500 Words: Butt-In-Chair

Butt-in-Chair MeansI got it.  The advice I’d been reading most of my life finally hit home.  Finally.  Sometimes I’m  really slow.

This is my work now.  Developing the discipline of meeting myself at the computer every day and creating.

If none of what I have been doing looking for a job has been working, and my heart longs to create, why not just spend my energy there?

I thought talent and creativity just came into being. Really.  My father was a musician with perfect pitch, yet I never saw him practice or sweat over a composition.  We only model what we see, and if creativity seems to come out of nowhere, how was I supposed to know it took practice?

I didn’t know it was a craft to be honed, and that the way to hone it was to create all the time. Instead of creating,  I would go back to not creating and worrying incessantly about how to pay the bills.  My dysthymia would become full-blown depression and I would lie in bed and cry.  (I still worry incessantly about bills.)

Then I read a book of essays by Anne Lamott about life.  I hit the part about “shitty first drafts.”  Seriously, that’s what this crazy writer up the freeway from me in Mill Valley called them, “shitty first drafts.”  Well, huh, I thought.

It began to sink in.  This advice I’d been reading most of my life began to hit home.  It was the very realization that I have to put my butt in the chair every day and do something.  Butt-in-chair does not mean  publishable every day, nor does it mean a strict word count or number of hours.  Why Anne Lamott was the one who got through is anyone’s guess.

What “shitty first draft” and butt-in-chair mean to me is, go to work.  Every day.  Go to work and create.  If it’s shitty, who cares?  I don’t even have to care.  The only care I should have is that my butt is in the chair and I am working.  Two hundred words a day, five hundred?  Doesn’t matter.  Hands on keyboard, butt in chair, go.

Thank you to all the mentors I’ve never met.  To Richard Kadrey who shared a picture of one of his outlines.  To Wil Wheaton who writes honestly about his own depression and anxiety, and who taught me the two best words to string together; “depression lies.”  To Anne Lamott who taught me about shitty first drafts and letting go.  To Annie Liebovitz who makes it look effortless but who said “I’m happy if I get one shot a year I really like,” while I was in the same room with her.  To Gordon Atkinson whose writing resonated with me while he was RLP and who was open about his own process.

It’s really called discipline, or work ethic, or something silly like that.  But to me, it’s shitty first drafts and butt-in-chair every day.  No lie, it’s that simple and that difficult.

Reading Ovid: Metamorphoses – Book Twelve

Metamorphoses
Ovid
Translated by David Raeburn

Title: Metamorphoses
Author: Ovid, translated by Daniel Raeburn
Published: Reprint, 2004
ISBN-13: 978-0140447897
Publisher: Penguin Classics

Book OneBook TwoBook ThreeBook FourBook FiveBook SixBook SevenBook Eight Book Nine Book TenBook ElevenBook ThirteenBook FourteenBook Fifteen

Book Twelve 628 has lines on 30 pages.

Book Twelve is mostly about the Trojan War.  But instead of describing the war itself, as Ovid’s predecessors Virgil and Homer did, Ovid describes it as yet another brawl breaking out at a wedding reception (see Book Five).

The book starts with a short, weird piece about the thousand ships leaving Greece for Troy after Paris abducted Helen which started the Trojan War.

Next is a seemingly unconnected story about Rumour.  I’m particularly fond of the way Ovid describes Rumour’s home.

… who chose to live on a mountain,
with numberless entrances into her house and a thousand additional
holes, though none of her thresholds are barred with a gate or a door.
… the whole place hums and echoes, repeating whatever
it hears.  …
(lines  43 – 45, 47 – 48)

There are 23 lines which exquisitely describe this home and its denizens.  This is why I continue with Metamorphoses, the language can be so beautiful and interesting.

Then there’s the story of Cycnus, yet another man who metamorphosizes into a swan.  This Cycnus brags to Achilles about needing no armor.  Comically, Achilles keeps trying to kill Cycnus by throwing his spear multiple times and always missing.  Even more comically, while Cycnus is boasting he can’t be killed, Achilles strangles Cycnus with the strap of his own helmet.

The after battle story telling around the fire leads into Nestor’s story of the transgender Caenis/Caeneus.

His exploits won him renown, the more surprisingly so as he started life as a woman.
(line 174 – 175)

The story of Caenis makes sense, since she was raped by Neptune who offers her anything she wants.  She asks to be made something other than a woman so that she will never have to suffer rape again.  (lines 199  – 203)

The core of Book Twelve is “The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs,” Ovid’s comical version of the Trojan War.  At the wedding of Pirithous and Hippodamia, the drunken centaur, Eurytus, decides he’s going to make off with the bride.  Which never goes over well.  There erupts an epic brawl in which weapons are improvised from the furniture and table settings.

One line in particular caught my fancy.  There’s a centaur passed out drunk in the midst of this chaos with a cup of wine spilling from his hand.  A lapith sees this and takes action.

