This and and Analyze That"

paul said...


Steve Malley said...

Great post, Michelle!

You certainly do attract the most... interesting comments.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Complaining once in awhile, yeah, sure I do that. Giving up, hell I talk about it, yet I keep plodding away at it. I couldn't agree more with the man in black.

Susan Miller said...

Just thank you for writing this. Thank you for writing about not giving up. Thank you, Michelle.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michelle
Such a lovely view and post as always. Never give up in the struggle for something worth fighting for, which keeps me trying ever more. To you and your special lovliness, Bravo!

Beta Blogger will not let me post my comment right.

JAM said...

Call me a loser, but I'm a quote collector.

"Nobody in your life needs you to be a writer, and in fact most of them need you to be something else."

That's as concise and true as just about anything I've ever read about writing. I'm always walking that tightrope of being "useful" and my writing. Fantastic post.

Michiko Kakutani said...

Loser. Without writers, I'm nothing. The tree is falling in the forest and there is no sound.