So there I was, zoo-bombing down Holgate after meeting with a friend and drinking some beer. Holgate is a major thoroughfare, but still dark and creepy this time of night. It’s mostly residential, a few warehouses and industrial areas interspersed, along with a really sweet mid-century elementary school.
It’s got one bus line, the 17, that snakes through the Northwest Industrial District way out to 136th. You see all of Portland on a line like that, and all of Portland’s many zany types. I used to ride that line on my way to work.
Thank God I didn’t have to ride it tonight. I’ve rarely been so grateful to ride my bike in near-freezing temperatures as I was tonight.
Biking down in that no-man’s land between Walgreen’s and the elementary school, on a darkened curve, I saw … I don’t even know what my mind read it as. Honestly, it looked like a road cone covered in ratty material. That’s weird, even by SE PDX standards. As I rode closer, I slowed down to see what it was.
There, sitting cross-legged on the freezing sidewalk, was A WOMAN in a tattered shawl. She looked young, too young for the ragged garment, but her face was serene and she stared straight ahead into the night. I think she was at a bus stop, but I am willing to bet that if I went to the bus stop right now and got on the 17, she wouldn’t be there.
And then a skeleton fell out of her butt.
… cause candy is gonna be half off tomorrow.
Last shreds of sanity and productivity: GONE!
LOL, not really. We don’t do things that interesting. And the fact that I refer to myself and my dog as “we” goes a long way as to explaining why I don’t get invited anywhere.
My dog is a brown Italian greyhound mix, and my default outfit is black jeans and black Doc Martens.
Although, I would never dress my dog up in a face mask and put him in front of cameras like that. That poor little guy is TERRIFIED. Tail between the legs terrified. Fashion has always been exceptionally ridiculous and stupid, but this is a new low.
Well, not really new. Zoolander came out a decade ago.
It’s either an uncanny and hilarious self-reference (highly doubtful — the fashion industry seems to take itself even more seriously than the social justice industry), or an uncanny and hilarious moment of blissful ignorance.
and then, moments later…
I mean, to be fair, it was Simone de Beauvoir herself who asked “What Is a Woman?”
I try to avoid discussing writing because I just got finished with an MFA, and most of what I learned there was total and complete bullshit, so writing about writing tends to send me into a rage spiral. But I saw this today, and it gave me thoughts:
First of all, let me say, I have no quarrel with Elmore Leonard. He’s a good writer, and he made up Raylan Givens, so without him, we’d never get to see Timothy Olyphant swaggering around in tight jeans and shooting people. For that alone, he should get some kind of award.
But what is with this whole absolutist trend in writing advice? NEVER do this, NEVER do that.
Guys, it’s writing. We literally make it up as we go along. What works for you as a writer might not work for me. J.K Rowling has broken almost all of these rules, and she has created an amazing epic of children’s literature that manages to not be racist, nationalistic, jingoistic, or completely fucked up and weird. She also has more money than God at this point. Not to mention slews of writers, including but not limited to: Hurston, Baldwin, Chopin, Perkins-Gilman, Hawthorne, Dickens, Isherwood, Gaiman, Coetzee, Fitzgerald and on and on and on throughout time. These are all respected authors, most of whom are read in university classes, whose work has been studied and pored over for decades, whose work has endured as substantive and worthy of study. They’ve all broken at least one of these rules, often more, and guess what? Their work doesn’t suck.
Usually, for me as a reader, style is way down on the list of things I worry about when I’m reading. If something is well-written but leaves me feeling empty, I wouldn’t say that’s a success. If it lacks insight, if the moves are too calculated, it won’t resonate with me. If it makes a few stylistic missteps but still evokes something within me, I’ll stand behind it.
One thing I did learn in graduate school is that writers are terribly insecure. I’m insecure, everyone in my class was insecure, and my professors were insecure too. Most of us can sublimate this insecurity into writing. We can take it and make something useful of it. Others cannot. For some people, the insecurity overtakes them and metastasizes into fear. On top of this, there is the little-acknowledged fact of writing that most of us don’t know what the fuck we’re doing. I’ve written a Master’s thesis and am finishing what I hope will become my first novel, and most days I stare at the files on my computer like this:
I couldn’t tell you what makes a book “better” than another, or what you should or shouldn’t do as a writer. Probably the only thing you should do is write every day for as long as you can stand it, and then go out with your friends and remember that sometimes life is really simple. But a lot of writers — Elmore Leonard included, apparently — take this and turn it into absolutes and somewhat destructive advice.
It reminds me of when I lived in Las Vegas and got pierced and/or tattooed once every couple of months. Every shop I went to — different shops, all over the city — said “Oh, you got it done and such-and-such? That’s why it looks crooked. They do it blah blah blah and we do it boo bee boo and boo bee boo is so much better.” I’ll tell you, though, the one shop I went to where the guy was like, “Man, I don’t know what other people do, I just do my own thing,” was the shop where I got the best tattoo. I’ve had this sucker for five years and it looks as good as new. (Chris Unger of Pokerz tattoo, in case you’re wondering.) It was the same thing in grad school. When people in workshops started saying things like, “You should never, ever do blah dee blah bee poo,” I tended to find that wildly unhelpful and the author’s work to be, shall we say, a little sterile. But people who have asked me good critical questions and who have said, “Hey, sometimes this thing I do works. I don’t know,” tended to give more useful criticism and tended to come from people who really had something to say with their work.
So, do what you want. If never using adverbs to modify dialogue doesn’t work for you, then don’t fucking do it, but if that floats your writing boat, then modify the shit out of those dialogue tags. I’m not your mom; I can’t tell you what to do.
Jack O’Lantern pin
It is false advertisement
You’ll jack off tonight
Needless to say, me and my friends got pretty drunk last night.