Rendered Fat Content


Jack Gould: Untitled [door to door salesman talking to woman] (1950)

"Success follows many paths home."

My writing work falls into two basic categories: Flow and TalkingInto. The Flow pieces take care of themselves. I start them off, and the writing commences, continuing until they're done. I remain remarkably absent from the process of creating these. They come to me. The TalkingInto pieces remain the rarer of the pair. They come when I'm more self-conscious, often when I feel I have some significant stake in the outcome. They appear when I feel self-important or feel as though I should feel self-important, just as if I have something important to say. My TalkingInto state might be a form of writer's block, an affliction with which I, fortunately, have little personal experience. The TalkingInto pieces become real work before they're finished.

I usually try to flee when discovering I'm engaging with a TalkingInto story.
They're humiliating and rarely very much fun. I try to maintain a rather strict ethical standard when writing, that until it feels like fun, It's probably better undone, but the resulting lack of closure repeatedly drives me back into the salt mine. I can't seem to stay or stay away. My annual Christmas holiday poem cycle serves as a decent example. I aim to create about a dozen poems between Solstice and Christmas morning, most manifest quickly. A few appear on their page as if I were taking dictation, such that after a couple of quick edit passes, they're done for the ages. Typically, one only comes like pulling teeth, often the most important. Usually, it's the one I write to give to The Muse. I want so desperately not to disappoint her that I disappoint myself and spend that last Night Before Christmas talking myself into finally finishing that poem.

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the spouse,
creatures were stirring like a bag full of mouse.
The stockings were strangling from the chimney, I swear,
preventing a poem from manifesting there.

I become a door-to-door salesman, wingtip jammed between the screen door and door jamb, trying to tell a story to a disinterested homeowner. I fell for my share of promotional schemes from the backs of magazines when I was a kid. I'd send away for the greeting cards that could make me rich from selling them door-to-door. They made me humiliated instead. They challenged me to cold call neighbors and deliver a pitch, then watch as they tried to let me know that my selection was lame and that it was a stupid way to try to get rich selling greetings cards door-to-door. My family ended up with several lifetime supplies of fabulous greeting cards for every occasion, and I learned that I was nobody's door-to-door salesman. Heck, I sometimes couldn't face collecting for the newspapers I delivered, so I paid for those out of my own pocket rather than suffer the embarrassment of knocking on a threatening door to collect.

I'm just as effective when I'm TalkingInto a piece of writing. I engage in a paradoxical activity, a variation on the Be Spontaneous Paradox where I'm somehow supposed to deliberately and unselfconsciously engage. The best salespersons might succeed by distracting their target, not by delivering the old hard sell, but by being so personable that the target wants to reward them with a sale. I have not yet mastered this technique with myself. I feel as though I focus so on what I cannot seem to do, that what I might do instead slips by me undetected. Still, I sometimes fall into some groove and finish before the sun's too far up. Fortunately, The Muse usually pulls an almost all-nighter on Christmas Eve night, so she's not up at first light expecting her poem. Instead, she’ll rise closer to the crack of noon, which means that I'll finish my TalkingInto in time to appear to have finished my work on time.

Success follows many paths home.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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