Random sentence pulled from a random book: “Everything had changed.” That’s my random prompt, and away I go. Vavoom.
I’m sitting in the kitchen at my painting studio near Point Richmond. It’s a beautiful day. The painting has gone well. I’m on my 3rd cup of coffee and it’s time to write a column. It has to be done ’cause I’m committed.
And so I’m faced with the usual problem that rears its demon head at the start of every assignment: where to begin this time?
It pops up with each painting, poem, column, friendship, morning, and every choice I’ll ever make. And if I want to remain creatively alive the answers must be new. Get off road and hang on tight; it can get bumpy.
It’s all about going into the cave of making with enough desperation to spice things up. If we aren’t desperate to create, it ain’t gonna happen. Every creative act is a gamble. If you want to win big, play for high stakes.
So what makes me desperate? I’m gonna die, my friend, and I know it. I make it my business to know it. All the best writing is about that, on some level. We must always be contemplating this fact, or we die before our time. Do you think that’s grandiose? Maybe. You wouldn’t be the first to say so. A slew of readers have told me this, as well as a few of the voices in my head.
I have often been told that I take my creative assignments too seriously. “Some things, Charles, are throwaways. You don’t have to ratchet it up every time.” Bull.
I say writing anything is like making love; if I’m not going to be fully present, why bother? And that reality is in play every time. There are absolutely no exceptions.
Somewhere between the extremes is the right middle ground. Fight for it.
So what is this column about, anyway?
It’s about (or perhaps it demonstrates) what happened when I opened a book at random (in this case, The Private Life of Chairman Mao by Dr. Li Zhisui, found in a bookcase in the shared lounge area where I have my studio) and latched onto a sentence for stimulation: “Everything had changed.” (Call it foreplay.)
And off I went. What does this column have to do with “Everything had changed?” Nothing. Except those were the three words I used for the key in my ignition this morning.
Whatever works! There is no such thing as not being able to write (or paint, or compose, or whatever), especially if you are willing to do it badly. Bad writing won’t hurt you. But phony writing is deadly. Again, it’s like lovemaking. If you are present, it’s all good, even if your technique is flagging. If you aren’t, well, ick. (Ick, Charles? I guess that’s not phony… –Ed.)
So how do you avoid being phony? Create from desperation. Know that you HAVE to do it. You’ll find a way (necessity is a mother).
<bumpity bump bump bumpity bump> <splash> <bump> <crash> <survive>
Do it again.
– Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian