Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter Reflections Take You More Places Than Meet the Eye

Bearing down under the winter drag with about a month-and-a-half yet before temperatures will warm somewhat. A lot of gray lunches at Round Valley recently, and no trout since January 3rd. With cold wind, I spent the time in the car, writing, checking on the rod occasionally, but it was still nice to be there, a break from the road. 

We do what we do to earn a living, but its good to do some living with the earning. This enhances work performance too. I've worked at a desk all day, years ago, and still do for a short part of the day, welcomed since its a capping off, and then I'm on my way home. It's tougher on the road for my present job. But I prefer how hard it is over watching the clock. I hated the sense of time dragging while working indoors. Driving stimulates thought. And especially during the warm seasons I enjoy fishing. 

Those of you familiar with this blog know I write about fishing and other things besides. In recent decades, many writers earn Master Fine Arts graduate degrees. I made the choice to keep with my self-employed clamming while studying and writing, which made all the difference for me, because I was free to go as deep into reading as I pleased, on my own time. When I went to St. John's College, Annapolis, MD, during orientation we took fair warning from administration that because of the program's ambitiousness, superficial assimilation of studies is a danger. Of course, this didn't mean that's necessarily the case, but the words made an impression on me, and I decided I can do better studying without a school regimen. 

Retired English professor, novelist and poet Ed Minus instructed me on writing monthly and weekly and almost daily for six recent years. I wouldn't say, "Go away and write," as if Hemingway didn't train as a reporter on the Toronto Star and study under Gertrude Stein's tutelage. Novelist and creative writing teacher John Gardner made the trenchant point in his book On Becoming a Novelist that although Hemingway said what I quoted, he got what Gardner deems necessary: training under the guidance of accomplished others. 

Nevertheless, Hemingway didn't make that statement in vain, and I believe he would stand by it today, a state of affairs that Gardner refused to elaborate on while taking a polemical position that derides cranks instead. Gardner's persuasion, of course, is good for MFA programs, though may be harmful to more ambitious and adventurous writers who would strike further out and still find ways to get the guidance from others they need. Besides, nowadays all you have to do is own a computer to be enabled to reach out to all sorts of forums and communities, although the value of working one to one with someone knowledgeable is a directly informative encounter which cannot be mediated by
cyberspace remove to the same degree of immediate conversation. 

During the fall of 1982, I lived in desolated Surf City, New Jersey, keeping an infrequent correspondence with novelist and poet Sheldon Vanauken, who was my history professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia. He suggested that I seek even further "outness," exactly my intention. Not only did Hemingway achieve no more than a high school diploma for formal education; he spent, for one example, 300 consecutive days in the Gulf Stream marlin fishing. During that time he didn't write, but he had no university post, and for the most part, not as tight-knitted an affinity with other writers as many do. Needless to say, he wrote for a large audience, not just other MFA grads. 

I needed Ed Minus's help because I had created a separate world in close to 60,000 handwritten journal pages since I was 17 by the time I met him. They're readable. But publishing written work is another matter, unless perhaps there is posthumous interest in my unpublished work. Marshall McLuhan's "The medium is the message" is apt. I had to relearn the mainstream culture we share after 13 years in Island Time on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. 

I suppose it's possible that one way or another some of my journals will eventually get published. But I've been putting them behind me--I would never discard a word--to work on novels and other material I publish. When I was on the Island, I hoped that I would be living on royalties by my mid-30's. Life proved to be much more difficult than expected. But overcoming the hardships really means I have more material to give my work meaning and scope. So I hope I live into very ripe old age.

Winter reflections at Round Valley take you more places than meet the eye. That's why open space where you can be alone is so important.

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