Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why I write

I was pretty happy with the way my homework essay-response came together for my nonfiction course with Richard Hoffman. Therefore, I’m going to share it with you in lieu of a guest-author write up!

I can’t esteem Richard highly enough as a professor. He speaks in awe-inspiring quotes, eschewing them like so much air, as if beautiful language were a matter of nature rather than a honed skill. The assignments he has given in both his memoir workshop and the literary workshop I’m currently taking with him have been thought-provoking (obviously, see below) and enlightening. He would have had a heavy impression on what I understood an author to be if I hadn’t been of a similar mind before meeting him, and he has had a notable impact on my understanding of what the memoir genre is and can be.

I encourage you (and myself) to pick up his poetry and at least Half the House just to see what American authors are capable of when they’re not bullshitting themselves with pop culture psuedo-psychology. He’s in the top two or three of living author’s I’d be flattered to be told I was following in his footsteps.

Now, for my homework assignment.

**

One of the most obvious ways I have a general sense of communion with “other people” in my life is my pursuit of recognition. As you’ve seen at least in “Junior Year” [not posted here!] in addition to my general complaints about never being understood in my essays, I’ve long felt conflicted about my inability to communicate with my “teachers.” One the one hand, I want them to recognize what I’m attempting to do even if I fail. On the other hand, I’ve flourished in a continual stream of disappointment that we are both steeped in, my teachers and I.

A symptom of this comes in remarks about the inevitability of progressive failure in the face of man en masse. What I mean by this is that the pursuit of moderation and reasonability in worldview, held as a beacon by philosophers and artists alike, only takes place on an individual basis and usually stands apart from the community at large. I mentioned this last class as it was espoused by Montaigne through Cicero, two points that through time form a flat line evidencing the lack of societal progress at least between 100 BCE and 1500 CE.

Robert Louis Stevenson gives this idea some credence as well in his essay “An Apology for Idlers” when he says, “Alas and alas! you may take it how you will, but the services of no single individual are indispensable.” The context of this quote makes it clear that he lumps artists into this conglomeration of worthlessness. I don’t believe he meant that the act of personal growth is worthless, merely that any attempt to inspire men to live up to the idea of personal growth is bound to fail. As it’s said in the mouths of our contemporaries, “Innovation at the core is very slow, while innovation at the edge is happens very fast.” Note that by very slow we mean “nonexistent and (actively and passively) resisted.”

What happens when we take away the obvious artistic temperament, to sally forth with brandished passion, besieging the stasis of mankind in an attempt to rouse their sentiments and better their dispositions? We can say that writing of this nature, that bears in mind a purpose before it, is as flawed and any agenda-bearing writing, but we’ll also rob a great many writers in the world of their reason for writing. For many hope to affect change; I believe I remember you yourself saying that a level of hope must underwrite all memoirs in order to justify the author’s venture.

But perhaps I’ll side more with Nietzsche on this particular problem and ask, “Why do you think I write to be read?” I have no real commercial aspirations for my writing and am actually planning my life in such a way that I don’t depend on my writing for my income. However, I do tweak my writing in workshops and according to reader feedback. Something in me–God purge me of it–still seeks the approval of others, but something else seeks art for the sake of a true spiritual expression the likes of which no writing could ever convey. I am a human, after all, and therefore full of paradox and contradiction.

One might address this split as a contrast between the dark “romantic” realism that Stevenson addresses in “The Lantern-Bearers” and the light of life that evidences why life is worth living and books worth reading. I myself coincidentally wrote something in my blog the day before I read the essay that sounds distinctly like what Stephenson is getting at:

My written world is dark. I tend to write about people who aren’t altogether nice in situations that aren’t going to turn out in the characters’ favor. After all, why should they? The world doesn’t work that way on a mass level. We suffer every day or every hour crimes (both legal and moral) that nobody wants to suffer–murder, rape, infidelity, bureaucracies–and we have to live with the scars whether or not we solicited them. I write these stories because these are the stories of man en masse, as I see it.

but on the other hand:

The particular level in which we live sometimes proves that dark world true. Othertimes we get to enjoy moments of exception.

