Sunday, April 22, 2012
I studied writing in school, but I've probably only had one formal writing teacher in my life. They are hard to come by in these parts.
Here's the story:
There was a this university writing professor, a strange man- different than all of his colleagues. He was respected and yet cool, he was young-looking and muscular, often wise and always well spoken.
This professor was revered in a special way by his students, they quoted him in the hallway and blogged about him; people felt truly led by his instruction. He had an online fan page, before facbook fan pages- that's dedication. At parties there would often be a serious discussion on his methods and deep into the reflective part of the night people would share what they thought were his innermost fundamentals of writing.
So, enter me.
I remember sitting at one of these parties in some corner smoking cigarettes and trying to hide the wine stains on my clothes, gawking in an air-headed way as a student explained one of these fundamentals to a group.
I wasn't really part of the conversation, but I watched as this guy outlined the amazing professor's lecture notes for about 10 minutes. I sat there dumb as a foal and I don't remember but one sentence of the entire speil but this:
"If you like something, like a part of a book or a story, re-type it when you finish it."
I took a huge gulp of wine and boom. It was internalized. That douchebag re-hashing his professor's wisdom was my first real writing teacher. He made a BIG impression.
I never took a class with that amazing professor though, I just hung out with some of his students. But now on to my real point:
I don't know if that is good advice or not, but fuck I like doing that.
I don't know if I'm allowed to do this, I probably shouldn't be doing this, but if I could pick one thing for anybody to re-write, to type out every few months or so it would be this:
An Unsteady Place
Thirty-three starfish, forty-two seashells, eighteen crabs, fourteen lobsters, ten waves, eight gulls, twelve fish, seven lighthouses, four fisherman, eleven pieces of coral, sixteen sailboats, nine seahorses, and a handful of of signs indicating the direction you need to take should you want to go to the beach. In bas-relief on shower tiles, on the edges of towel racks, mounted to drawer pulls, painted on wallpaper, dotted on baseboard tile squares, crowded into baskets on mantels, on wooden steps, in bathrooms, mounted and framed and hung on walls, painted on dishes, decaled on drinkware, the bottoms of bowls, sculpted into the handles of serving utensils, hanging from the ceiling, stitched onto towels, on lamp bases, printed on bed sheets, comforters, pillow cases. A fish skeleton key rack. The beachside vacation rental drove the point home like a mother reminding you of every single thing you needed to be afraid of.
In every cupboard, towels with nautical themes are stacked neatly with labels indicating the size of towel and method of use: hand towel, body towel, beach towel, wash cloth. Tiny laminated instructions with filigree and smiley faces explain how to use each appliance; washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher. Quiet coaches.
At first it's charming, but eventually their naggy cheeriness begins to annoy. I know how to use a microwave. I know how to dry my clothes. I know how to wash dishes.
There is no way you can make a mistake here.
Yeah. That is by xTx from her book 'Normally Special' and it is certainly the most jewel encrusted opening of anything I've ever read. I type it out and I look at it and I realize that I can't edit it because a) it isn't mine and b) it is just so fucking perfect the way it sparkles like that! I have typed it out 3 times in my life at this point. And every time I type it out I feel better than I did before and also, shittier because I want to have written that myself. Fuck, girl.
I think that my goal in life, one of the goals in my life, is to create a jewel like that. So so much in such a splendid way in so little space.
Filigree indeed and of itself.