Guinevere Q on Playing God and the Pitfalls of Success

Guinevere Q on Playing God and the Pitfalls of Success

An interview with Guinevere Q, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Guinevere Q is a force of nature pumping out language like a geyser or a hot lava flow in venues all over San Francisco, notably Viracocha, and more recently with The Wyatt Act. An encounter with Guinevere is like when you go hiking in the hills and are suddenly engulfed by a ground level cloud or find yourself standing on a cliff in a gale or stumble across an unexpected waterfall. Somewhat overwhelming, but really very nice.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them … ?

Whatever I can get away with doing. I’m a poet, a counselor, a rabble-rouser, the lead vocalist for The Wyatt Act, and no big fuckin’ deal.

What’s your biggest struggle — work or otherwise?

Editing. I’m always revising, revising, revising, revising … and then inevitably going back to the original (if I still remember it). 99.9 percent of my work is in draft form. I’d say it’s in progress, but that’s not quite the case. It’s exhilarating and excruciating — the very idea that when you write, you get to control everything. You’re a god.

As soon as you release a piece, you’re just another writer. It’s a humbling experience to let go of your work. Stepping back and reassuring yourself that it’s finished — there’s nothing else to fix — I imagine this is what mothers feel when their children move on with only a few digital photo shares every once in a while.

I’m left with the most neurotic restlessness after a final memorization. “You never write. You never call me back. I raised you, you ungrateful poem! You wouldn’t exist without me!”

If someone said, “I want to do what you do,” what advice would you have for them?

Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. There’s no money in it. Writing is a selfish, indulgent, narcissistic act best left for self-indulgent narcissists. Nobody respects you. You’re wasting your time. Go to the movies. Get a drink. Learn a trade. Why would you want to needlessly punish yourself with the false idea that you have something unique to share with the world only to be proven wrong? You’re just like everybody else. There is nothing special about what you have to say.

You’ll regret it in the morning like an embarrassing one-night stand where the stale smoke lingers and the door’s left unlocked and your neighbor asks you humiliating questions and you have to take accountability for what you’ve done or else live with the knowledge that you’re a coward.

It’s so easy to write like a coward now — to hide behind anonymity — with the Internet. I love the Internet. It defines our generation.

But it allows people to throw powerful words around — and make no mistake, words are powerful — without taking responsibility for what they say.

Don’t be a writer. If you have to be a writer, then own it. Proudly sign your name. After all, you are an egomaniac playing god.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

Absolutely not. I’ve hosted successful shows, organized successful events, and written successful work, but the second you believe you’re successful, you massacre all of your motivation.

A reporter once asked Jimi Hendrix in the midst of his success what he was going to do next and Jimi said, “I’m going to take some time to learn how to play the guitar.” I’m not comparing myself to Jimi Hendrix, but I think that’s what made him so innovative. He was dedicated to improving his art, not to being successful.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

“Be Kind To The Kitties” by Young Sun:

What are you working on right now?

I’m always working on multiple projects at the same time. Musically, I’ve been collaborating with my band,The Wyatt Act to get better at improvisation. We switch instruments a lot. We’ve been practicing free-form jams we call “The Dead Phish Incident.”

As far as writing goes, the ink’s still wet from a few pieces I’ve been scribbling lately. I’ve got playful punchy poems, satirical political speeches, short sci-fi stories, and a signed confession pleading “guilty” to the attempted murder of Lonely. All of them are unedited and will probably stay that way for a while.

I’ve also been writing a couple of scripts. I love performance poetry, but scenes are more interesting to watch, especially since stories are more fun when multiple people tell them. If anyone’s interested in creating experimental theater, feel free to contact me and we’ll conjure up some magic!

Here to read all The Write Stuff profiles; here to watch all the videos.