Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Success

It's been a tough month for writers. . . .

I was thinking of the possible reasons a person would write.
--To influence the society and culture;
--To plant a flag of difference to influence future generations;
--To create work which moves or stirs readers-- which is the same thing as my first reason;
--To create lasting art.

Nowhere on my list is money, career, or positions of importance: current barometers of success.

I've long ago learned to live without money. On the few occasions I've had some I got rid of it as quickly as possible, as if it were a disease I had to flush out of my system. Material possessions for the most part aren't my thing.

It'd be nice to have a measure of security. I wish for it often, and complain to myself that most of the time I exist on a week to week basis. Yet if I had security, I might likely chuck it over on a whim for new risk, new adventure, as I did when I left a respectable job in Detroit to come east to foment literary rebellion.

I've oversold the ULA to some extent, through necessity, giving many downtrodden writers hope. Hope!-- that without which no artist can live; hope which has yet to be fulfilled. I'm well aware of my failures. Yet I know the current system is rotten through and through, in slow, irresistible collapse. When I study the possibilities, up, down, and sideways, I see no other option for American literature than the ideas, energy, and writing of the Underground Literary Alliance.

For myself, the one possession in this world I retain is my artistic integrity. This I won't give up. I kept it through tougher times than these; it'd be silly to get rid of it now.


Jeff Potter (of said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Potter (of said...

Some more reasons to make art... Of course they're variants on your list... They're probably all saying similar things... :

*To express yourself.

*Because you have to.

*Because no one else is doing what you have in mind and it seems needed, good, helpful.

*To help others like I was helped---to inspire others who are in your situation and to help folks see things from your view. I was rescued myself, others out there probably need uplift, too.

These are the reasons I've done what I've done in life. I likewise note no cash-reward mentioned. But I suppose the workman wants to be worthy of his meat. This isn't cynical. Oh, here's another reason:

*To make a living doing what I love to do.

*To make a living doing what others say can't be done or doing what others aren't doing.

I want to show that it can be done. I want to try to repeat the success of other indy art fields in the area of literature. But I want more. I want to extend that success into the general interest media field. Indy has been given a lot of specialties but it's kept out of general interest. But this is getting particular; it's not a general reason.

And, hey, everyone wants to make a living, right? That's not a reason for art. Still...there are folks out there who want to be the boss, who want to mess with people, aren't there. In this era I bet that the simple desire to make a living IS a reason for art. Trying to achieve it IS becoming a critical challenge that no one knows how to answer and which many powerbrokers are trying to exploit, manipulate, prevent.

I haven't really done art per se but I've tried to do what I do in an artistic way. I do make statements and compositions. My OYB general interest magazine was meant to be compared/contrasted to other general interest magazines like Outside and Esquire. It was meant to be an artistic whole---who ever heard of ONE guy doing a whole general interest magazine himself? Who ever heard of a general interest magazine about real life? Yet I did it and I think it holds together. I still do my website with similar impact, I think.

Back in my sporting days, I didn't compete in events just to be there. I did it for artistic reasons. I was into the beau geste. I came to win and to win in a way that would be memorable and uplifting to both spectators and other racers. I also just wanted to express myself. I thought that if I couldn't be in a rock band that I'd do sports like a top rocker would rock.

I often enjoyed competing with inferior equipment and would attempt moves that rivals said were impossible. Sometimes it worked. So I was the underdog who won, on quite a few occasions.

As I got better at sports (bike racing, xc ski racing, triathlons, running, paddling (kayak, canoe), speedskating, inline, biathlon, shooting, archery) I felt the dual pulls that King so often writes about here.

As I got better I honed all my fundamentals more and more, which gave me a better springboard to try bold moves. But I also found myself becoming like the others! Like the drones who I despised. I was given good team equipment. My life became more orderly. When you're on the edge things need more control, not less. I followed a steady gameplan in my racing. UGH! When you get on a big team they don't want you wearing official clothing into places like bars... When you train you have to wear their stuff not just whatever you like... You have to behave a certain way... Can only say certain things---if team equipment sucks and breaks you can't say so to anyone!

Also, one has less time or mental space for interacting with lowly "normal" people. Before an event you can't joke around---it's gameface time. Afterward there's a recovery protocol...

And this is the REWARD for getting better and for having MORE leverage!

It's the price for the position, the free stuff, and eventually for the job in the system.

You get absorbed!

You become narrow!

But I resisted these things.

Still, the temptation was there. I see how the dynamic works. It only makes sense, right? Investors want a return...

As a result I never got very high up.

But high up HOW? What I decided to do instead was to get high up in a DIFFERENT way! I thought: What do people really need? What do they really notice? Every race has a winner. That's not such a big deal. I saw my various sporting scenes LOSING THEIR CULTURE AND THEIR ROOTS. Few were working in these cultures in a cultural way. And even fewer were helping them tie together. Everyone was busy cutting them apart, specializing everything. So I tossed my hat in the ring there. To uplift the cultures and to tie them all together to strengthen them all---sports with each other, indy lifeways with each other, and literature with all of them. It's my new area to contribute in. My new challenge. Now I just have to get my act together! If I can publish several new sport books and a few new ULA novels...and I think we'll hit critical mass! The whole thing should then start to synergize in some way.

Jeff Potter (of said...

I tell ya, attempts like those that I make give hope to more than just writers. Such efforts are bigger than that. I've had quite a few people ask me if what I'm trying is working. They WANT it to work. They say time and again that it means a lot to them to see that I'm at least not augering into a hole with this project. I want so much to show to them that it CAN work!

