The time has come, the Walrus (2) said,
To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings.
The big reason I write is, I have a story in me, but only a very loose idea of what it might consist of. I have to tell it to myself, to find out. It wants to go ever-so-many ways. Which path do I take? The answer is: just about all of them, sooner or later.
And, I love to play with words. I get to talk about all kinds of things in Sly, and make sense, that’s the wonderful thing. Make sense in the context of the world I’ve created. When you’re dealing with a talking cat, there are no rules. You’re already down the rabbit hole, why not dig a little deeper? I run wild because I can. And the most fun for me is to run off the rails stylistically. It just fits, seems to me.
My story is silly-putty. I slap on a layer of silly and smoosh it in until it adheres. If it doesn’t grab in one place, I migrate it to somewhere else. I don’t compose. I collage a story together.
Things that have no reasonable relation to the story, I slip into footnotes.
That reminds me and by the way (3) work pretty damn well under any circumstance.
Anything I can connect, even in the flimsiest way, to – as Michael Hagen puts it – to that damn cat, in it goes. I pound square pegs into round holes, as I do in every area of my life.
(Carl’s reasons three and, especially, four: I am never more myself than when I write.)
Back to Lewis Carroll:
I talk of shoes in my thing. (Sly’s boots, diamonds hidden in a pirate’s boot heel.)
Ships. (My pirate adventure.) Sealing wax. (Also the pirates.)
Cabbages? Not that, but I do a whole lot around cheese, ewe’s milk cheese, to be precise.
Kings? Most definitely. I have my King of Haute-Navarre. I have Queen Elizabeth. I have touched upon science, and art. I have written verse. (Sly is an enthusiastic versifier.) I have given his, therefore our, opinions on many things.
He is me and I am he. (So much for Carl’s reason two: to save my sanity. I’ll take a pass on that one.)
I write in a literary vein, I try to make art. Pretty spooky, when your hero is a big-mouth cat.
Do I write for recognition? I hope for it, certainly. Do I write for money? I don’t expect money that would make a difference in my life. Do I write to connect with others? I worked on Sly for twenty years without showing it to anyone. It was only when I joined Book Country that I began to share it.
Oh, I showed it to my sister, and to a boyfriend. Barb’s reaction to anything I send her is invariably, great! She’s not much of a reader, and I guess I intimidate her. I know I intimidate her.
Vic belittled it, and me, but not because he didn’t like it. According to him, far from done, working at my usual glacial pace, no payoff in sight, I was wasting my time. He told me many times, until you make money off it, it doesn’t count for shit, I don’t want to hear about it. Discouraged (deeply, for several reasons), I dropped it for years at a time. I finally pulled my life together and got free of him. I now have a husband who couldn’t be more supportive.
My goal with Sly is to be as silly as I can figure out how to be, on my terms. An editor says I need to be more flexible, my difficult choices insult potential readers, who may not be as beguiled by them as I am. You all know how I’ve taken that advice to heart. (4)
Writing is hard, but the hardest part is deciding where to compromise. Being confident enough to stand your ground is a satisfaction in itself.
(1) (Goo goo g’joob) John Lennon wrote that lyric, he explained, to goof on the people who were trying to analyze his songs. I just read a few days ago that Dylan would cut and paste phrases from newspaper articles and string them together in ways that delighted him, he actually wrote some songs that way. I string nonsense together in ways that delight me. Then I call it a plot. As much plot as you’re going to get out of me.
(2) Lennon, Lewis Carroll, I take my inspiration where I find it.
(3) Uh, by the way, the pdf of the full Come To The Manger is now available in our communal email.
(4) George Michael said “I don’t need the approval of people who don’t approve of me.” I feel the same way.