For example, I have a girlfriend, Ashley, that you don’t see me write about much. She’s lovely and sweet and charming. She adores me and, as hasn’t been the case for years before, I adore her back. She sings like an angel, she supports me emotionally and financially, and she loves my dog. Speaking of that, Ashley has a heart as large and powerful as my ego.

In other words, I write about what I see in mankind on the whole, which tends to show a dark world where terrible things happen and any brightness that appears is as accidental but not as commonplace as the darkness with which it contrasts. On the other hand, I consider my life fairly blessed (a strange word for me to use in the best circumstances) even in the face of my mistakes and those of the people around me.

How do I justify the dichotomy between what I write and what I live? I’m obsessed with the fallibility of life, with frailty and its place in the pursuit of happiness. I can only justify it truly with youth: I want to point out through my art that happyness is not happiness; that is, the American ideal doesn’t measure up to the philosophic and mystic lives and experiences that I’ve read about and participated in.

I know on the one hand that no amount of cleverness, artistry, or good intention on my part will get man to recognize at the foot of his endeavors that all is vanity, shadows and dust with which we amuse ourselves. Similar messages birthed in genius far greater and more primal than I can hope to achieve have existed for thousands of years without infringing on the blank slate of birth and nature. Cultures vastly more powerful to billions of people have a hard enough time reigning in their citizens let alone impacting their natural faculties in a meaningful way (which even if it is accomplished is largely accidental).

I also have that youthful fire that hopes against all odds and against all evidence that one message may spread virally through our collective consciousness and change the world forever for the better. I suppose I should focus on this zeal as my next topic of meditation, my last being manipulation, an interpersonal force I have largely left behind and a meditation that generated some of my best work to date.

I know that the endgame is an experience I have had before, to have words like fire that burn in your belly and come out as near to prophecy as mortals can hope to achieve. I do not believe in a sort of God that would ever have me as a mouthpiece, nor do I believe in the massively transitional power of prophecy or prophecy-like writing. I do, however, believe in, and I have experience words that just must get written down, creation that happens quite independently of me, as Montaigne discusses with his muses in “On Some Verses of Virgil.”

Some forces are greater than any individual will, and others have shown themselves more powerful than any number of wills combined. Virgina Woolf mentioned death as this sort of massively overwhelming power in “The Death of a Moth,” but it is not solitary in this position. Birth also overwhelms us, both with the forgetfulness and the capabilities which it plants in us. I believe that this mechanism itself is enough to nullify artists’ endeavors at upbuilding mankind.

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Author: Greg Freed

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Filed under Criticism, Humanistic, Personal essay, Writing

Sweetness and sugar

First thing’s first: let’s talk about Trackback Tuesdays!

So, I have this RSS feed on the page (a little below the categories on your right), and it was something I was fairly proud of putting together, especially since WordPress doesn’t allow javascript on the .com blogs. I felt that in addition to providing content you, dear reader, may be interested in, it would also build my report with some of my favorite blogs. I got it up and working, and I update it occasionally, and for a while I’ve called that that.

But that is never that. I’m sharing this information with you because I think it’s either interesting or edifying (hopefully both). So why do I just put it there in a place where only a few will both to take a look and just hope for the best? I should market it more clearly and give you a reason to look at the material I’ve shared.

On Twitter, this consists of me writing out a new tagline, which doubles for its description on Facebook. Here, though, I should do one better. I should write a response that elicits why I’m interested and, with a little effort, why you should be, too.

Maybe my responses will be more personal that marketable. So much the better, since it will fit the site then! 🙂

**

The post I’m responding to today can be found here. Naturally Nina is a blog run by a woman who lives in Cambridge that usually focuses on visual art, especially photography, but also branches into her personal life from time to time. I don’t remember exactly how I found her, but I do know that every post of hers has at least one thing I’m glad to have seen, and so I follow her.

