greygirlbeast: (white2)
[personal profile] greygirlbeast
I think all Monday's should begin with e-mail from Leticia Aguilar and Kra Krarosaline. It's a good way for the day to begin. It makes it easier to believe I'm part of some vast conspiracy of pirates, smugglers, chorus girls, alien bounty hunters, and Dutch diamond merchants. Of course, the illusion would be easier to maintain if said e-mails were not spam trying to sell me script-free Vicodin and black-market Viagara, and if the names had not been randomly generated by some spambot somewhere. Still, I take my illusions where I can find them.

Yesterday went well. Busy, but well. We found all the Ostara-related things we needed at the Phoenix and Dragon. There's was an amusing moment when the young man at the register (it makes me feel like an age'd spinster, writing "the young man at the register," and presently that amuses me) who was new was examining the bits of stone we'd selected and couldn't identify the bloodstone (green jasper with bits of iron oxide). When another employee finally told him what it was, he said, indignantly, "But it's green." I almost laughed. "Yes," he was told by the other employee, "but see all these tiny flecks of red?" To which he replied, "That's kind of creepy." Which seemed to confirm my earlier suspicions that he was one of those very sensitive New-Age, indie-rock Buddhist boys (and there's nothing wrong with that, mind you). I went the whole day without eating, just one of those days when I forgot to frelling eat, and my protein- and carb-deprived body passed out about six and slept until seven. Spooky cooked a pizza for dinner, which made the hunger go away. We watched the new ep of The Sopranos, which was superb, and we both loved that it closed with Moby's "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die." The consecration ceremony went well. I'm always the nervous one. Afterwards, I carried a violet candle into each room, and Spooky recited a farewell to winter which I'd written. I think I got to bed about two and lay there listening to "When It's Cold I'd Like To Die" on repeat while Spooky puttered about online. Later, she came in and read me Robert McClusky's One Morning in Maine. I fell asleep about halfway through, but, annoyingly, awoke as soon as she was done and was awake until well after three. Then I awoke from troublesome dreams at eight and thought that was all the sleep I'd get, but dozed off again until ten.

Spooky was reading me a bit of Amanda Palmer's blog yesterday, and it touched on something important that I'm not sure I've ever talked about here. Amanda writes (behind the cut):

i used to listen to music all the time.
it was like church.
from the time i was really young, it would sit, sit sit, then later sit and cut and paste and listen listen listen to music and get lost inside of it. worshiping, mindlessly.

what happened?

i think it was a few things.
i have to now point out the irony of the fact that i tried to put on music on my itunes to write this diary entry to and had to turn it off.
i can't handle a soundtrack anymore.
everyone else around me seems totally capable of listening to music while they email, while they work, while they write, talk, live.
i can't do it. actually, who am i kidding. i've never been able to. i couldn't do my homework with music on. i coudln't concentrate.
music was different. music was an activity in itself, unless i was doing something completely visual, like drawing or collaging or making a fanzine or pasting up shapes and glow-in-the-dark-stars on a ladder onto the ceiling in my bedroom. music was to do physical, listening work to.
i think part of the problem is that i don't do those things anymore. almost all of my work is brain work. that doesn't allow listening. and when i am doing nothing, i want quiet.
i don't listen to much music anymore. i can't really handle it. and it frightens me.

i almost never listen to music anymore. i own great headphones. i have a great stereo at home. but i almost never use them. i can't. when i have free time and i am on the internew or emailing, i need silence. when i am at home, i like to listen to my apartment. when i am doing dishes, i turn music on. i have two choices: Friend Rock or Not. Friend Rock is the name i adopted (from ad frank, orginally) for the CDs that friends and fans give me. they accumulate very quickly. when i get home from tour, there are usually dozens. they get given to me on the road. i do not listen as i go along. i can't. i probably, at this time, have over 300 un-listened-to Friend Rock CDs in various piles and Cd wallets at home. I keep up with them, i organize them, but i rarely sit down to listen. when i do, it is a job.

