Some Basic Calisthenics to Better Writing

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Some Basic Calisthenics to Fab Writing

Jumpy Jacks

Not every poem I write is going to make perfect sense, move the world into a better orbit, make your grandma or great auntie beam with pride, cure some major diseases, or send super-models into orgasmic delight. This isn’t just because I have some need to sound too clever by half and/or to show off in any way. It IS because, I old now...and not every feeling, thought, insight, hope, fear, fantasy, a dream I possess or that possesses me is all that clear to me either. And, you know, after all, they are poems, (F’-in’ poems!). I suppose I should do more push-ups (like if I could do ANY!) Or jumpy-jacks (let’s just leave that one alone) sit-ups, leg-lifts, pelvic self-exams — anything, ANYTHING, So that all my stuff would hum and giggle and glow like little glow-worms! Nope, sorry, I guess...although come to think of it not really all THAT sorry — sure as hell not sorry enuf to do jumpy-jacks.

Turning Lazy Into a Lifelong Tool

Work and play are both four-letter words like hate, love, fuck, and phun.

It took me a long time, like ‘til about right now, to realize that my being lazy, aside from being hard for others to deal with, is my greatest asset as a poet and writer. The reason everything comes so easily for me is that I won’t reach for it in any other way. Laziness gets a bad rap because the role that fear of failure, a strong sense of being useless and worthless, and myriad other psychic horseshit play in the core of lazy people, is either invisible or incomprehensible or unacknowledged in the judgment of people looking at and loathing a lazy slob like I’ve been all my life. Even as a kid, sitting on the couch and barely willing to lift my feet for the few seconds it took for my elderly, arthritic mother to vacuum under me — That has to be done this very second? You can’t go dust or something until I’m done watching SportsCenter?

I just published the poem "I Don’t Belong by Laurie Perez" in Write Under the Moon where I am an editor. The piece absolutely could not have been tossed off and created by a writer like me, a writer who works out of being lazy, by typing whatever the fuck pops into my head or heart at any given moment. I Don’t Belong requires thought and demands an emotional connection with the reader. It reminds me of Pacheco’s I Do Not Love My Country another brilliant piece that single-handedly makes me HATE myself for being too lazy to learn Spanish more fluently.

Writers Beware of This Mistake

Okay, technically it isn’t a “mistake” it’s an honor & shit, BUT here’s the shadow side of it.

As a writer, especially one centered for most of my years of writing life in poetry, I got extraordinarily lucky. My first novel was accepted by a major NY publisher (HarperCollins) and got published, when I was 52.

What’s so fuckin’ “lucky” about that, seeing as how I’d been writing since I was 17?

No, yer right, that wasn’t the lucky part.

There are dozens of pure luck aspects to my whole story, but the one I’m referring to here is the good luck that came when the hardbound book appeared, and it was wildly successful.

My advance for it was $10K, in 1998. Not all that much dough for a book that would end up staying in print for over 20 years (this June will make it 21 years) and win a huge, national award right outta the gate.

When your first novel doesn’t get pub’d until you’ve been banging away at the typewriter (now “keyboard”) since the days when “cc” meant “carbon copy” meaning that you’d used carbon paper to save a copy so you’d only have to type it once, that’s right A VERRRYYY LLOOOONNNGGGG time ago. Well, of course, that’s lucky.

But it also has a shadowy side.

At 52 years old, I should have known how fleeting and illusionary “Fame and Fortune” would be.

But I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t smart. And, truthfully, I haven’t met many “successful” writers who figure it out BEFORE their 15 minutes or fifteen weeks or fifteen years of good luck are over.

Okay, so here’s the luck part that is also a mistake, kind of.

My novel Stuck in Neutral made thousands of people interested in me and my story and I assumed this would last forever (and it kind of has).

But when University Library collectors of “Writers’ papers and journals” and all manner of other stuff relating to the artiste (re me), came calling asking to put my work into little hermetically sealed boxes to preserve (“for all time”) ANY and ALL materials that made me “the fabulous Mr. Terry” (my wife’s mocking nickname for me), I was too flattered and egomaniacal to set any boundaries.

