Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Loose and Tight

LEFT: "Spina," serigraph by Jeffery Sax

I've been seeing a physical therapist for back/hip pain.
Turns out my lower spine had stiffened up into block. Mostly from not moving.
I couldn't bend forward past waist-height.

After the therapist more or less beat me up a couple times, my spine bends again.
This morning I could fold all the way forward again.

Parts of my writing feel frozen stiff like my spine was.
I wonder what might loosen it up.

I mean loose as in flexible, not sloppy.
Loose, but also tight, like Tiger Woods's swing.

[Lordy. Who wouldn't want to go to bed with that? Makes me ponder (again) how much mob morality is jealousy in disguise.]

Some of my stiffness comes from the fear David Simon (creator/writer of The Wire) talked about in an interview with Nick Hornsby (which I blogged about):
the fear of being exposed as writing out of "lame half-assed assumptions."

That's a good fear. It keeps a writer on the lookout for flabby thinking and ignore-ance.

The years I spent writing about world geography for kids knocked a lot of assumptions out of me.
Turns out...
•New Zealand wasn't colonized by convicts.
•All folktales don't have morals.
•People in chaotic situations often welcome dictatorships.
•Entire lives are lived without thought for the United States. (This was the most humbling realization. I didn't think I'd assumed otherwise. But at a deep-muscle layer, I had, and it had to be pummeled out of me.)
•Tapirs are related to horses. [Baby tapir image from Zooborns]

So that was great. But the work also stiffened up my personal writing.
I got in the habit of explaining everything. I mention Camus in a post, say, and find myself adding a tag: "French philosopher."
For God's sake!
I'm not writing for kids here.

So, again, I connect with David Simon, who says:
"My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader.
I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life.
The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden.
Fuck him. Fuck him to hell."
Yeah. Well, I don't think "fuck him," exactly, but as long as the average reader in my head is a twelve-year-old researching a report in the library, I'm going to keep explaining stuff.

After I finish revising my ms, I need some kind of p.t. to get that kid out of my writer's brain.


ArtSparker said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, you might want to make yoga your new best friend. It's treated me right, and I tend to collapse in the middle (different issue than stiffness, I know).

bink said...

I look just like Tiger when I play Wii golf.... ha-ha-ha!

yes, fuck the average viewer of everything! (Sorry, mom.) I've decided I'm not visually dumbing down my graphic novel either.

Tapir... so cute! Do you think Joop would like one as a playmate?

Anonymous said...

Okay...what Sparky said and Middle Eastern dance and Tai Chi help, too. (Currently, I don't do anything except walk, as u know!) So glad u've got health care u can access!
On the topic of exposition and dumbing-down and explaining and cross-referencing and all that, I am selfishly glad you blog to us as if we were hyper-lexic twelve-year-olds--cuz, I KNOW there's a ton of stuff that many of that age-group and younger know about that I don't. It helps me understand your peculiar takes and cultural references. Doesn't get in my way, but helps me understand u and what u're blogging about better. And then, sometimes I end up googling about stuff you reference. Like a ripple effect of inspiration to seek knowledge and information. Since your blog appeals to many who are not from or livin' in the u s, maybe explanations and footnotes are helpful, too.
I can understand how your writer's brain might feel as if it's impeded, butcha know it's only temporary, and even with all that glug, u're still a muse!



Margaret said...

And that's why his name is Tiger.

I don't write much, but I feel stiff in that way too, because I'm just barely informed enough to know that I'm profoundly profoundly ignorant, and I AM EMBARASS.
Maybe wait until you're 30, I thought, to express yourself in any public way. Or to say anything that isn't about Star Trek or William Shatner. Bah! No time!

Google is practically a companion-site to your blog for peasants/tawpies like me.
It's a good thing! You don't have to footnote yourself.

You are gingus!
(I tried to teach my Japanese friends how to say, "I'm a genius!" in English, but it always came out the same:

poodletail said...

yadda, yadda, yadda, BABY TAPIR!!!, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Average Reader, a.k.a. poodletail

momo said...


femminismo said...

David Simon has many good points! Liked watching Tiger swing. What concentration that must take, to keep your arms that straight and controlled. I know he's done that 10,000,000 times, but still ... P.T. to get the kid from your brain? that's a tough one. Maybe a roller coaster ride?

Fresca said...

SPARKER: Oh, I collapse in the middle as well as everything else. : )
I've never had a yoga teacher I liked. But I've decided to try T'ai Chi again, which I've liked in the past.

BINK: Maybe we could just say, "fuck average"!
Joop and a baby tapir... my head explodes.

STEF: THANK YOU for the feedback--I'm really glad to read that my explaining stuff, "Doesn't get in my way, but helps me understand u and what u're blogging about better."

GINGUS GIRL: Can't let ignorance stop us from writing: it's the awareness that we are ALL profoundly ignorant in the big scheme of things that makes writers nervous but should, at best, serve to make them better writers instead of pompous preachers.

I used to qualify everything I wrote with phrases like "most likely," or "I think" etc. Finally decided that goes without saying (mostly, I think...).

POODLE: THAT'S IT! Baby tapirs rule.
Your sign-off made me realize I need to amend that D.S. quote--did so in the next post.

MOMO: Bingo.

FISMO: Having only seen stills of Tiger, I had no idea why he was considered such an exceptional athlete. Until I saw this video (my p.t. mentioned Tiger as an example, which is why I looked him up).

I love your idea of a roller coaster to shake my brain free!

Annika said...

From the myriad of thought-lines triggered by this post, I choose one: the realisation that your home culture isn't a reference for the rest of the world. This automatic assumption isn't unique for Americans, it's the same for Europeans. One of my friends went to a village in India at the age of 20. She was shocked to find that people had pottery decorated with swastikas and amazed, when she expressed her shock, to find that the name Hitler didn't ring any bells at all to them. How could ANYBODY not know about THAT?
And if you visit Vietnam, you'll find that they talk about the American War. It's always a matter of perspective.

Fresca said...

ANNIKA: That's exactly it!
It's within cultures, too: some in the U.S. South call the Civil War the War of Norhtern Agression.