She’s getting married soon, which prompted her to post the quote “the ‘perfect’ wedding is one that finds you waking up next to a man who is whispering ‘good morning, wife.’ you reach for his hand, feel the ring, and realize — this is my husband.”

Now, I shun the sentimental. If you’ve read one blog post you know enough to question why I share with you this shared quote. If you’ve seen more, then you may outright doubt what you expect to follow. So let me just tell you: I’m going to discuss the genders.

My written world is dark. I tend to write about people who aren’t altogether nice in situations that aren’t going to turn out in the characters’ favor. After all, why should they? The world doesn’t work that way on a mass level. We suffer every day or every hour crimes (both legal and moral) that nobody wants to suffer–murder, rape, infidelity, bureaucracies–and we have to live with the scars whether or not we solicited them. I write these stories because these are the stories of man en masse, as I see it.

The particular level in which we live sometimes proves that dark world true. Othertimes we get to enjoy moments of exception.

For example, I have a girlfriend, Ashley, that you don’t see me write about much. She’s lovely and sweet and charming. She adores me and, as hasn’t been the case for years before, I adore her back. She sings like an angel, she supports me emotionally and financially, and she loves my dog. Speaking of that, Ashley has a heart as large and powerful as my ego.

Together we’ve done some amazing things. We’ve spared a homeless man a few days on the street; we’ve lifted the spiritual weight of a man whose emotional life was straining his old age; we’ve been treated to a dozen eggs by a homeless man in our neighborhood. We’ve seen our futures in New York and laughed for joy. We’ve built a home together where we spend our days in happiness, even if we’re not idle.

Sure, our belts are a little tight–I’m in graduate school with no full-time job and she works for a non-profit organization aimed as low-income senior citizens–but we have something better than financial security. We have each other. We also have our pets and our passions and our talents. We’re doing alright.

Ashley has seen me tormented by my writing. When I first wrote “Manipulation,” which isn’t posted here, I sank deep into an emotional hole. But it’s generally recognized by writers of all levels that the best writing affects us and shows up outside of the writing. Some writers recommend dealing with lighter subjects and writing out a few jokes to off-set the heavy load of the memoir. Well, you haven’t seen much here that’s light and funny (maybe you will in the future: I heard you, Mani), but as a young writer I just haven’t hit that stride yet. I write about what’s on my mind, and the world in my mind in a dark and heavy place. My life with Ashley is the lightness that offsets that.

Now, a fellow student mentioned today that women in my stories often get treated harshly. My answer is simple: my characters stay true to my style and worldview. Bad situations happen and also make good literature; boohoo if it’s not happy. Nobody gets treated well in my stories. Everyone gets treated as fairly as I can manage, but fairly doesn’t mean nicely. If you’re a bastard, I’ll write you as a bastard. If you’re a bitch, I’ll write you as a bitch. No special treatment, no exceptions.

How does this wrap back around to the Naturally Nina quoted quote? I mean to help put things in perspective: my writing is dark, but I have happiness in my life. I reject sentimentality in art, but I accept love in life. I go to sleep with plots and metaphors running through my head, and I wake up with Ashley curled up against me. It’s like any job, really; you go, you get a little beat up over the course of the day, you come home to your lover, smile, and then you go to sleep. Repeat until the weekend. Well, that’s where I am.

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Filed under Criticism, Features, Humanistic, Statement of purpose, Trackback Tuesdays

So it’s time to get this train back on the road

Er… wait. Yeah, I mean what I said. Trains go on road sometimes. You know, like at intersections. Whatever, don’t judge me.

In the mode of our modern frilly psuedo-philosophy, I’m going to make an attempt to make this blog sustainable. (I’m 0 and 2 for metaphors tonight, or is that 0 and 3? Damn, maybe I should’ve waited another week… ;-p)

Here’s the deal:

1) Less Twitter and Facebook updates. The energy to properly market this blog was KILLING me. No more of that silly shit.

