Sunday, July 05, 2009

Follow That Muse!!

I have always been a reader because I was always read to. My progenitors read to me incessantly, repeatedly reciting Golden Books and the new sensation, Dr. Suess, until I just automatically learned to read along. Fun pictures helped a lot, too. I was introduced to comic books before first grade, passed-along issues of Superman, Action Comics, Wonder Woman, Batman, Brave and the Bold, Justice League. My first public letter of commentary was printed in 'Wonder Woman's Mailbag.' There were the odd issues of "Classics Illustrated" to round out my enchantment with literature.

They tried to... curb my enthusiasm... in the first grade of the Catholic School I attended. The nun teaching the class was a scold, and often enough I bore the brunt of her scorn for trying to 'read above my station.' The class was doing "Dick and Jane," you see. I shouldn't be reading all of that stuff about mythology and science, and science fiction, because... the class was reading "Dick and Jane!" She really didn't like it when my cousin, who was in Second Grade, had his teacher bring me in to explain about dinosaurs! To this day I am still not entirely comfortable with my intellectual capacity due to that pointed lack of support.

The flip side of reading, of course, is writing. With rudimentary language but illustrated by tiny pictures, I transcribed a large number of dreams over my early childhood years. They were stories, and I realized early on that this was how those people who wrote things that I enjoyed did it! A wider vocabulary and more sophisticated pictures, but the basic principle was the same. Doing it was something that seemed enjoyable, too. I never set out to become a writer, but it always appealed to me.

It was not until years of writing dozens upon dozens of fragments of incomplete stories that I began to realize that this creative effort could require serious work, and that meant regularity, not exactly the strong suite in my laissez faire approach to life. It required Time and Effort. I read something by super-prolific author Isaac Asimov who wrote that he was compelled to write a half-dozen pages a day or he felt incomplete. It didn't even really matter if they were ever used or not. He was driven... and very successful. No such drive flogged me forward, unfortunately, and truth to tell, there was an element of reluctance to complete my own endeavours, because something finished was then subject to judgement, if not by others, then by my own critical self. I did market two short stories to half a dozen magazines in 1970, but was the recipient of no more than rejection slips.

I had a formal opportunity to learn the craft of writing in my middle-teens, and in fact a salesman from "The Famous Writer's School" came to sign me up; but I got cold feet and my father sent him on his way, never insisting that I take a stand. More's the pity. In one last effort, I went to college at SUNY New Paltz in 1971 with the intent of laying the foundation for a career in journalism; the English prerequisites soured me on that plan, with a less-than inspiring curriculum and department. Eventually I obtained degrees in anthropology and in psychology (but that's another tale) and still work in the human service field thirty-four years later.

Not that reading and writing have not been constant companions; I have never been shy to express my opinion in letters to the editor for thirty-nine years, and for many of those was also an active correspondent with friends and relatives (superseded now by email, I fear). In my employ as a case manager I have written hundreds of pages of documents and letters over the last nine years, but these are circumscribed and my creativity is restricted to the objectives of my clientele.

As I have noted in previous blog entries, I have been experiencing increasing anomie in the last few years. As Jack Nicholson asked himself, "Suppose this is as good as it gets?" That thought has made me sad. But creative writing has still come, in fits and starts. Over perhaps the last six years I've written a half-dozen 'warped children's stories' about the characters Bromberg and Annie Pumpkin" and found them satisfying. Earlier this year I "penned" a short horror story in the style of H.P. Lovecraft. And last month I spotted a bumper sticker whose slogan rang a gong in my consciousness: "Remember who it is you always wanted to be."

So it was that shortly after, under the influence of a few pints of Guinness stout, that I began to muse upon my childhood, and a book published in 1963 came to mind. Called "The Vanishing Village" by Will Rose, it was a series of stories somewhat fictionalizing his childhood in Woodstock, N.Y. in the 1890's. It occurred to me that my own family's move to Woodstock in 1961, where we remained for eight years, precipitated my own developmental adventures in a decade that saw the national culture changing, spilling over onto my hometown and shaping my perspectives. Why, what a great idea for my own series of stories! Let's not be slavishly devoted to the accuracy of the events, the time-lines, the specific players, let me mine my nostalgia for entertainment!

I pack a pen as I travel down memory lane, jotting notes and vignettes of odd scraps of paper, shoving them into pockets for later examination and transcription, and this has been a fruitful approach. I'm enjoying examining the jigsaw puzzle-pieces of my early teen years, figuring how this relates to that and exercising my wordsmithery. These are shared with a small circle of family and friends, and their feedback has been rewarding. I will try to produce quality rather than quantity. I will print these out and put them in a clearly-market binder, extracted from the chaos that is my computer, a physical stack to point to and declare "I did that!"

Mneme, Melete, Clio and Calliope, I salute you and raise a libation to your inspiration! I ask that our partnership be enjoyable and sustain my spirits. Let's have fun!

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Unending Challenge

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

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