The art of make-believe and singing in the shower

img_5300Laboring through my old journals, notes and drawings has turned up nothing I can use and only makes me feel worse about myself. I still sound like the wannabe artist I’ve always been, I just talk about it publicly now. And that’s probably the reason I go to therapy, I’m so desperate for attention I’ll pay for it. Dawn asked me why I’m cranky and I said it’s because I can’t write anything and I think about it ALL THE TIME. She said have you tried allowing yourself to just write crap and accept that and I said yeah, I’ve been doing that ALL MY LIFE.

But then I went out to the garage, did yoga, and felt better. The garage is my new happy place because it smells bad and nobody bothers me there. I can go through old journals where I talk about story ideas and what I did with my day and it sounds just like what I’m doing now, 25 years later.

I’ve tried switching the POV from first person to third, fictionalizing myself, changing my last name (legally), rereading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man four times (including the version Joyce’s wife rescued from the fire)…and now I’ve decided I don’t even like the book anymore. Joyce is a wanker and like Ray Bradbury said, “has no ideas.” #KillYrIdols.

But like I said in my old journals the same is true here on my blog: even when I’m not writing in the artistic sense I’m at least getting better at typing. And I’m improving my voice by testing it out and trying new things. For a moment I can believe I’m a singer because for the moment, I am. The acts of being and pretending are one and the same through an artful delusion of self. That form of delusion is how people with big dreams make them a reality: by not letting reality get in the way.

My book club meets every week to talk about the making of a different album featured in the 33 1/3 book series—this week, the band was Neutral Milk Hotel. You could argue that NMH wasn’t really a band in the traditional sense until they started playing gigs and making records. But for years, they made posters and logos and practiced in their apartment until one day it happened. You could also argue that any band, artist, or endeavor starts with a period of make-believe to give the fantasy life. Its realization relies on the simple hope that one day, it could.

music_live-3947Many of the bands I followed growing up were DIY (meaning they effectively made it themselves), artists who gave me the confidence I could do whatever I wanted by sheer nerve and perseverance, by wanting it badly enough I could will it in to existence. In fact, because they lacked talent their effort was somehow more noble to me than those who came by it easily. Singers like Calvin Johnson and Robert Pollard became my heroes because they spoke to my inner underdog with that punk ethos where everyone’s someone. Where not knowing how to play was as much an incentive to perform as knowing. It was painfully bad at times, but arguably more real.

And that takes me back to my smelly garage and favorite yoga teacher, Charley. He was the first yoga teacher I had who failed in front of the class. Sometimes, he’d just fall out of a pose and laugh it off. He never explained why but I think he did it to make us feel unafraid about trying the poses ourselves, about not letting fear of failure get in our way. Or feeling like we’d never be as good as he was, our teacher. He taught me a lot in that.

I talked to an old friend who’s published her first book and asked her advice. She said focus on writing it more than worrying about where it fits in. The market can wash out the idiosyncrasies that make us uniquely us. Figure out what’s more important, making money or sharing what you make with others.

The thing is, it’s a lot harder to do the work than it is to talk about doing it. Easier to sing to ourselves in the shower, to click the blue button (publish!), and wait for applause. Maybe the art of make-believe is no art at all. The art is in sitting down and doing it. In falling down, too.



Categories: writing

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26 replies

  1. Do bear in mind that “good” writing is a reader’s judgment … and readers have a wide varriety of criteria … and tend to be inconsistent this year with what they preferred last year …
    Keep writing – please!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Are you in Bruce’s (vinyl connection) book club? He was just writing about a similar club last week. I think right now is a tricky time for bloggers. I’m seeing many of my old stand-bys with nothing to say. My life has become so narrow since the pandemic started that if I didn’t have all these effing health problems I might not be writing at all. I like your friend’s advice. Just write. Let your audience find you. Someone’s been binging my blog over the past few days. it’s 50% satisfying and 50% nerve wracking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey Jeff! Nice to hear from you and for this. I guess a big part of why I blog is to connect with people and the thought of disappearing into another go at an offline writing project would mean I’d sacrifice that. That’s awesome you follow Bruce’s great blog! Yes, same club. It is a tricky time for bloggers. Anyone…god, musicians especially. Thanks for your advice too and for reading. I like hearing from PA, and from you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Jeff! I’m a recent addition to the 33 ⅓ book club; a new chum. It’s been a lovely diversion to get together to talk shit about music – a distraction from the weird and distorted time we’re in.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Sitting down and doing it has been the hardest part for me. I have half a script that’s not very good, and the not-very-goodness is keeping me from pursuing the second half. But I know I won’t be able to let it go until it’s done.
    A lot to digest here. Good to talk it out, write it out, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Speaking of “improving my voice by testing it out and trying new things,” this one feels new and improved. Not that there was ever any need for new and improved, just that this one feels brisk and easy. The sentiment is a bit weighty, but the words are light. If Trent Lewin were here he might say it feels “effortless.” That’s a compliment, by the way.