And, yes, that was a very long quote, and I hope that Amanda won't mind, but it was easier than restating it all. This is the first time I've ever heard another artist admit this. That their passion for the art form which they create/perform has been tainted by the fact that they've become a professional practitioner of it. I'd long ago assumed it was just me. I used to love to read. I read voraciously. Up until about 1994 or so, about the time my fiction started selling. By 1998, I'd pretty much stopped reading novels. And this is why. Reading had become work. Somehow, the old passion for reading had been undone by the fact that it was now my job to write. I come to fiction these days and only rarely can I enjoy it. My mind is too clouded with thoughts I never thought in the old days. How did that get past the copyeditor? How did that get past the editor? And if I believe the writer's not as talented as me, and they happen to be more successful, all I can think is why? And if the author's more talented than me, but nowhere near as successful, all I can think is why? Jealousy and matters of inequity arise. The fickle nature of audience. I waste energy envying X's ability or their readership, or I get entirely distracted and angry that so few people are reading Z. It goes on and on like this. And I read less and less fiction. And even if I can avoid all these things, I can never escape the fact that reading is now work. No longer can I read for the sake of reading. When I read, it's no longer to satiate the part of my mind that craves story. I get that from movies now. When I read, I can only analyze and quantify and pick apart and critique and think about the marketplace and what I'll write next and why I'm not this good or how I'm so much better. Being a writer has ruined reading for me. I still read short stories sometimes. Spooky reads me novels, which usually works, though she often gets interrupted by me ranting about something or another. I can't even go near a comic book. Poetry is still safe, which is one reason I don't write more of it. At least I still have poetry. And non-fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction.

I should also mention that dead writers are usually safe, as I can neither envy them nor be angry they aren't being treated better. Okay, that last part isn't true. I often get angry about dead writers who aren't treated better. A handful of living writers are safe: Harlan, Ray Bradbury, Ramsey, Peter...a few others. The reasons why these writers are safe vary a bit, but it's usually because they're simply, objectively, and vastly more talented than I am, and I know it, and, besides, I've worshiped them since childhood.

Amanda writes:

listening to music has become WORK.
i don't want it to be. i listened to music for years because i loved it, not because i wanted anything for or from it, not because i wanted to DO something with it.
though that's not really true....even in high school i was making music videos in my head to every song on my walkman. but that was outside reality, it doesn't count.

The "outside reality" bit is an important point. I was writing poetry and short stories twenty years before my first fiction sale, but I never believed, not really, that any of it would be published. That it would become about making art and making money and sales reports and return rates and critics and readers and agents. Anyway, I'm sorry to see someone else struggling with this, but I'm also comforted that I'm not the only one. I would ask the other professional writers reading this, because I've never had the nerve to do so, has something like this happened to you? I know that many of you are heavy readers.

Argh. This has gone on far too long, and there are things I need to get done. Wind her up and watch her go. Damn straight. Please have a look at the eBay auctions. Thanks. "See" you later.

Postscript: Good luck today, Sonya.

Date: 2006-03-20 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Are you still planning to post further thoughts on V for Vendetta? Vehemently disappointed in it though I was, I've been interested in opposing takes on it, particularly from those who haven't read the book or haven't read it recently, as I realize I am most likely too passionate about the original material to look at the film objectively. (I find myself with such questions as, do I find the not-in-the-book things stupid because they're not in the book or because they're stupid?)

Date: 2006-03-20 04:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Are you still planning to post further thoughts on V for Vendetta?

Probably not. I loved it, and it's all really as simple as that. I loved it as a film entirely independant to its relationship to the graphic novel, and I admire that it said what it said at this point in history, regardless of what the graphic novel said at an earlier point in history. I loved the characters. This sort of gets back to what I just wrote. I try hard not to pick movies apart. I try to watch movies the way I used to read fiction. I want to be immersed, and I go to each film as willing and open to the experience as possible. If I have too many reservations beforehand, I usually don't see it. I want to live the story. Movies (and a little television) is the last "story" I really have left to me.

Date: 2006-03-20 05:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Fair enough. Usually I'm willing to let the movie be the movie; I enjoyed the From Hell film for what it was (which was extremely different from Moore's book), but then I didn't feel as emotionally connected to that book — brilliant though it was — as I was to V for Vendetta. So once I got over my initial heated 'All y'all are dorks for liking the movie' response, and found more and more intelligent people enjoying the film as a film apart from its source, I thought I had better examine my response rather than theirs.

