Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When feeling unsure, ask Tennessee...

This is from Tennessee Williams' essay Marilyn Monroe Got What She Wanted...only part of it...but to me, the most important, at this moment in my time on earth...

Let me explain something to you: No one owes any of us anything other than respect, some courtesy, and the amount of time they deem necessary to hear our story, see our dance, judge our gifts. That is all. I operated for many years under the common delusion that artists are sensitive creatures who require husbanding, cossetting, extreme care to function in the brutal world. This is utter bullshit: all human beings thrust into the act of living require the same amounts of love and kindness and patience, and I came to see that when I adopted the pose of the walking wounded, when I referred to myself as an open scab walking the mean streets, I was asking for forgiveness for the multitude of sins for which I was guilty: ugliness, laziness, a lack of discipline, the inability to make the words and the women that came to me work fully.

I was asking for a break I did not deserve at all. You either are a good person or a good writer or a good actor or you are not. You cannot then apply a collage of sickness and neuroses to your person and ask for exemptions. It is unfair; it is dishonest.
Make this decision today: Will you be a good and honest writer, or would you rather be famous, loved, noticed? Tell me, because there are different paths for these two divergent goals. The decision to be a true artist is lonelier and slower, but it will lead to better work and, I think, a better life. Very rarely you will be a good and honest writer and also know a little comfort and some attention and the well wishes of a crowd.

This is very rare.

The rest of the essay is a beautifully-written dissection of Marilyn; if you want to read it, click here.

I needed this because my brain went into gridlock, today, and none of my usual tricks to get around it worked. I had just about decided the problem was me using darkness in my writing as a sort of cavalier way to flip off the world...something I've already as much as said...and needed to pull back.Go for something nicer. Easier. More prone to financial success. And so I watched The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie and its magical realism and loved the movie and its tenderness...

And then happened on this quote from one of America's greatest playwrights. Which gave me a good kick in the ass. I was getting scared, again. Afraid I was going too far. But that's not possible if you're doing what the story and the characters want. They will take you where you need to go, if you trust them.

IWY is my test case...and I damn near flunked it. The story plays with the audience. It's all told from the perspective of an unnamed stalker, using video clips recorded surreptitiously of a young couple expecting their first child. For the first 6 pages, it seems the object of the stalker's obsession is the wife, Claire. Then it reveals the stalker is a woman and her focus is on the husband, Tony.

He's the maitre d' at an upscale restaurant, and he doesn't know it, but his kind treatment of her during her birthday dinner at that restaurant is what brings her focus onto him. And her parents' rudeness towards him is what brings her to kill them and make it look like a murder-suicide. That's about page 11. The rest is her arranging to kill Claire in a situation that goes horribly wrong.

But that's not where the story ends...even though the script does...and I was going to pull it back from that. Not what the story wanted or the main character.

Not cool...just an act of cowardice now banished.

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