Unfortunately, there was nothing in Stephen King’s On Writing, about how to fix your sleep schedule. There was a whole lot of pertinent information on how to quit booze, cocaine, painkillers, and how to write great adverbs, but nothing on how to lie in bed at night and not just stare at the ceiling. Although, I did find some humour in laying in bed all curled up under the blankets, watching internet videos on how to fall asleep and how to defeat insomnia, thinking to myself, “hey, anytime you want to make with the secret, friend, I’d be more than happy.”
So no, I haven’t been sleeping well. I think it comes from being in that thumb-twiddling phase where everything that I could do on the projects I currently have ongoing has been finished, and now I’m waiting on covers, edits, and other stuff that is beyond my capabilities. If there ever was a great motivation to get good at every single aspect of the craft, it’s this phase of waiting around, and the murderous effect that it has on me; I don’t sleep at night because I haven’t done much, and I’m thinking about what I could do, and then when I wake up in the morning/afternoon, I don’t know why I should get out of bed, because there’s nothing really to do. Although, if I check my email, and something has come back to me from out there in the world, then I bound out of bed like a kid at Christmas, and launch myself into the work; which unfortunately leads to me sending it right back out two hours later. Sometimes, my life feels like it is a Venn diagram of vicious cycles.
To combat that, I’ve parked myself at Habit coffee here in Victoria, to write blog posts. It’s a kind of catharsis, and something to do that isn’t walking in circles. Also, the music here is usually really phenomenal. Today, they are playing Neil Young’s Stars and Bars record, which contains one of the best songs he ever wrote, “Like a Hurricane.” Some of the lines in that song still manage to evoke some kind of emotion after hearing it more times than I could count. To think that such an epic song about seeing someone across a bar and falling in love with them is even possible, truly shows how someone like Neil Young can take simple attraction and turn it into an electric-guitar-frothing-at-the-mouth masterpiece. If you’re curious, you should check out the live version on Weld, which distends the guitar vortex of the original into an apt swirling noise hurricane.
Anyway, enough about Neil, his new stuff makes me think that he’s lost the plot of the war he started fighting back in the 70’s. Now he’s taking on Starbucks and Monsanto, and it just feels tired, like he’s the musical equivalent of that bridge in Apocalypse Now where nobody knows who’s in charge. He’s still strapping on Ol’ Black and firing off solo shockwaves, but he’s just too far out on the coil to do any damage anymore.
The projects that I mentioned above, and mentioned in previous blog posts, are as follows:
1. A collection of the last four years of work, some of which has appeared on this blog. I went through every box of writing in my apartment and dragged anything that was even remotely good into the limelight again for a serious edit. Most of it, did not survive the process, but a good bit of it did, and now I have a 200+ page body of work that I think sums up the last few years. Since most of it is about me, or about some version of me, the whole project feels like “Book 1” of a kind of auto-fiction; something that I can continue on with, extending the story as my life moves on to different themes and different places.
2. A novella/poetry collection about the first summer I spent sober. I didn’t include any of this stuff in the above collection, because I felt that it stood on it’s own as a cohesive work. I thought about separating the literary styles, but I think it works with everything mixed in. The whole thing has an arc to it that moves well through both poetry and prose. I cobbled a significant chunk of it together out of an older collection than never materialized, because almost everything in it wasn’t up to snuff. The newest draft is so significantly different than the first, that I finally see what writers are talking about when they mention something going through multiple drafts and getting stronger, or changing direction completely. I think this was the most cathartic thing I worked on all year, as it just seemed to show growth in all areas of my life, like a snapshot of a time I no longer inhabit. I sent it out a couple places; we’ll see how that goes, probably straight to draft 7.
3. A small chapbook of about 14 poems, consisting of one-sided phone conversations. It works as a smaller work, but I thought that the poems needed something added to them to make them a little bit stronger. So, I sent them off across the nation to an extremely talented artist friend of mine, who can add a visual component to the poems, so that both elements can prop each other up. I imagine her art will be better than the poems.
4. A play I’m supposed to be writing for a friend. I have a post-it note, a typewritten page of an opening monologue, a few scattered lines of dialogue written on a legal pad, and a synopsis I typed out on the laptop. That’s all I have, because I’ve never written a play before and I have no fucking clue what I’m doing.
Okay, so the play could be worked on. I could be diverting all this downtime into work on that, but for some reason I just can’t launch myself at it yet. Despite all my thinking about it, I just can’t find that “in” that kicks off the whole process. I just seem to stare down the notes and feel that there’s nothing left to be said, which isn’t a good thing at the two-hundred-word mark. This blog post is five times longer than that fucking play. Maybe the idea just doesn’t have the stamina, which means I have to scrap my meager efforts so far and find something else. Luckily, there’s no formal deadline, but I hate leaving things undone, and I wanted to at least have some kind of working draft finished before the end of the year; which is difficult when you have nothing but bullshit to work with. Maybe I can’t sleep because I keep thinking to myself that I’m not working on the play; the cogs are turning on all the other projects at a steady enough pace to let me put them out of my mind when they’re not in front of me, but this play is stealing my sleep and tapping the back of my brain with it’s finger, not with ideas, but with incessant reminders that I’ve left something undone.
I’m reading Lolita right now, and it’s possibly the most terrifying novel that I have ever read. The prose is brilliant, almost every sentence is perfectly constructed, but the purpose of the sentences, and the emotions that they convey are truly sickening and debauched. I don’t know if the headspace Nabokov was in when he wrote it was either the darkest possible, or so level headed and happy that he was able to objectively write about such a lurid subject. It’s the first novel of his that I have read, and it has piqued my interest in his other work, although I don’t know how he could have followed this with anything. It is also a novel that I don’t think would have been possible today, because there is no way that a 300 page novel about a child molester written by an old white male would someone escape unheeded from the eyes of everyone in the internet community. While I believe in separating the art from the artist (in some cases) there is something insanely graphic, and truly evil lurking in the prose of this novel. It is predatory in more ways than one. That said, on purely written terms, it is a phenomenal novel, although I can see why many people would never want to wade in it’s caustic waters. It’s probably the first book I’ve read since A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (a novel you should go right now and pick up and read), that I needed to put down and decompress from for a little bit (for different reasons), just to get out in the fresh air and out of the headspace of Humbert Humbert.
Habit has switched from Neil Young, to Loaded by The Velvet Underground. An album I have been playing repeatedly all though November. It’s the most listenable album the Velvet’s ever made, and every song on it is a complete diamond. They really do know how to please me here. If the only things you’ve heard of that band are their equally phenomenal heroin drenched noise-rock, and you discovered that it wasn’t at all your style, then give this album a spin. Although it’s technically just Lou Reed with backup, and therefore not a “true” Velvet Underground record, there’s no reason to discount it.
My coffee is cold. Need anything written that isn’t a play?