I Want My Old Life Back

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep climbing down a cliff face in Waterton Lakes National Park.

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A couple days ago, Jack Kerouac told me to go out to Waterton and photograph these guys. And when you’re an old hippie at heart, and you’re as addicted to Kerouac as I am, you pay careful attention to what he says.

I finally got back to revising my novel on April 26. I finished the second read-through on December 23, 2016, and my plan was to set it aside for three months, then come back to it with fresh eyes.

During that three-month hiatus, I was going to develop a website, which I’ve done, and get involved with social media, which I’ve done: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+, although I haven’t SEOed anything yet.

But March 23, when I was supposed to get back to my novel, is long gone. The whole website-social-media venture has been exceedingly difficult for me. I’ve been whining about that ad nauseam starting back in Post 6b. Right?

However, the more time I spend in that website-media world, the more seductive it becomes. I could easily end up living there. I often find it difficult to log out. I want to join every writing group and every photography group. I want to see what everybody else is doing. I want to tell them what I’m doing.

This morning on Tumblr, for example, I happened upon a site called The Design Dome, which I’m now following. Sites like that could very easily be my undoing, though. I never should have looked at Tumblr until I’d completed my own work for the day. I broke one of my cardinal rules.

Did I not say in Post 5b that I needed to commitment myself to one thing and to one thing only, especially in the two hours between my getting out of bed in the morning and my sitting down to write? And also during my three to four hours of writing?

Did I not say Nietzsche is bang on when he claims it’s absolutely essential, if I wish to lead a worthwhile life, that I fully commit to one thing and to one thing only? Not two? Just one? And Tolstoy? A worthwhile life, Tolstoy says, consists in my choosing only one of the innumerable options that life offers me and then committing to it, and to it alone, wholeheartedly.

One. One. One. That should be easy to understand.

But I failed to do it this morning. Again. I checked out Tumblr, and I had a terrible time logging out and getting back into my own headspace. If you want to know why, just check out this posting by Hüseyin Şahin. He’s an Istanbul-based visual artist: http://thedesigndome.com/post/158714736098/stunning-surreal-photography-collages-by-hüseyin. And this one, as well: https://www.behance.net/huseyinsahin

But as I said earlier, that’s not who I really am. Or rather, that’s not who I want to be. I want to create my own things, not merely consume what others have created, at least not until I’ve done my own creating for the day.

I want to say Yes to the one, my writing, and No to the many.

I want to spend as much time as possible by myself in that magical zone where my conscious mind and my unconscious overlap. That’s the only place where I feel truly at home. And it’s the only place where that little kid can find me and give me the notes he brings me from deep within my unconscious.

And I must, must, MUST, also stay light-years away from that copyright business I talked about in Post 10b.

I said in that post that I was going to see an intellectual property lawyer, and I did. And she was amazingly helpful. But when I tried to follow her advice and begin seeking permission for the things I was quoting, I immediately realized the value of a literary agent. Simply put, I was in an alien world where I didn’t belong and where I didn’t want to be.

I never did find, in the zillion, billion sites I went to, the correct one where I could ask for permission to quote one line, just the one, from Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” I had better luck with Kerouac’s On The Road. But when I started filling out the online application to use one quotation, again just the one, I ended up feeling like K. in Kafka’s The Castle.

K. wants to move to a particular village, but he ends up spending the rest of his life trying to find out how to get permission to do that. And he never does find the right person up in the castle to ask. In the end, Kafka has him die while still searching.

K. definitely needed an agent to help him. And in my case, I assume a literary agent could have gotten those two permissions I was looking for in a matter of minutes. But by attempting to do it myself, I was getting nowhere, just like K., and I, too, would likely have ended up dying, metaphorically, long before I ever managed to get all the permissions I needed.

You can see where this is going. Right?

I’ve decided I’m not going to use anything in my novel that might even come close to infringing on someone’s copyright. I think it’ll be safe to mention real people’s names, and the titles of their works, and their ideas, as long as I use my own words to talk about their ideas. Names and titles and ideas cannot be copyrighted, apparently. But the actual words others use to express their ideas can be.