2) A whole list of theme days to make generation easier on me and community building through content contribution more compelling for you! 🙂
a) Microstory Mondays
b) Trackback Tuesdays
c) Guest Wednesdays
d) Theme Thursdays
e) Greg Fridays

This is all still up for consideration, of course. But I had to make a choice. I had to either decide to try and monetize this thing, what with the independent server and the ads and maybe some Quarterly Reviews and other well-thought-out concepts, or I had to back WAY off. I made the latter choice.

In that mode, welcome to your first Microstory Monday.

The challenge

Write a full story in less than three sentences. Fact, fiction, whatever.

The prize!

I’ll ask for your permission to rewrite the story to be posted next week. HOLY COW BEST PRIZE EVAR ZOMG!?!?

No stories? No problem. I’ll keep doing this until I get something or get tired of it. I’m hoping that at least a few of you out there like this sort of thing as much as I do, and I’m hoping that you decide to do it here instead of somewhere else for no particular reason. Now let’s see how this goes!

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

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One more week…

I felt confident about starting the site up again but decided that it was best to put it off for one more week. Thanks for your continued support and patience.

Greg

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A week or two off

I’m afraid that with the start of school and all of the different work things going on in addition to the updates for the site and my relationship with Ashley, I’m going to have to take a break. One or two weeks tops and then things will either be back on track or even better than they were before. Keep your eyes open on facebook, twitter, or the RSS feed for new posts in the near future.

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Too busy to write? Try journal excerpts!

Hm, so I haven’t thought over exactly what the consequences of posting some of my college journals could be, but I like giving you opportunities to get to know me better, and after the day I had yesterday, well… I promised you a new post, and this is the best result of the energy I can muster.

Yesterday I had a job interview. Not to jinx it, but my impression is that it went well, and I look forward to a second interview with the company to be scheduled next week. I went on a date night with Ashley, and then I stayed up all night doing absolutely important work that had nothing to do with the blog whatsoever. Now it’s 9:15am and I’m absolutely exhausted, but I refuse to go silently into this cold Friday.

Therefore, take a look through this window into my younger self, and let me know what you see. Also, write up a post for this week’s Theme Thursday! 🙂

**

4/2/2003[2004, actually]

Aside from Justin, I’ve spent the entire night with people who expect me to entertain them.

People bored in my presence wish to leave because they expect me to be fun. Fuck them.

That’s when life is depressing: when you realize you’re only popular because you offer filler for other’s lives. Truth hurts.

I’m so desperate for Christina’s love that I accept false tidings full heartedly. I offer love to confusion embodied.

4–5–04

Our relationship is so unhealthy. We’re not going out, but we’re hugging and kissing. We’re not intimate, but we’ve ditched everything for each other. Plans cancelled, PI sessions scrapped, friends ignored: all the while we’re promising each other not to do these things!

What is so wrong with us? Why can’t I use moderation? She is proof: I am not virtuous. But I can see; I am improving.

Love is here, but it is plagued.

4–21–04

Oh! So much, so much to think about! Christina, bills, apts, papers, exams! And working life is harder? HA! I’ll believe that when I feel the wounds!

Christina is disappointed in the time I spend studying. Not enough left for her, she says. She denies it, but her face and eyes scream it.

She wants a break, but she comes over. She wants her time to grow, yet she clings. Should I break us off for both our healths? She does not know—She is not stable. My foundation falters under her weight.

Why must leases be so difficult? Legally binding chains, and who knew they were there until they were taught? (Heh, play w/words. Until the chains were held tight, not until they learned.)

Strange people. The spirit of an extended deadline makes class mutinous with joy. Strange happenings.

Arts and science lead to easily exploited hippocracy [sic]. Hooray for Rousseau. The call is for honesty, not for a return to primitivism.

Moissac speaks of Salvation, Autun of punishment and prizes. Which is more true? Which is more dogmatic? (Life resembles this?)

4–26–04

Today I started work on Misnomen, a series of adventures initiated by misnomers. I suppose it is a fantastic piece of rhetoric. Hopefully I can make it amusing enough to be broadly accepted.