I unfortunately don't, however, think the film will make much of a cultural/political ripple, given that Bush's approval rating is in the toilet and has been for months, even many Republicans are starting to distance themselves from him, and the movie is actually (accidentally) being released at a time when the majority of Americans will agree with it. It will be a Sin City-sized cult favorite on DVD; sadly, the Larry the Cable Guy movie will probably knock it off its #1 perch next weekend.

Off-Topic: Thinking of you...

Date: 2006-03-20 06:35 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Hi, Caitlin. This made me think of you: I was reading a report I needed to correct and came across a misspelling of "stepmother." It had been written as "Stem-mother."

Stem-mother. Sounded like something you'd've come up with. Sounds maternal and arboreal.

Re: Off-Topic: Thinking of you...

Date: 2006-03-20 06:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Stem-mother. Sounded like something you'd've come up with. Sounds maternal and arboreal.

It almost sounds like a cladistic term. Stem mother. There are "stem-based" clades...

Re: Off-Topic: Thinking of you...

Date: 2006-03-20 06:40 pm (UTC)
ext_4772: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
Thought you'd like it. *hugs* (hey, can I hug the painted models, too?)

Date: 2006-03-20 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm not anywhere near being a professional writer, but I often have a hard time reading fiction, especially in my genre (fantasy/ urban fantasy). The nitpicker/proofreader in me sees all the mistakes, and it breaks the narrative flow for me. I also get annoyed when I read something that I know I could have done better. ;)

Date: 2006-03-20 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wanted to say thank you for recommending Night Watch -- I saw it yesterday (with fellow reader [ profile] cattdragon) and adored it. Guh. Just... guh. It was incredibly gorgeous.

Spoiling the art by turning it into work.

Date: 2006-03-20 06:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That was fascinating to read. It's a problem I really hadn't thought of, before, although I suppose I should have. At least, I haven't thought of it in terms of writing fiction. I am a computer programmer, and I have said, many times in the past, that the reason most computer games don't appeal to me is that I can't stop thinking about how I would have done parts of them. But, in my case, that's simply the easiest explanation to offer, and this sense of not being able to get past the fact that I do similar work is not nearly so strong as what you describe.

I do a fair amount of writing prose, in my work, but there's not all that much artistry to it. I investigate technical problems, and I write reports and memos and recommendations, and I have to say that my appetite for reading, when I was younger, is, without question, the foundation of my writing skills. No doubt, I'll expose some of the blemishes on those skills in this comment, but still, it is very clear to me that my exposure to a large volume of published prose when I was young gave me a rich source of ideas about how to say things and an intuitive sense for what is and is not acceptable when constructing sentences. When I started analyzing sentences in English classes, I simply learned to formalize the rules I already knew, instinctively. It was obvious to me that those students who had been foolish enough to cultivate social lives instead of spending all their time reading were at a real disadvantage. 8-)

I've played at writing fiction, but I've never been driven to do it in the same sense that I have to write code. Only a small set of people have ever seen any of the fiction I've ever written. Writing fiction is an intriguing and appealing process, but it's never sunk its claws into me the way writing code has.

There is probably more artistry to writing code that you might imagine, but it occurs to me that there is a very important difference between what you do and what I do; I can always retreat into functionality, if I'm not moved to art, in particular part of my work. In fact, no one is likely to criticize me if my work lacks any artistry at, so long as it's functional. Even in the memos and reports I write, as long as they serve their purposes. There have even been times where I've written long, detailed memos designed almost to discourage the reader from completing them, simply to make the point that our side has done its homework and the other side is in for a fight if they want to argue with us. I have an array of crutches upon which to prop myself, when I work. My employers would criticize me rather sharply, if I cast those crutches aside for the sake of mere artistry, because for them, artistry is at best mere icing on a very important cake.

While I soak my feet in art of prose and code at work, and while I occasionally bathe privately in the art of fiction at home, you swim naked and in public through your art. I should probably remember that more, when I'm enjoying the fiction of various writers, in my leisure time.