Now you must mix your wine with Stygian water!
(line 322)

Book Twelve ends with the death of Achilles, as cowardly Paris’ arrow is guided by Apollo through Achilles’ heel.

If Priam, after the death of Hector, had cause for rejoicing,
this surely was it.  So Achilles who’d vanquished the mightiest heroes
was vanquished himself by a coward who’d stolen the wife of his Greek host.
(lines 607 – 609)

The death of Achilles ends with preparations for the dispensing of Achilles’ belongings.

In my research, I keep being reminded that the Romans were a blood-thirsty lot and all these tales of battles and wars would have been greatly appreciated.  Even as I caution myself of this, I can’t help wincing over the detailed gory events.  Eyeballs dangling onto faces just isn’t a very nice thing to think about, no matter how much the antagonist might have deserved something horrible.

Personal Log: July 27 – August 2, 2015

Vancouver 2000
Vancouver 2000

Another week gone by. That’s profound, in a completely obvious “duh” kinda way isn’t it?

The biggest thing to happen is that my patrons can no longer afford to be my patrons.  As if trying to find a job and asking monthly for money was easy.  I am neither surprised or upset with this news.  Everyone has the right to take care of themselves, and my patrons helped me as long as they could.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared about money, there’s enough for about a month.  No, I don’t know what comes next or what I’m going to do.

Actually, I do know what I’m going to do.  Keep writing.  There’s a paid writing assignment about to hit, there will be more.  For now, I just keep doing what I’m doing and trusting the universe is going to continue taking care of me as it has.

On the reading front, I finally finished Ovid’s MetamorphosesReviews/recaps/commentary on each book will be published for the next few weeks on Tuesdays.  It was a challenge, but one I’m glad to have taken on.  I feel even more erudite and well-read now.  Or something.

I haven’t weighed in much on the hullabaloo over the publication of Harper Lee’s “latest” book, Go Set a Watchman.  Basically, my opinion is that the provenance is iffy at best, and it just seemed like there were too many people trying to take advantage of a woman who swore she would never publish another book after To Kill a Mockingbird.  She is very old now and nearly blind and deaf, I don’t see how anyone thinks she gave her blessings to this endeavor.  My curiosity is not great enough to want to read it.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, and I’m not willing to let my memories of it be tanked.

Having said all of that, if you want to read it, please get down with your bad self.  Because I don’t want to, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or that I don’t want you to.

I did find this article from Melville House Books interesting.  A bookseller named Brilliant Books is offering refunds to anyone who purchased Go Set a Watchman from them and is dissatisfied.

We had been disappointed in the way the book was marketed from the beginning. We knew the history of Go Set A Watchman and it wasn’t congruent with the marketing: “Harper Lee’s New Novel” “with many of your favorite characters from To Kill A Mockingbird.”

Whether you agree or not, there’s something to be said for retailers who stick to their principles.

In other bookish news, I’ve been following the Hugo nominations controversy with a somewhat jaded and amused eye.  Basically, it comes down to a bunch of white, male SFMil (science fiction military) writers deciding that the Hugos have been highjacked in past years by people who are not white, not male, possibly not even heterosexual, and don’t write SFMil.  Oh, then there’s the whole “social justice warrior” thing being batted around.  Whatever that means.

Never mind that one of the most revered writers and founders of science fiction wrote characters who were diverse and took on “SJW” issues.  As many bow to Robert Heinlein as the manliest man SF writer who wrote SFMil there ever was, they are so wrong I can’t help but laugh.  Or, there’s Frank Herbert who wrote Dune, one of the greatest SF books of all time, which main theme is environmentalism.

The Guardian has had pretty good coverage of the whole mess.  As has John Scalzi, who has an insider’s view.  The Hugo awards will be the losers if politics takes the prize is the latest I’ve read.

The Hugos have always been a popularity contest, a showcase of SF fandoms’ favourite fiction, and skewing the lists for political point-scoring makes a mockery of them. Whether the Sad Puppies win the day or not, it’s the awards’ legacy that will suffer, along with the future work that would have benefited from their now damaged prestige. That’s what is truly sad.

I left organized fandom years ago for many reasons.  Mostly I’m too mundane for fandom and too fannish for the mundanes.  I did not find fandom as welcoming as others have, mostly because my tastes don’t particularly match any given group.  Nor do I understand cosplay or gaming.  This is not to say I disapprove or feel left out.  I do not.

The best thing about fandom is “ZOMG, I have to show you this thing!”  The worst thing is the gatekeeping which sometimes creeps in when someone doesn’t know episode titles for their favorite television show, or hasn’t haunted the internet reading fanfic about their favorite characters.  It got tiresome explaining to someone I barely knew why I was reading something not of the genre, or hadn’t read every single book by the Guest of Honor, who was frequently someone I hadn’t heard of before.

There’s only so much time in my life and only so much energy I have to devote to my many interests.  Plus, introvert.  If fandom is where your people are, then do it.  Hang out with your tribe and be your very own fan.  But, please stop gatekeeping, especially of women fans.  That’s just rude.