Poetry Break

“So Now” by Charles Bukowski

A lot of people will give me shit about this, but I like Bukowski. He’s often sited as a red flag along with Hemingway and Nabokov for reasons I’ll never truly understand.

Aside from the obvious reason I picked this poem – the conversation about getting older – I chose this because of the way people use other people’s poetry to push their stories. Too often I’ll see advertisements using Whitman‘s or Kerouac’s works to push their shitty jeans. And by doing so, bastardizing the poem or work.

But creating a video essay around a poem? That’s art.

Doldrums · Personal

So this is how the story ends

I started this post last night. Then I backspaced it to oblivion, only to start again. Rinse and repeat until I closed the tab and shut off my computer. Writing hasn’t been coming easy for me, and that famous Bukowski quote echoes through my head: “Don’t try.”

While Bukowski speaks to a younger version me, lost to the times, that quote still holds heavy in my heart. Much like the one I scrawled in Sharpie on my teenage bedroom: “You have to be WILLING to write badly.” I’m unsure of the origin of that quote. Not sure if teenage me plucked it from the pages of Writer’s Digest, or read it in a writer’s manual. But it made sense to me.

You have to try to fail, and failures aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes failure leads to something better. (Cue The Rolling Stones.)

As overly simplistic this is, failure led to Shaun. And I never once thought of it in that way. When I started in 1997, I was bold. And I don’t mean that I took great leaps and chances to stand out – though, I vaguely remember wearing this string in my hair for reasons that still baffle me. What I mean is, my freshman of high school I had this thought that if I took French, I’d get the girl. What girl? Who the fuck knows. Any girl. I can think of a number of crushes I had in the eighth and ninth grade and to 14-year-old me, either one would have sufficed. I wanted a girlfriend and French is the language or romance, no?

So I took French and, ultimately, I flunked French. Who would have fucking guessed that? So my “sophomore” year (better known as my second freshmen year), I took Spanish. Advance Spanish. Now I speak better Spanish these days than I did back then. And that’s very telling of the skill 15-year-old me had. Which is, if you haven’t guessed, none at all. Yet somehow I passed. So that in my junior year, I took Spanish II.

Spanish has never been a second language to me. It should be considering my upbringing and where I live. I’m good when it comes to ordering food and, most times, assisting patrons at work. But conversationally, I’m as gringo as they get. (In fact, I know a white girl who speaks better Spanish than me.) So in Spanish II, I managed to pass the first semester. I don’t know what happened that second semester, but I failed, causing to repeat it in my senior. Bear with me, I’m getting to my point.

In my second semester, I walked into my second attempt at Spanish II. I chose my seat carefully, sitting aside a pretty, green-eyed freshman girl with a unique spelling of her name. This girl, of course, was Jeanna. Now I didn’t fall in love with Jeanna off the bat. I was in a committed long distance relationship with a redhead in San Antonio, whom met through her friends here.

But that’s beside the point, because eventually, I did fall in love with Jeanna. I spent most of my post-adolescent and adult life in love with her. And we had our ups and downs. Our fights. Break-ups and make-ups. And we had Shaun, the best creation I ever had a hand in. More beautiful than any poem I’ve written or ever will write.

You see, if I hadn’t taken French my freshmen year, I would have started my Spanish lessons earlier. Thus leading me to have never meant Jeanna. And if I passed French my freshmen year, I would have taken French II my sophomore year. Whether I passed that or not isn’t important; I still wouldn’t have met Jeanna. Had I passed that second semester of Spanish II my junior year, same outcome.

Now I’m not saying things happen for a reason, because that’s balderdash and a strange way to look at the world.

I’m guess what I’m saying is this: Don’t just try to do something, do something. If you fail, that’s part of the process. Some times it might hurt; some times you find yourself in a better situation because of it.

Maybe you’re a writer trying publish for the first time, only get a rejection letter. Maybe you’re a freshmen kid wanting to learn French. Or maybe you’re sitting next to the woman you’ve grown really close, watching YouTube videos, and you get brave enough to ask if she wants more only for her to tell you she’s content on just being friends.

If there’s one message I want to impart here it’s this: It’s o.k. if you’re not o.k. right now. Failure and rejection have a way of making you feel like a lesser person. But I love my failures as much as I praise my successes. Because I wouldn’t trade all the hypothetical girls freshmen-me could’ve had speaking perfect French for what I have now. Even if what I have now is just being a single dad.

Dune author Frank Herbert once said, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” This isn’t an ending. It’s just another beginning. Another chapter to be written.

Writing & Writers

Qualms for the Poor

 

“Fucking magnets, how do they work?” – Insane Clown Posse

Not everyone’s going to like what you write. That’s probably the first caveat for any aspiring writer. There will always be someone out there that thinks what you have to offer is shit. Some don’t even hold back about it. They let loose the venom and, if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t play the game.

The word writer has blurred significantly in the evolving age of technology. Before, a writer had to trudge through rejection letter after rejection letter. There was agent hunting, or scouting yourself to the big league publishers. Of course, there was the self-publishing route, but that was often times frowned upon.

Those days are over. Now the blogosphere offers safe passage for everyone. Amazon, Smashwords, and other like places offer inexpensive self-publishing. And e-books offer a wider range to reach your core audience. But the caveat remains. If you don’t have that leather skin, then just sit it out.

I was forced to read a terribly written children’s book about a month ago. A native writer managed to publish it and went on “tour” to promote his lackluster piece of shit. Because I tend to “review” the books I read, I did so. I even went as far as creating its GoodReads page. It received a one-star review – I was feeling quite generous. For a good while, the book stood with one review and its one star until someone – an anonymous “reader” – gave it a five-star reviewer, citing that it was a great books for ESL students and wondered if the writer had any other books.

This isn’t the first time a writer has self-rated a book on GoodReads, and I”m sure it won’t be the last. However, way to cheapen a system. Self-publishing has blossomed in this brave new world of technology. That’s not necessarily a great thing. While it opens the door to great writers we would’ve never heard about any other way, it also allows bad writers to publish their stories. Think the Christopher Hitchens‘ quote about everyone having a story in them, but not everyone should tell it. However, back in the day, self-publishing was expensive and only those who had the money could push their shit out.

Charles Bukowski stated that if you need to share your work with a loved one first, then you shouldn’t be a writer. My family and friends have been great motivators. Many of times, I’ve come to them with a story or piece that I needed them to review. Our friendship or blood never once left them bias. There have been times when my nearest and dearest have hated the story I poured so much time into. The keyword is time. If you don’t bleed on the page. If you don’t lose several hours of sleep over it. If you don’t lose track of time. If you don’t set it down and forget about it for a while only to return to it with virgin eyes. You’re probably not a writer. Not a “real” writer. You’re just passing time until some other new fad comes in.

Now there is the argument that I’ve lost my place. Wasn’t this supposed to be my writer’s blog? That was the original mission statement. And it can be thrown into my face about the editing here. The format. The linear thought. I have an answer for you. This. These pages of rants, dreams, political statements, and arrogance are not my “writings.” This is just merely a journal I carelessly left open on the coffee table in a room occupied by several people.