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Reciprocity Redux

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reciprocity Redux

If you were on the FB yesterday, you probably already saw this, since I pretty much bombarded the fuck out of everyone with it: http://tinyurl.com/7suutcc.  It's an interview I recently gave with the East Bay Express following last Friday's Lip Service West reading at Pegasus Books in Berkeley (http://tinyurl.com/6w6wsqz). What's funny is that it came on the heels of yesterday's post, which focused on the need for constant outside validation in a writer's life (http://tinyurl.com/7fffo26). OK, maybe not so funny, since I write about the same fucking thing, in some form or another, fairly often.

The interview is a goddamn love letter, even by my low standards, where I would be tickled pretty if they even came close to spelling my name correctly.  The article, written by Rachel Swan, heaps on the praise, and I don't blush easily.  It mixes up a few details.  For instance, she gets the order wrong.  "Wife #1" was the one I loved, not the other one (Wife #2 was a punchline to a bad joke that never broached funny.)  My first wife's name isn't really "Kathy," but "Kathy got pissy last time we spoke about my using her real name.  People get pissy over that sort of thing a lot. Except for Dan Jewett, who insists I use his real name and that I spell it correctly, something I failed to do for the first ten years I knew him.  Swan's feature, in all its glowing glory, paints me as a righteous mutherfucker, a good-looking cat who projects a cool persona as it outlines my work with the San Pablo Arts District and Lip Service West, which is a lot harder than it sounds.  Not the actual work part, the coming across as anything less that a basket of jumbled nerves.  Sometimes I can pull it together long enough socially.  That isn't the remarkable part.  I realized after the interview posted just how radically it altered my mood, like an e-ball of pure unfettered adoration, the good, hard stuff.

I had just finished posting yesterday's "Why We Go There (and Away We Go)," which was in response to fellow writer, Lip Service West alum Kyrsten Bean's blog post of same name (but without the clever parenthetical).  And I was feeling burned out.  You got the kid and the pain, and the bright morning light streaming through a house made entirely of glass, and I had no desire to start my day, which, in all likelihood, would end the same way as countless others before, neither good nor bad, a break-even affair; and who wants to work so hard to just to end up kissing your sister?  (Not literally.  This is the Bay Area, not West Virginia.)

*Apologies to my readers in West Virginia.  It was a slam-dunk joke.  I had to take it.

But yesterday morning was a particularly rough one for me, and the last thing I felt like doing was heading down to the basement to work out this broken old man's body, a fleeting germ that morphed into self-defeating inaction, culminating with a High Fidelity "What's it all mean?"

And then I saw the article was up, and that someone had written nice things about me, and it was up on the Internets for all the world to see, and somehow, miraculously, I felt fine again.  I know.  How very meta.


This is how it so often works for me.  Which as you might imagine is not the greatest coping mechanism, as such relentless praise is hardly feasible, let alone self-sustaining.  I'm not that bad.  Many days I get on fine with just a story acceptance, or during baseball season a solid Yankee win might carry me along. This past weekend we had the 49ers. There was fantasy football.  You get the point. Not sure if it's entirely all "Look at me!  Look at me!"  But I also don't mind admitting that's some of it, in part because that's my sense of humor, self-deprecating, and it's easier to analyze the whys and hows if I can point out a personal shortcoming.


Yesterday afternoon I was a, I guess you'd call it, "guest lecturer" for a writing class in Miami, which is being taught by a former classmate from my grad school days, Tania Lopez, who'd asked me to speak to her students on...blogging.  And since we're kicking it old school, quite literally, let's go back to the beginning and how this all started with the Ghost of Ricky Smith.  Don't worry.  I'm gonna tie this fucker together somehow.  Blogging isn't an exact science.  More importantly, I am far from an authority on what constitutes good, bad, or otherwise.  For that I directed them to Chuck Wendig.  But people do read Candy and Cigarettes enough for me to believe I am doing something right, and that begins, and ends, with audience, and this theme presented itself quite often throughout the lecture.

I joke about this outside validation stuff a lot because, like I said, that's my sense of humor.  Just about every topic, however, is at the center of a circle, and you can view it from whatever vantage point on the outside that you'd like.  Doesn't change what it is, only how you see it.  So while it's true, as I mentioned yesterday, that there is an overwhelming need for the writer to share his or her story, however personal, intimate, or embarrassing the details, to gain the mass acceptance of strangers he may or may not even give a shit about, it is equally true that there are other equally valid reasons.  Self-improvement.  Hot chicks.  I like the discourse.  I fucking miss academia.


Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and all good writing must acknowledge the reader. When you're starting out in writing, you'll often hear advice to "write your book," which could easily be misconstrued as Fuck what everyone else thinks; as long as you stay true to your own vision and integrity, it doesn't matter.  Which


Of course it matters what others think.  If you don't pay attention to that, you're left with a book about six tiny monkeys the size of field mice on a mission to assassinate God (but because he's invisible [and living in Delaware], go around visiting America's smallest cultural attractions instead).  And ain't no one publishing that shit.  Trust me.  (Seriously.)

So how far of a leap are we talking about?  Or maybe I should be asking, How do you divorce one from the other?  If you set up your craft to be contingent on audience approval, it would make sense that such validation would be the fuel source it runs on.  But like the fossil variety, there is not a limitless supply.  Or maybe it doesn't come in such neat order.  For as long as I can recall, I've run on unleaded accolades.  And for as long as I can recall, I've called myself an artist.  I can't separate the two anymore.  Then again, I don't really try.

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4 Comments:

At January 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM , OpenID thestifledartist.com said...

me me me.

Wait, were you saying something?

 
At January 19, 2012 at 11:31 AM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

Sorry. I was looking in the mirror, measuring my biceps. Go on...

 
At January 19, 2012 at 2:15 PM , OpenID thestifledartist.com said...

Oops. I got distracted by my reflection on my iPhone screen and then had to go back to your previous blog post, which was all about me, to quench my insatiable need to be the center of attention.

 
At January 19, 2012 at 4:52 PM , Blogger Laura said...

You guys are hilarious.

 

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