Date: 2006-03-20 06:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I know from my book cover gig that I had the same problem. I started seeing everything more technically / critically / commercially, and started to lose that untainted pool of energy / creativity / whatever that used to fuel what I made. I now churned a product all day, I had no more of that energy to use for my own stuff when I got home. I'm trying to detox from that still, trying to remember what I used to do to get the artwork I really, personally loved, though part of the issue is that the environments I shot have now been turned into plastic subdivisions, or lovely, decaying things restored to pristine, light n bright newness. It's harder to find the atmosphere.

My brain will still automatically kick in and critique every package I see: too many fonts / crappy kerning / bad linebreaks / typos / and 100 other design issues. I can't stop that, no matter how riveting the story, so it's not just writers that run into reading issues from having tangoed with the publishing beast. You know you're out to lunch with a bunch of people who have worked as graphic designers when they start speculating on what font is being used on the menu.

When I worked as a DJ I heard music all day at work, in the clubs all night (often working more), so in my off time I often wanted silence. When I was paid for doing costumes I stopped sewing on my own at home, and stopped being interested in clothes shopping (which had been an addiction). It was as if that part of my brain was burned out and wanted a break. It doesn't surprise me that you have issues with reading now, epecially given how much you write. I think you write more than any other writer I know. I also find myself turning to films for story - perhaps because I'm not easily distracted from it by any technical considerations. I know nothing of filmmaking, therefore I can't critique it like I can a book. I take it at face value.

Date: 2006-03-20 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I now churned a product all day,

Fortunately, this hasn't happened to me. Yet. I live in fear of it.

It doesn't surprise me that you have issues with reading now, epecially given how much you write. I think you write more than any other writer I know.

If I do say so myself, I'm inclined to agree. Well, I can think of a couple who probably write as much. But only a couple.

Date: 2006-03-20 08:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As an artist (painter not writer), I did find, once I mastered how to draw, that alot of other artwork lost its OMG-that's-so-amazing factor. This was due to the fact that now I could see how it had been done, and knew that eventually, I could do that too. But on the other hand, a whole new world of art appreciation opened up for me. I could see art from artists I never felt moved by with a sense of respect and different sort of awe. I could see...yes, that is work by a master...yes that is work by a lazy hack. I could appreciate more the intricate colorplays and marks (brushstrokes and lines) that had eluded me before. I could also appreciate the soulful expression of artists who will never be masters. But I find pleasure and I learn from what they have to say, in their own language.

Date: 2006-03-20 08:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I could see art from artists I never felt moved by with a sense of respect and different sort of awe. I could see...yes, that is work by a master...yes that is work by a lazy hack. I could appreciate more the intricate colorplays and marks (brushstrokes and lines) that had eluded me before. I could also appreciate the soulful expression of artists who will never be masters. But I find pleasure and I learn from what they have to say, in their own language.

What you're saying, I don't know, it's seems like we might be talking about two diffferent things. I didn't mean to imply that this change came about because I became good at what I do, or because I learned to tell good literature from artless literature. I think it has come about because, for the last ten years, the last twelve years, writing has become a sort of day-to-day grind for me. I don't think it could have happened otherwise, especially not given all the years I worked for Vertigo. I not talking about an increasing skill or an increased ability to apprecaite or discerne good literature from bad literature. This has more to do with damage done by writing being such a stressful profession, I think. And no doubt it has a lot to do with my particular personality, just as the change in Amanda's reaction to music has something to do with her particular personality.

I'm not expressing myself well. I'm not quite getting at what I'm trying to say...

Date: 2006-03-20 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I work at my art from soon after waking till it's sleepytime. Granted I haven't done this as long as you. But, for me, it rarely feels like work. It just seems like there are always more fascinating challenges ahead. But then, I love challenges and can be a bit (okay alot) obsessive if I find a subject interesting. I do consider viewing art and reading artists' biographies as "working on art" because it furthers my craft. So yes, it is probably personality-based, this feeling you have of being unable to fully separate your "old passion" as a connoisseur from your "job" as a writer, and your inability to revive that old passion. At least, that is what I think you are trying to say. Maybe it is different for visual artists than writers.

Date: 2006-03-20 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
But, for me, it rarely feels like work.

