|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
(If these seem to be a bit repetitive just think of them as as those fliers, cards, and notes that pile up on bulletin boards. I'll take down anything that no longer applies, but while they're pertinent...)
1. I am a believer in the never ending process of learning. In that cause I would like to put out an invitation to poets living in the Ventura, California area. Wednesday nights, for the next seven weeks, at 7 PM in Ventura at the Vita Art Center, 432 North Ventura Avenue, there will be an ongoing poetry workshop. This is a great opportunity to sharpen your craft and gather with other writers in the pursuit of excellence.
2. I have never done this before so I'm still figuring out my proverbial butt from a hole in the ground. What I am proposing is a poetry contest. Before you get to crazy, I am initially aiming this at the Southern California area. Perhaps later I can expand my reach but I'm still trying to get the ins and outs figured and would appreciate suggestions from anyone who has done this, or anything remotely similar, before.
Feel free to contact me about either of these announcements at the e-mail address listed at the bottom of the post.
KNOWING WHEN IT'S DONE
Julius II looks to the ceiling and yells to Michelangelo, "When will you make a finish?"
Leaning over the scaffolding, Michelangelo angrily replies, "When I am done."
This is a scene from the movie, THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY, but how many times have writers and poets felt like this? You have written all the emotion down and then begins the serious work of writing. You tweak, stroke, mold, and massage the piece endlessly. You try to remember all the rules, Show, Don't Tell...Avoid adverbs, or adjectives, or both...Kill your darlings...Let the characters tell the story. They go on and on, and so will you, trying to remember and apply everything possible and avoid the mistakes that highlight you as a rookie. But when IS all this enough?
In the movie, the Pope is anxious to get the work on the Sistine ceiling done, at first, so that he can free up money for his war against rebellious Italian states and the invading French. Then the emphasis shifts so that he can appease intriguers in the Vatican. Finally, seeing his own death approaching, he wants the work finished as a tribute to his Papacy. Michelangelo, however, will not be dictated to. This is his masterpiece, and it can only be done when he says.
In cases of genius, you cannot argue with that approach. But what decides genius, and even then, does genius just happen, or is it nurtured first so that it can blossom? I would say that the talent of raw genius is recognizable but, without guidance and instruction, more often then not it whithers and dies. Add to this a certain bit of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that spark that ignites a powder keg of desire, and you have the possibility for one of two things. First, the creation of something splendid and mesmerising. Second, the never ending work in progress.
So, how do you avoid the latter and achieve the former? Any number of historically significant writers did it by cultivating the acquaintance of another individual. One whose opinions and taste they trusted. That opinion might not have to agree with what the writer wanted to hear, but it was based on sharp insight and good literary instinct. Early on Hemingway had Gertrude Stein, James Joyce had Frank Budgen, and Joyce Carol Oates had Raymond J. Smith. The list could go on for days.
These were the people who mentored and encouraged, read and edited, or just gave advice, and often monetary support, to the writers. It is that kind of relationship that I see so many aspiring authors reaching for today, and having such a hard time finding. Whether it is the isolation fostered by this double edged sword called the Internet, which offers so much expansive contact but so little personal investment, or the steady decline in literate populations. (I know you can read a graphic novel Chuck...but can you actually tell me how it might have been made better? Other than paper thin, flat screen, CGI, you putz!)
It is in finding that talented 'reader', that a 'writer's' true potential can be found. They are the source of honest opinion and unflinching feedback that isn't meant to deter but to inflame the need to be better. They are also the ones who will stand back and tell us, "Put down the brush Mike and call it a day. It's finished." I have to admit an unfair advantage here, I'm married to my editor in chief, and it is a relationship that has grown ever more beneficial with each new work and her unselfish collaboration.
But there are communities out there. Some of them are on facebook, others on Google plus, and more, where authors and wannabes congregate and discuss writing, and that is a place to begin. Just don't sell short genuine physical contact. There's as much to be learned from a raised eyebrow or forced smile as there is from a dissertation of many pages. So, find a mentor, muse, editor, reader, friend...Whatever you want to call them and then shut the fuck up and let them talk!
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
Want to follow or subscribe to this blog? There are gadgets for that on the right side of the page. You can leave comments in the form below. I can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can also find links to some of the sites I visit from time to time on the right. I'm also looking for submissions to the Your Work/Your Love page. Authors retain all rights.
Dane F. Baylis