Well, That Didn’t Last Long

I missed an update yesterday. Two days into my new pledge. Shitballs. I have an excuse, though! I got sucked into a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside and maybe doesn’t exist at all and maybe there’s a minotaur down there.

You see, last night I went to go see Mark Z. Danielewski reading from his new-ish book, The Fifty Year Sword—a book I sadly cannot afford right now, but that’s okay because I went with a friend and his bitch girlfriend, and he has a copy I can borrow. But I did get my copies of Only Revolutions and House of Leaves signed, and when I got home I started browsing. The result was engrossment (I am astonished that that is a real word).

This is obviously a terrible excuse. One of my major problems is that my cultural consumption/creation ratio is wildly out of balance, and as much as I enjoy the former, I worry that I’ll never really be content until my contributions are equal to that. But as Danielewski spoke to briefly last night, and as I’ve also learned from other artists and creators I admire, often the best way to enjoy both is to collaborate.

Right now, collaboration isn’t really a tactic I want to attempt. Like I said before, I need to be able to buckle down creatively, and I don’t want to be the guy in a partnership who’s still learning to do that. (Weirdly, however, five separate people have approached me in the past month for collaboration/consultation on their own projects—which I not only enjoy, but provides a wonderful little feeling of validation. The fact that people have artistic/editorial faith in me probably means a lot more to me than I’ve realized.)

So let’s talk fiction.

Fiction, as everyone who’s ever read my staggered attempts at it knows, is my Mordred. It requires a curious ability to take yourself our of yourself, which you don’t have to do with non-, where you can just be an asshole in a school newspaper opinions column and get a college credit for it. It’s also why I’m not great with poetry.

On top of that, I feel like I suffer from a hesitancy of plot—I’m a genre-fiction reader, first and formost. I don’t really subscribe to the classic definition of the difference between genre- and literary-fiction (or as I characterize it, because I am from Portland, the Blue Room/Gold Room divide), but I feel like this blindly ignorant generalization serves my intellectual needs:

a) Literary fiction can be good without having a plot, and

b) Genre fiction can be good without being pretty.

That works well enough, right? Look, I don’t really care what “Room” my stories end up “being in”. I want my work to be rich with theme and emotional resonance and humor and as full of beautiful imagery as a rotting cow is as full of gas and maggots. At the same time, a compelling narrative is indispensable to me—and I’m not entirely sure I’ve ever written one of those. All of my ideas, even the really captivating ones, seem to just lead to nifty little word pictures. Like that giraffe thing I half-wrote a while back. I had what I thought was this really startling, iconic image—a giraffe appearing out of a wormhole and informing a group of scientists that he brought word of their impending doom—but I completely forgot to ask myself “What happens next?”

I’m thinking tomorrow night I figure out the answer.

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