    I motivated myself to finish screenplays in my twenties by not telling anyone I was writing them. The desire to go ta-da! spurred me on, and that became my rule: never talk about what you’re writing until it’s done. Sure enough, when I started breaking the rule I stopped finishing things. There are two false starts of long projects on my blog that never should have been posted if I really intended to finish them, which I’m not sure was ever my intention. But posting them pretty much guaranteed it. Anyhoo, following the rule and not following the rule were both choices I made. I made the rule, too, and I can break it if I want, right? Right!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes the rules are ours for the breaking! I was thinking about one of those projects you started just today! The one with that tyrannical mayor chopping people’s heads off, if I remember it right. I loved it! I know what you mean about not talking about it. And thanks for the compliment, I did try some different approaches here. Like writing on my desktop vs just on my phone, for one. Treating it the way I do my work writing where I’m more critical in the editing. Nice to hear it comes off effortless! That’s awesome! Hi by the way! Namaste!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. Never talk about your work in progress; it drains the magic because the creative jinn considers the piece “done.”

      Liked by 2 people

  5. it’s all in the doing, as you’ve said, but the double edged sword of that is doing the doing doesn’t always come easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As usual, an unusual coincidence that I recently heard a new single from a musician and it reminded me of the way you write (which I shared with you btw), only to just now read this latest. Similarly, I find myself pouring through volumes of my song recordings from as far back as I have had the ability to digitize them. I always seem to think that somehow I’ll hear something else and will reinvent or repurpose them. More often than not, they lead me to just turning off the computer, but once in a while they are inspirational and lead me toward a new direction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey you! Nice to have you visit me here! I was thinking about you on my hike up Cougar this morning and how you represent that punk ethos for me and are a real inspiration…so thanks for you know, being you. I saw that tune you sent me, thanks…and I’ll have a listen when I’m done icing my dang foot! Funny how you relate re: the old music and writing thing. I thought today how refreshing it is to let go of the past and perhaps just let it percolate you the surface for reuse. That book we read on NMH inspired me in some ways too, how Mangnum would find ways to use things he’d made many years previous. It’s like we’re all in our own self-made burritos. I also want to send a couple records for your road trip east. Safe travels, glad tidings…

      Like

  7. Everyone wants to be a writer, but everyone hates to write, me very much included. Ive been doomscrolling way more than my RDA.

    So, had to do something to break the fixation on plagues and elections. I’m taking an online writing class. Return to the practice. Homework, critiques, reading, and most importantly, deadlines

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey great for you! I love the idea of taking a class, nice work Kim. I think writers hate to write more than most which is ironic right? Ugh, whatevs. I like connecting with folks like yourself as much, possibly more. Easier! Good luck with that class. And soon, adieu to ‘20. Guess what?! I turn 50 the next time the moon is full…and it’s quarter phase tonight it seems. Gaining on me!

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  8. You made me think of many things. Yet what they are does not matter here.
    Keep writing Bill.

    Thanks
    DD

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, Bill, I’ve scrolled past the comments from Jeff C onwards as I don’t want my response to this brilliant (if excoriating) post tainted by the thoughts of more perceptive others.
    Man, you really nailed it. Every para here could be a chapter in a book called ‘My non-book’. Yesterday I was fantasising a zoom to talk shit about writing. Would that be exciting or depressing? A communal booth, or a sly cigarette behind the bike shed?

    Like

    • That’s funny…I rarely read other comments before commenting myself . Happy this resonated with you as a non-book! Yes I’ll message you to schedule that sky smoke behind the bike shed. Good one!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. “Figure out what’s more important, making money or sharing what you make with others.” Beautiful line reverberating with me, Bill. You have a good teacher of yoga and also therapy is important. I will go for it next year once things settle down. Fluid writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes to the therapy! Glad that resonated with you Vishal, has been (and continues to be) and important consideration in my writing. Be well my friend, and thanks for your note. Bill

      Like

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