Also, my work on Bertrand’s saga (Is it a saga? Bertrand’s tragedy?) is moving slowly, but I am content with its progress.

Shall I be an author, then? Why open myself to criticism? Not every question has answers to be given by me. These are two of those.

Christina is still unstable, but she slept over Saturday night. I’m still waiting, waiting.

Considering my schooling, I find Natural World’s syllabus to be lacking in substance. Someday, when I can claim authority of my own or of outside sources, I will inform them of such. Natural World should mimic or merge with the Origins of Science and Masterworks in Modern Science courses from the GTX (Great Texts of the Western Tradition) roster. I have yet to read the texts in modern science, but based on the Origins course, I am sure I will be able to merge the scientific and literary worlds in a useful and elegant fashion.

Such is the problem of beginnings: there are so many improvements yet to be made.

5–1­–04

“I can’t take the abuse of your presence anymore.”

How topsy-turvy can we be? Two nights ago, she made a total bitch of herself. She claimed me to be narcissistic. “You want everyone to know you but don’t pay attention to anyone else,” she accused. She said it to make me angry by means of hurting my feelings, to prod me for whatever purpose. She woke the giant of my anger, and he has not settled yet.

She is depressed and insecure. When I called her on it, she stayed. Twice I’ve given her chances to leave: that night and this lunch. Neither has she left, though.

I hurt her today, as I should’ve on the 29th, and gave her wounded pride a chance again to leave.

I do not know her. I never expected her to hurt me for the sake of hurting me. I told her so, that she had fucked up big time. She was here per my invitation, and if she stayed it would be per my invitation, but if she left it was her own will taking her.

I told her every reason she could be staying, and she rejected them all save love. That does not mean that she stayed for love. I asked her to leave then because I could not take the abuse of her presence. She left furious, but we are not finished yet.

Maybe I should just call it quits, but what if?

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Theme Thursday: Job interviews

Lots of stuff happens in the early fall, two of which impact most of us (the NQOKD community, or even people in general) directly: school begins and companies across the board ramp up for the busy season to come. Fall 2009 @ Emerson is shaping up to be a blast, and I have a job interview tomorrow, about which I am very excited. I know a lot of you are teachers or students, and the rest of you work in publishing, a field that is well known for taking the summer pretty lightly in preparation for it’s hectic fall. When I think about that in combination with my lack of advertising over all throughout the last week (or two), and I’m not disappointed about how few Theme Thursday submissions we received last week. You (like me) have enough on your plate.

In that mode, no remix this week. All of the entries were excellent, and thank you so much for playing! But like most of you, I’m prepping for everything else. However, the emphasis of this game is on building community specifically to remove my ego from the main purpose of the site. Therefore, I will give you a new theme. 🙂

This week’s theme: Job interviews

Tell about your best or your worst, the before or the after, the misrepresentations or the fulfilled dreams; tell about the mediocre, those that lead you to the minimum success of middle class mediocrity, or those that left you wanting a source of hope. Let’s hear some of you get lofty about your career and professional ambitions and others get down and dirty about social satire or commentary!

I will have a new post for you Friday. 🙂

Guidelines

The only right I assume from you posting a comment is that I am able to host your work on this blog for non-commercial purposes with attribution. You keep all other rights.

I do have plans to attempt to monetize this site once the boulder rolls a little further down hill, but at this point there are NO ASSUMPTIONS OF COMMERCIAL RIGHTS. I will contact authors on an individual basis for any and all commercial purposes.

Make the entries as short or as long as you want, and any genre is fair game: fiction, non-, and poetry. Publish in comments stories, no matter how polished or raw, according to the game of the week. If I like your story, I’ll contact you and ask for permission to remix your work, which I’ll post with the next week’s contest.

You have one week to submit your story, and please, please do. I don’t want this site to be my literary masturbation. Join me, and perhaps get some free editing and mentoring along the way!

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