To not be a sell-out is such a rare thing.

At the same time, like King says, we don't want to oversell this. I don't want to give false hope. If ONE person can escape should that give hope? No, it has to be something that can be repeated. I have to show that it's not only doable but that it's reasonable. But but but it'll never be reasonable from the boozhie view. So there's that. Still, even they seem to get some hope. There's a part of everyone that isn't sold-out.

It hasn't worked yet. It's a test. I think it CAN work. Can I follow thru and give it the chance it deserves? A few more books, a few more sales attempts, a few more freaky twists and it just might work. I gotta get crackin' on the production side! (One fact about poor people is that they have neither time nor money, it's not just a trade-off of one for the other as the old saying goes, so there's that...)

Brooklyn Frank said...

Is someone trying to get you to abandon your artistic integrity? If so, I'm sure it'll make a cool story at the very least.

Jeff Potter (of said...

Frank, I dunno if you're asking King or me, probably King as who could read my longwindedness?

I think ALL of us are being told to drop our artistic integrity "or else" by the System. Give us such'n'such a product, or get lost, is what it says. You can be clever in how you do it, but here's what we want, deliver!

I can publish and effectively distribute a mag, as long as it fits in and is like other mags, with a tiny twist perhaps. From the start, though, it must be a concept that can be resold, have identifiable, yes, market value. Who determines this? The marketing dept! Writers can write books *and get them out there*, as long as marketing AND legal say OK.

The problem is that the System has never known what quality is or what the new would be, only what works for it as it is, a system that has to handle "so many many" books.

Other areas have stayed (forced) open to change, to an extent, change hasn't been (entirely) stoppable, but literature has been stymied. Of course, people have trouble in all areas when they try to bring a human quality to their work, which is why art that deals with this theme is so appreciated by people...and so prevented by the System. At the same time, I admit that some folks don't like to be reminded of their repression so that such work isn't for everyone but it's always been popular enough and it acts as a tonic throughout a culture. This can be shown in many examples while the System can't point to any recent achievement.

fdw said...

"art" is a three letter wd.
Product shldn be confused with commodity. The market is not the people and the people more so oft needs be "seered" as the "folk".
More dots to connect on request....

fdw said...

Point is, disconnected as it may seem to be on the surface there,is that "art" has been discredited the only way for "artists" to redeem themselves is to strike, and strike hard.
To remain united say (sorely lacking across the board, with few exceptions, that we know of or allowed to know by the phenomenological "arm" of the system namely the spectacular incorporate monopolistic mass- media, is the ULA as long as our cooperative alliance is refreshed just like TJefferson's of what the revolution needs to do periodically but in his case "blood" but in the ULA's: action and living life as the thinking part of the culture underground.
Just living life as opposed to mere survival hanging on for some belief, "dream" etc. conditioned into the people while of course no matter how ideosyncratically as writers and poets we are a part of that is people, life/living is by quality "creative" not abstracted as the word art would have but concrete, experiential, open-hearted, and connected, relational.

Brooklyn Frank said...

I was asking Karl (wondering if there was a specific event that triggered the post), but your response is interesting and on target. But that's why I like the small press, including the ULA's. The truly indie ones, anyway.

Lostcheerio said...

I like to think of it as screaming up a wall against the nothingness. You know, all those library books, all those stacks, sort of protection against the void. Somebody's got to do it. Like sandbags.

fdw said...

Nature abhors a vacuum.
There's a difference 'twixt screaming and ranting. Then there's the deus furioso. I posit at least from the outpost of the "progressive I" (Krishnamurti) finer and finer/ subtler planes of material wherein the symbolic gets 'bout as tenuous (yet there are dreams and nightmares too-- workshops of the shamanistic/ the magician/ the creative imagination, etc.) as things can get without being outside the in-touch of consciousness and hence "nothingness" -- just as ideally set up as say "spirituality" such concepts are mere concepts and really substitutes and/or over-compensations that belie thae preservation of the delusion of the permanent "I" "need". (A need that is actually a want!) Instead of the Mystery the dynamic you got X,Y, and Z. Ulitmates, in other words. Now literarture and poetry "reflects" the position/ relationship of the human, the heavens, the Earth-- mediation/meditation (Taoism). Reading writing are experiential, they are experiences and can carry all the connotations qualities and benefits of such as such.
The penulitimate is more signicant than the ultimate.
Writing/ composition is the pen- ultimate reality.
What may seem nothing is filled to the brim and overflowing with possibilities and relationship and therefore meaning at least to the informed perceptions.

QB_Lady said...

Your fight doesn't really matter.

I don't think you're chasing after this "cause" for the sake of making a better environment for other writers, for the sake of improving the "literary community", or for the sake of improving the quality of available literature.

From my perspective, it's clear that you're doing this because you're an insecure, little prick who needs an endless amount of other insecure, little pricks surrounding you and telling you how great you are.

And the funny thing is you're not even getting that.

fdw said...

i.q. lazy--
Non sequitor? Not sure who you're adressing. Or just another yuppie scumbag. With that attitude you might turn out to be one of the Outhouser geldings. But I get your drift unable to engage on any level besides the gutter you really shld've put the wd. "think" in paras. instead of "cause".
I for one in the company of estrangers would rather imagine being surrounded by tight pussies rather than pricks. You betray not only your ill-literacy but a "penis envy" that I'm afraid there's only one way to repair-- to stop talking until you take that thing outta your mouth.
I'll take a stab at it are you that foul mouthed ant-poet MRL? If you claim your not and are insulted that's OK too.