So now, after more than 600 postings of my poems and works on, I’m beginning to run out of stuff to publish here. I might have to actually write new things. But I’ve already written everything I wanted to write, much of it several times over.

Recently, as in over the last week or so, I found two journals, one from 1974 and one from 1990 that I hadn’t sent away yet.

The poems I’ve cannibalized from these old journals/notebooks, with minor revision, are as good as most of the other shit I’ve posted here. But guess where the hundreds and hundreds of other, additional never-before-published poems and writings of mine are presently located?

Yep. You got it: in hermetically sealed little black boxes in Warrensburg MO in The Philip Sadler Collection or in Hattiesburg Mississippi in The De Grummond Collection and in a few other special places.

None of them are easily available to me. Sheesh! Who knew that this would ever be a problem?

In order to comb through these hundreds of pages for fresh (albeit mostly ancient) “new” stuff to post, I’d have to be there, wearing little white gloves and treating my own old garbage as if it mattered, as if it was treasured material because to and for these collectors it IS.

I know, I know, for a poet, I’m kind of long-winded here.

Why didn’t I just say, hey young writers, who know, you may be one of the lucky-lottery-winning few who “succeed” at this mad enterprise?

And if by that long-shot miracle, you DO; don’t have all your early work locked away where only scholars and literary historians, and Ph.D. students can see it.

(PS I also donated more than 550 SIGNED copies of author’s/friend’s books to The Ted Hipple collection at the University of South Florida,  where they are being preserved, you got it, in perpetuity unless a hurricane wipes them out.)

Outta Fuckin’ Fashion

Used to be fuckin’ (or “fucking”) could be talked about...not so much these days

So one time after I’d had what was obviously a few too many drinks, during an after-hours party at a gig for the authors of kid’s books, I approached the slightly attractive wife of one of the other authors whom I didn’t know very well (neither of them, the author nor his slightly attractive wife) and I asked,

“Wouldn’t it be cool if people could just walk up to one another and say, ‘I’d like to fuck, would you like to?’ and it wouldn’t be all loaded with the hysterical drama and overreaction it presently holds in our culture/world?”

I considered this to be a reasonable query, a bit risqué but so full of wit and thoughtful candor as to offset any likelihood of giving or anyone taking offense.

She looked a little surprised, which surprised me a little after all, I hadn’t asked her to DO this I’d merely speculated aloud in my urbane, suave, charming way, about a world where such easy and relaxed attitudes about sexual intercourse might exist and I’d asked her views — giving her a chance to my way of thinking, to sound as cool and worldly as myself.

But she didn’t take the conversation terribly well, as evidenced by her reporting me to the conference organizers who were equally displeased.

I’d #Metoo’d her in her and their judgment.

This conversation had happened in the middle of a public area where every year all we authors would go and purchase shoes (I have no idea why) after we’d had too much to drink.

This gal and I were surrounded by other authors and spouses, etc. and I truly wasn’t hitting on her, just trying to sound hip and super-cool bold and fearless, I suppose.

If she’d have agreed with my idea and excitedly concurred, I’d have had a tough decision before me on what I’d do next, (after all, like I mentioned “slightly attractive”) but luckily such was not the case.

I was never invited back to that event again, (I’d been there 8 times previously, year after year, but it paid shit and was in a sorta southern state with zero diversity, so, yeah, nah).

Thinking about it now I guess I can understand why all this went so badly.

But I’m gonna stand by my initial query nonetheless, wouldn’t it be cool if we could all be that honest and direct about sex and attraction? And not worry about getting slapped or punched in the face for looking at someone else’s wife in ways either the wife or her easily aggrieved hubby took offense to?

Maybe I shoulda asked about blowjobs rather than fucking?

Yeah, maybe. Or maybe not.

It’s springtime today as I type this and the robins are back and they are loudly chatting, probably just considering the robin equivalent of shoe-purchase choices, or maybe, just maybe all trying to get laid.

I dunno.

For those of you who love or hate what I write, here’s the truth.

For a long time, it has been this way: I don’t think about you, lovers or haters when I put the words down on the lines. I don’t think about anything but the words, the right words, the perfect words, all else is simply an exhalation of breaths, nothing much more and nothing much less.

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Photo by Trust "Tru" Katsande on Unsplash

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