Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Daily Rounds

Policemen walk the Beat, doctors make daily rounds, watchmen make their rounds and clock in to prove it, but what about artists?

Long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Writer's Digest had a column by Lawrence Block. It was for a beginning writer the closest thing to Divine Inspiration. Lawrence Block is and was a successful writer of fiction and exceptionally prolific. He had no less than three series novels working at the time and has since gone on to add several more to that collection.

Mr. Block's advice to the beginning writer? “Write what you like. The odds are you won;t get published no matter what you write so doing the work should be the goal not getting published.”

That is sound advice for anyone working in the creative arts. No matter what you do the likelihood of making a big sale from it is slim and none. Do the work because you cannot do anything else and do what you like so that each day when you start working it is a delight and a pleasure and when you do make a sale it will be a bonus not the goal of all of your efforts.

What in the world does that have to do with daily rounds?

That's where you get better.

A thousand lifetimes ago I wrote a story called the “First Flight to Teekarap. It was a terrible story and that was to be expected cause I was only eleven and so my experience as a writer and as a human being was limited. (There are those who would question the human being part but they were mostly my teachers and mentors so what the hell did they know?)

A few years later I wrote another story inspired by a columnist in the Dallas Morning News, Paul Crume, He suggested that the perfect detective story would be peopled by a sleuth named Hercule
Peterholmes-Wimsey and accompanied by his faithful man-servant Bunter Watson Vain the III and set in the cozy English village of St. Ethelbert on the Thames.

I didn't know at the time that this was done tongue-in-cheek as a wry critique of all of the cozy-style mystery novels. I immediately stepped into the breech and wrote the story and sent it off to Mr. Crume, who responded with the least sympathetic, supportive, sensitive and encouraging note any budding writer has ever gotten.

Fortunately, I was gifted with natural hard-of-understanding genes and went right back to working on my next novel.

I still think there's a place for ole Hercule Peterholmes-Wimsey, possibly on Masterpiece Theater after Mr. Selfridge finishes his run.

But even with that as a starting point I kept writing and writing the stuff I like which if you have been reading this blog and if you haven;'t what are you doing here and since you are here you can make a fresh start and read it daily form this point on and become well-rounded, informed and educated and in the process l;earn something about art and what it takes to get it off the ground and keep it moving while all around you people are telling you you just can;'t make a lead balloon fly. (If you should get that lead balloon to fly give me a head's up so that I can get out of the crash path.)
So there I was staring off with scant encouragement and it was the Fifties and everyone was quick to tell me that you cannot make a Living as a writer and then there were those who suggested that I would never become a responsible citizen and that I was headed into the bohemian life where I would pick up unsavory habits and devote my life to drunkenness and dissipation. And I did try that for a while, but the truth is that drunkenness and dissipation paid less that writing and I have a few years practice as a writer so I decided that as much as I liked drunkenness and dissipation writing was a better idea and so I gave up a promising career as a town disgrace and kept writing.

And along the way I did have to make a Living so I did a bunch of other things and they provided background color for new stories and gave my inspiration for the novels which I write but don;t get published and still I do it cause I love to write which if you have been reading this long you know all ready. And while I was doing all of those other things and picking up all of that background information I learned something else...Lawrence Block was right, you only get better if you keep doing a thing and the best way to make sure that you are getting better instead of rusting away like an abandoned truck sitting in the middle of a filed along the side of a road where the Burma Shave sign once lived, is to do it every day.

Which is why I started writing this post in the first place. Are you doing something with your art every day?

See Life has a nasty way of soaking up all of your time. When I was picking up all of that background information I had to work at something and surprisingly there were few openings for failed writer or bohemian wastrel, why is that, and so I did a lot of stuff which most sane people would not do, but then the best stories come from those places where most sane people do not go so it is a good thing that I went there and got those stories.

Are you going where the stories are? Sure there are wonderful things which happen in your living room, the cat discovers dust bunnies, you find a five dollar bill between the cushions on the sofa and Becket and Castle have another verbal duel, but can you put that on canvas? Knock it out of a hunk of wood and maybe put it in the kiln for a quick fire and then off to the latest show where you can share your art with those who haven't discovered the Wilds of your living room.

But if you aren't doing it every day the chance that you will be able to share your exact vision with the rest of the folks is going to be somewhat limited.

Now I've admitted being a typical sixteen year old boy and part of the reason super hero comics are so popular is that costumed crime fighters wear skin tight Spandex uniforms and most of the popular super heroes have skin tight bodies to put in those skin tight uniforms and if they happen to be a female, lady, girl type costumes crime fighter they have lots of stuff that should be in skin-tight Spandex uniforms and that is why so many teenaged boys love comic books. (Don't kid yourself, little girls are not made of sugar and Spice and everything nice, they like skin-tight Spandex uniforms too and they don;t look just at the abs of those costumed crime fighters. You wouldn't catch Spiderman web-slinging without hos cup cause all of that building crawling and crime fighting can be hazardous to your personality.)

And to make all of those skin-tight Spandex uniforms bulge in all of the oh so right places is the dream of every over-wrought teenaged boy and they want to draw just like the guys in the comics and they try and they get something which looks like it was intended to be the Stay-puffed Marsh-mellow Man instead of Sofia Vergara, This is not what that testosterone crazed kid wanted and so he gives up cause he didn't get Sofia and rather than stay with it until he gets something sort of like maybe Danger-prone Daphney, he heads for the mall or the court or the couch where he sits until age or decay gets the better of him.

Now you do not want to be that slowly decaying lump on the divan, so why aren't you doing a little something, something, (Thank you Sofia), every day so that what you are doing becomes so ingrained that you can do it in your sleep.

There is a story about the world famous racing driver sterling Moss. Moss was driving in the 24 hrs of Le Mans and he lost the car in a curve and took an unscheduled three hundred and eighty-one year flight. The emergency crews raced to the scene to rescue him and when they arrived they found Moss completely unconscious but trying desperately to fight his way out of the flaming car. His body was so conditioned that even without Moss at the controls the works keep going.

Probably a state of readiness you don;t need, but that is how whatever art you work in should feel. You should be able to do it when there is no one at home in the control room and the only way to get there is by doing the daily, boring, drab and suffocatingly dreary rounds.

Come-on doctors get up at five to start their rounds and you can sleep in until at least seven so what are you whining about. That's why you became a shiftless, directionless bohemian in the first place!

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