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Friday, March 09, 2012

Never Write While Sleep-Deprived

Writers exist in a constant state of embarrassment over their prior work. What felt brilliant in the moment seems trite and overwrought today. We hope it will remain lost and buried, never read again, forgotten. 

Unless, of course, you're a masochist, as many writers are. So tonight I present something angst-ridden 21-year old Earl wrote in the "2 to 6 Club" room on Ron Briscoe's  Freedom BBS. It begins with some truly terrible doggerel, then clumsily evolves - or devolves - into unfocussed stream of consciousness. I have no idea what I was trying to say; maybe I was simply putting random words together to see how they scanned. I must have written it in my dorm room - 139 Kelsey Hall on the University of Alberta campus. I would have used my Atari 520 ST and its accompanying 1200 baud modem, white 40-column text on a blue background. How primitive my once high-tech setup would seem to today's university students!

If I had to guess, I'd say my 21-year-old self was attempting to reconcile his loneliness and pain with his need to believe in a better future and the inherent decency of the human species. Or perhaps it was simply after 4:30 in the morning and he wrote it while half-asleep. Oh look, I've unwittingly started talking about myself in the third person - that seems as good a sign as any to finish this introduction and let my/his words, such as they were, indict themselves: 

91Feb02 4:36 am

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have seen the wrongs I've failed to set aright.
I have ignored the beggar's pathetic plight
I have pushed the lonely problems from my sight

I too have stood on a lonely highway at night, my car and I--engine
ticking softly--

Warm summer night, completely alone but for the stars and the trees and the
plain over that hill--

Take a walk to the top of that hill and just look and just listen and just
smell and feel and taste and be that night.  You become night, living night,
banished with the day but not defeated.  And the wind blowing through your
hair is a part of you and the grass under your sneakers is a part of you and
the croaking of the frog is a part of you and the baleful gaze of that stern
moon is a part of you.  

It is all just you and it is all more than you can ever imagine, more than
you  are contained inside you, worn on you like an overcoat.  

Melodrama made real.  And none of the cliches matter...because they are

Walk a little further, into the farmer's field.  Stalks of grain waving back
and forth like some great living thing, one being.  A little scary, but it
doesn't matter--you are the night, a part of this, and you cannot be hurt.  

You can be lonely, but you cannot be hurt.

Look up.  That winking star overhead--a satellite, benignly swooping by,
taking pictures of you, a reminder of the fellow men who you don't need
waiting for you with the dawn.  And there, a 747, reminding you again that
there is no real escape, not now.  

Soon.  But not just at this moment.  

You walk back to the car, open the driver's side door. Car welcomes you with
harsh interior light glare and harsher seat belt buzzer. You get inside
quickly  to avoid disturbing the beautiful darkness any further.  

And you sit there for a little while on the shoulder before you finally turn
the ignition key, activating the radio, the lights, the engine. And then you
pull onto the road and just drive for a while


Until Neon City looms large once more and the night withers before human
magic and you surrender in to another twelve hour wait before the
wonder sets in again.


jbsantos said...

I like it! Then again, it is midnight, and my writing has literally been described as "bombastic" and "officious" so maybe I'm not the best judge of prose.

Rightly or wrongly, the first four lines remind me of, "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!"

And I do mean all of that in a good way.

Liam said...

I'm with jb. It felt genuine to me and I liked it.

"Skin Of Jeffvil" said...

I think I remember that time. Earl was not in a very good head space. Usually he's upbeat, but he went through some dark periods. He'd have insomnia and go on night perambulations, sometimes a walk, sometimes a drive, sometimes both. The "2 to 6 Club" was in part a way to keep Earl indoors at night, especially after the time the police picked him up off the street (Earl was mistakenly arrested when the authorities mistook him for someone else. As far as I know, Earl was innocent of any crime).

Interestingly, Earl's mood went from depression to anger after that incident, which was an incremental improvement. And he did stay in nights more.

I've seen better of Earl's writing and I have seen worse. It's genuine because he was working on those 2-6 vibes, but I can't say I like it all that much, as I don't usually like pieces that are created in the throes of black moods. What is important was that he was working though his feelings and his writing both at the same time, so there is value there. Artists learn to work through their moods, or with them.

"Skin Of Jeffvil" (a) said...

@ jbsantos:

You're commenting on the expert's site. If Earl says your writing is bombastic and officious, then it is. If anybody else is saying that, I think it's better to get Earl's opinion and be sure.

Beyond that, keep writing. There's a market for Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, someday there will be a market for bombastic and officious.

Earl J. Woods said...

Far too generous all, but thanks. Jeff mentions an anecdote I should share here before it fades from memory - it's a mildly interesting story.

For the record, I'm not one of those who has described The Santos' writing as bombastic and officious. I'd say it's sincere and truthful with flashes of eloquence, in the best senses of all those descriptors.