It is one of those weeks where everything is busy, and though it feels as if nothing is getting done, in fact the opposite is true. I have had a few small paid gigs writing, which definitely helps, but takes up a lot of time. There is a certain art to the 600 to 1000 word piece. Sentences cannot ramble, neither can ideas. People’s attention span, shrunk by the immediate gratification nation that we have become, has become infinitesimally small.
The reader wants to be entertained and informed, but not lectured to or bored. Certain nuances are lost to these restraints. If Hunter S Thompson (Hey man, you know that you’re not him! to paraphrase a certain Dylan talking about an altogether less secular savior, and I absolutely agree) was writing today, he would be told to get lost and take his wordy-ness along with him. As it was he was often fucked with and hung out to dry by certain unworthy editors who were not capable of being aware of the genius they were entrusted with.
There is no space for superfluous adjectives, or meanderings that take detours to different times and places. There is no place for being self indulgent or trying something new. The door is being shut on the shades and filters and increments of truth and reality. All there is now is black and white, and a handful of primary colors. It isn’t so much life in the fast lane, as life in C major, with no sharps or flats to muddy the clarity of the sound or provide variation.
That is not to say it is not necessary or worthy. A lot can be done in 1000 words. I am pretty sure that the world can be changed in less than 100, if the picker is particularly capable and talented. My problem is not with the writing, it is with the pruning. How to say what needs to be said and cut out 1400 words from the piece in front of my eyes. I take out whole swathes and condense them into a few choice brush strokes. Occasionally I allow myself a minor chord, a dab of muddied paint. Sometimes in the process of cleaning and reducing, simmering down that word broth, some thing is lost. It cannot be helped. They are sacrificial words to the greater good of a hundred dollar pay check. (401 words used up…better get to the point fast….)
Yesterday after staring at a piece of writing, deciding that unpicking it, boiling it down and reducing it by over a thousand words was just not possible, I pressed the ‘new’ button on my wordperfect page. Incidentally, that was a mistake. No one can read word perfect! It is meant to be cross compatible but in the interests of saving a few bucks I totally screwed myself. Everyone wants word docs. Now I am writing on wordperfect and copy pasting into google docs which people can read and open and is free. Aspiring writers, heed my warning, just stump up for word, otherwise you will be stuck in the (word) perfect hell I am stuck in, and it is just not worth saving a few bucks if it does not produce sharable documents that don’t lose all their formatting in the sending.
Staring at my tabula rasa, putting on my best writing music mix, and with word count in mind this time I started to write carefully. Something is lost, but something is gained in careful sparse writing. Sentences compact themselves down sometimes like trash, sometimes like a flower in reverse slow motion film, curling back into the bud. The trick is to see the balled up trash and delete it before it infects the entire piece of work. (629…see…it creeps up on ya…)
A message pops up from the editor. “You can always split a piece into two 1000 word sections. A part 1 and part 2.” Hunter should have listened to his editor more perhaps, but then again, how would he have written such absolute insanity and engaged a generation? The infamous Raoul Duke. Lionized in his later years, idolized in his death, still mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine’s credits years after his passing….and at the time deserted in Vietnam with a withdrawn story and no funds. I breathed a sigh of relief, and realized the damn thing needed a rewrite anyway.
There is something peculiarly special about a blank page. It is all the promise and hope it contains. The words that are to be splattered upon it could be the rotten cabbage, or they could be the sports car and trip to Hawaii. I never did have any interest in going to Hawaii. Too hot. I don’t like sand, and I can’t stand all that healthy surfey fun. My words sometimes erupt deformed and broken, shattered like the sometimes headless, armless dolls on that island where their plastic forms are sacrificed to the ghost of a child that drowned. (833….time to wrap it up…)
The two 1000 word pieces of writing sat there unwritten before me, demanding my attention, but I was totally fatigued, burnt out, run out of gas, unfuelled. All writers have their fuel – booze and women, drugs of various kinds and a total dislike of authority. I don’t even know what my fuel is anymore. Anger and hatred? Love and survival? Weed and memories? Everything is conditional. Everything is up in the air. I would not wish being a writer on my worst enemy. There is nothing to be written worth the reading that does not require the total and brutal honesty on the part of the expeller of words and experience. Writing demands the opening of the vein, the exposing of the brain and the deconstruction of the soul for the entertainment and education of others. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it eats up the writer and spits out the typewriter hammers, inky ribbon, modern keyboard keys and ancient quills of a thousand writers that came before them. (1005)
I am all out of words. See, it is not as easy as it might look…..