I simply intend to rework any passages that make me nervous.

Then I’ll go back to relaxing in that magical zone where my little friend can find me.

At the moment, I really miss him. I miss him a lot.

I want my old life back.

I know damned well what Vivian Maier and Emily Dickinson would say about all this.

And I’m positive Kerouac would be even more to the point. “Fuck it,” he’d say. “You worry too much. I never even revised my stuff. Well almost never. I had better things to do. My first draft was always my final draft. Finito.

“So you need to take a week or two off. Get on a bus and go to Chicago. Or hitchhike down to Frisco and see what Dean and Camille are doing. Or get totally pissed. Tequila’s really good for that.

“Or at least go out to Waterton, and photograph some bighorns and bluebirds, and chow down a couple Local Smokies at Wieners.

“I’d offer you a margarita, but I’m a little short of cash just now, and I’m almost out of tequila. And I definitely don’t have any Smokies.

“So I guess you’re on your own. But you’ve gotta stop worrying so much and working so hard or you’re going to end up far worse off than K.”

I thanked him for his advice, then decided to go to Waterton, snag a couple Smokies, and photographed some mountain bluebirds and these bighorns. I thought that would be easier than going to Chicago, or Frisco, or dealing with a hangover.

And I really do like those Local Smokies with their raw onions, and relish, and mustard. Washed down with a big diet Pepsi.  While looking out the window at the bighorns, if there are any, scrambling down the Bear’s Hump.

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Note

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(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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Anybody Want a Free Novel?

A sunset

If I just gave my novel away, I’d have a lot more time to enjoy sunsets like this one.

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That’s right, a free novel. I’m getting really close to just giving this one away, so I can get on with my next one.

For the last eternity, it feels like, I’ve been trying to figure out the jargon used in the social media world, and how to upload photos, and how to get my posts to post the way I want them to, and how to maximize my stuff for the search engines, and how to . . ..  – I don’t know else yet, but I’m certain there’s much more to come.

I recently watched Finding Vivian Maier on Netflix. Maier, who spent forty years working as a nanny, died in 2009. During her lifetime, however, she took over 150,000 photos with her omnipresent Rolleiflex camera, mostly on the streets of Chicago’s North Shore. But not one of them was ever published.

People around her knew she took photos, though they had no idea how serious she was or how good she was.

And after she died, all of her boxes of photos could easily have ended up in the dump had it not been for John Maloof and a couple other collectors who happened upon them.

Maier had over 100,000 negatives, as well 700 rolls of undeveloped color film and 2,000 rolls of undeveloped black and white.

But why undeveloped? And why did she never publish anything?

She could have been famous and wealthy instead of working as a nanny all those years and then dying alone and penniless.

Today her photos hang in galleries around the world, and she’s often ranked with such greats as Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Garry Winogrand.

One curator concluded that, quite simply, Maier only did exactly what she wanted. And she just wanted to photograph.

The same goes for Emily Dickinson. She wrote over 1,800 poems, though virtually no one knew she was writing. She did publish ten or eleven poems in her lifetime, but they were anonymous.

One critic concluded that Dickinson simply preferred her own company, alone, in her own bedroom.

So Maier photographed. She was not a photographer. And Dickinson wrote. She was not a writer.

And both were world-class artists.

But given their decisions not to publish, neither of these women ever had to experience the frustration of trying to create the equivalent of a website, or trying to figure out how to post things on social media, or trying to build a platform.

They chose to abjure the world of business and to bask solely in their worlds of artistic creation.

And they were obviously content with that.

Maybe I’d be content with that, too. Maybe I’d be happiest just quietly waiting in that overlap zone for the little kid to come running up from my unconscious with notes for me, notes that would likely blossom into pages in my next novel.

But I’m going to give this social-media thing a bit more time.

As I concluded in Post 6b, maybe I should just stay the course for now and not make any rash decisions. At least I know the bailout option is there.

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(© 2017 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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