For me writing is always hard. It's usually extremely hard. Sometimes it's only a little hard. Maybe once every six months its barely hard at all. And maybe once a year I really find myself loving the act of writing. It's always work, and it's the hardest work I've ever done.

this feeling you have of being unable to fully separate your "old passion" as a connoisseur from your "job" as a writer, and your inability to revive that old passion. At least, that is what I think you are trying to say.

The two are inseperable for me. I cannot go to someone else's writing these days and see it the way I would have before, and I can't go to it without measuring myself against it, or it against myself, or it against its own success or failure, or what I know the industry and readers have done to or for or against the writer. With all this weight, reading fiction has simply ceased to be pleasureable, with only a few exceptions. My experience, and how I've responded to and been changed by that experience, has changed me as a reader.

Date: 2006-03-20 09:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I should add:

I truly envy your love for your art and your sense that it's not work.

A lot of my favourite writers hated/hate the act of writing. I wish I loved the act. I am terrifically passionate about the act, but, for me, that isn't the same thing.

Date: 2006-03-20 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
One of the reasons I love creating art is that I feel I am being a Creatrix and that my paintings are egrigores who want to be released into the wild and propagate their meme. So in a sense, its a sacred duty for me to draw and paint. I always believed that art (in all its mediums) opens doorways (of perception and awareness, of astral, and spiritual planes), and that artists are occult magicians. One direct example of this is Tarot Cards. So that is why I love the Work, which I consider to be the Great Work. Every time I paint, my mind and soul evolve. I consider my awakening as an artist to be directly a result of my many years as a practicing occultist. I hope you find Work that you love.

Date: 2006-03-20 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Happy Ostara.

Nothing like that's happened to me, though lately I can only get myself to sit down to read nonfiction (something I used to loathe).


Date: 2006-03-20 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Happy Ostara.

To you, as well. :-)

lately I can only get myself to sit down to read nonfiction

It's good to read nf. Not enough people do. Then again, not enough people read fiction, either.

Date: 2006-03-20 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sorry to be off-topic and forgive me if this is already old news to you (it probably is) but I saw this on my Yahoo news page and knowing you were one of the few other people on my friend's list besides me that would be interested, I reckoned I'd forward it over:

Date: 2006-03-20 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I reckoned I'd forward it over:

Thanks! This is news to me! Awesome.

Date: 2006-03-21 12:22 am (UTC)
g33kgrrl: (kittyhat)
From: [personal profile] g33kgrrl
I read that in the Dresden Dolls blog yesterday (or this morning? whichever) and found myself entirely unsurprised. I know a lot of musicians who go through the same thing. My ex-boyfriend used to say how envious he was of me, that I could just listen to music and go to shows and enjoy them and not analyze it and worry about why record X was selling better than record Y and what does that say about his record coming out next year?
I have another friend who envies me, that I can get absolutely lost in awe at movies, when after working in theater he overanalyzes those. So I think you have plenty of company in this syndrome, if it makes you feel any better.

Date: 2006-03-21 04:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So I think you have plenty of company in this syndrome, if it makes you feel any better.

And that's a very strange sort of reassurance. ;-)

Date: 2006-03-21 09:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know if I can be considered a "professional" writer (I'm a poet and have had a bunch of poems published in various journals, some paid, but it hardly pays the bills) but I definitely notice what you're talking about. I find it difficult to read much poetry anymore, because instead of just thinking about the poem qua poem, I think about the mechanics of the craft and how they thought of that line and why they did this instead of that. And, of course, the whiny "why didn't IIIIIIII think of that" voice. It's like looking at the backside of a tapestry, I guess. And it's self-absorbed, but I think any artist has to be a little bit self-absorbed.

Oddly enough, although I'm not a musician, I need silence too, to think. Listening to music is active, not passive, and I find that it intrudes into my thoughts when I'm trying to work. I guess my art is just that solitary.

I also realized while writing this that I never sent you that CD of the FFX soundtrack. I'm really sorry about that - I'll get it in the mail to your PO box ASAP!

Date: 2006-03-22 05:52 am (UTC)
sovay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Thank you for the good luck. I appreciate it intensely. I am actually in exams all this week: so keep your tentacles crossed . . .

Unrelatedly, will you (do you feel comfortable being asked to) post your farewell to winter?


greygirlbeast: (Default)
Caitlín R. Kiernan

February 2012

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