DFW rules

Sunday, June 6, 2004

More ideas on writing from reading DFW’s (that’s David Foster Wallace, for those not in the know) stories:

1. Write, keep writing (not just editing!) every day. Write with feeling about anything for long periods.

2. Write without thought for the audience and don’t worry about boring them. Write and keep writing for yourself. Write to entertain yourself. Turn off that internal voice that reminds you to watch out or you’ll bore the audience. Don’t worry about boring them—that can be fixed later. For right now, there is no audience.

3. Take your thoughts and expand on them. Think: what would be funny/interesting/clever in this situation? How would the characters react? Place yourself there and think of the all the clever things you would say if you were with someone you wanted to amuse or impress. And write about it. Again, don’t worry about word vomit. That can be fixed and the gems saved.

4. If you come to a stuck point, skip it.

This list inspired some thoughts. Here’s the resulting vomit. It’s been edited only for spelling. It’s for me, so you probably won’t like it. As I indicated in two above, I don’t give a shit. With that said:

pen

He sat there staring at the pen. He felt it betrayed him. It had given up halfway through his thought and he attempted to finish it, the thought, by pressing hard enough to make a ballpoint indentation on the paper. Even after everything it had done to him, which included, among many other things, failing him during a very inspirational moment when butterflies, no, brilliance oozed from his fingers, recording words scratched in golden glitter, it still hurt him to put the pen into the train’s seat pocket and leave it there.

A passenger, assuming it wasn’t found first by the train’s custodial service, found the pen, and, probably because the passenger was at the start of an intense NY Times crossword puzzle, and when I say that, I’m thinking of the Sunday one, not the easy weekday edition, found the pen and remarked what a lucky day it had become because even though he bought the paper and had planned, after finishing the politics, circuits, and local section, in that order since that is the order he had read the paper for as long as he could remember—and we’re disregarding the fact that the circuits section is a Thursday section and the Sunday crossword is a Sunday section since he sometimes gets confused by the days of the week, and, more frequently, the sections that correlate to the days of the week—he forgot to bring a pen. The passenger gave an excited growl as he used the pen’s point to skim the clues for an easy one, and, after finding the clue: former NYC airplane building, excitedly counted the spaces in eight down and saw immediately that the answer is five spaces, which matched the exact number of letters of the answer running, somewhat spastically, through his head. The passenger began to write a P in eight down and realized that the ink was not running through the ballpoint like it was supposed to. The passenger manhandled the pen, and tried again, sure that this time the combination of clicking, shaking, and squeezing like trying to get juice from an orange or water from a rock in the biblical sense, will start the flow. He, the original owner, not the passenger, knew that wouldn’t happen. The passenger then scribbled circles at the top of the paper, pushing harder with an occasionally shake, until he ripped the newspapers and satisfied himself that the pen really is truly dry and his thoughts of finishing the Sunday crossword had been thwarted, even though he accepted, down in the dark, deep parts of his psyche, which his ego buried after waking most mornings, that there are things stopping him from completing the puzzle that are more powerful than pens that don’t write.

Before sacrificing it to the passenger, he again stared at his discarded pen with the medical markings: Premarin Vaginal Cream in a nonliquifying base, which, in the medical speak that appeals only to the Latin or medical student (but, surprisingly, not the spelling national champion since medical words, particularly the names of chemicals and drugs, are not tested in the competition even though medical conditions, which are found in most dictionaries, are), and, it said, in parenthetical, on the off-chance that you might confuse these scientifically spelled jargon for informative words: “(conjugated estrogens)”, the two words were in most people’s vocabulary but their meanings when put together were as foreign as a Japanese train station to a Westerner, that is, completely indecipherable. He picked up the pen, which was smooth with a black, clickable top with two holes on both sides to show the white part of the pen, the white clip, and brown lettering for the name of the drug (the trademarked one), and its function, with the parenthetical scientific name and dosage, 0.625 mg/g, and the registered trademark symbol in black ink, and, after removing it from the seat pocket, tried again, and found it still didn’t work. With painful regret, he again left it for the passenger. The train landed and stopped in his city and he made a mental note: need new pen for ideas, the brilliant type, which he forgot, the note, almost immediately as he wrestled with his luggage and notebooks.

***

This one is even worse. Remember: it’s for me. (Why do I feel the need to keep reminding the three people who read this site not to read this? It’s that damn, internal critic, if you must know. I need a name for him. We already have a Carl and Lenny—that leaves Moe. Damn Moe! Shut up already.)

someone’s got to win: girl carrying trophy

I’m in the bus station, minding my own business, which consists of watching other people and scribbling notes about them, but if you’re reading this, you already know this. 8 buses arrived: NYC, Boston, cross-country from Tuscon, Arizona, Chicago, Cleveland (it arrived three hours and ten minutes late), Tampa, Buffalo, and Rochester. Most of my notes are moderately gratifying, saying such things as: ‘boy, that girl in the pink sweatpants, her legs are too short and her tits, they’re like watermelons might look right after picking’ or ‘is that man, you see him, the one with ripped sneakers—look away, he’s looking over here! Yeah, that man. The one now watching the terminal door—he might be homeless and looking for a handout. I’ll try to get downwind and find out for sure. As usual, 4,322 tiles on the ceiling; 12 are water-damaged, changed from 8 last Saturday. No. Not homeless. Just cheap. He’s clean-showered’ or, you get the picture.

I watch people and try to draw their pictures in my little book. I also count a lot. You know, I keep track of things. I’m writing about this because I might have a problem. Howard Stern does the same thing. Bathroom: 6 yanks of toilet paper, 8 wipes, and 3 pulls of soap; bowel movement was solid and passed easily after 5:32 minutes of preparatory pissing and concentrating. Or, at least, Howard claimed to do the same thing on his radio show. I’ve begun to question whether what he says is really what he does. I was shocked when I saw his movie. Who would have thought that he could be so damn loving? Of course, he left his bitch of a wife—but that was only after he made that cheesy movie. It’s those Hollywood types. I think they got to him. Anyway, I listen to him in the mornings when my boss isn’t around. He, for safety reasons, demands no radios or other listening devices. I guess he’s taking about cellular phones or those new computerized music devices. But I don’t understand either and I really don’t have many people to talk to—with the obvious exception of this book, of course. But the book won’t call me, or, at least, hasn’t called me yet. I’m always on the look out, however. As long as the book doesn’t get too uppity: the one thing I can’t stand is an uppity book.

There she is: I knew it. Every Saturday, when I wait in the bus station, there is always one really interesting person that walks by. I don’t have enough time to jot down everything worth jotting, but there’s always one thing that positively and absolutely must be jotted down And there she is. She’s holding two trophies. They’re big trophies, the kind you win in tournaments, and not the second place types, either. The trophies are too large for her. I can now tell she doesn’t deserve them. What I can’t tell is what she won them for. The man on top—it might be a woman, at least it should be a woman, since this is a girl we’re talking about, but even if it was a woman, it’s not like it would be worth anything, she was competing against other girls, which is very different from competing against real men—anyway, the golden man on top is just standing there with his hands held way up. I don’t think he’s holding anything and there’s no soccer ball or karate kick or anything that tells what she won.

She’s a skinny one, this trophy winner. 4 woman I, and most normal men, that is men who aren’t bent, if you know what I mean, would consider hot passed through the station; 1 of them, wearing an orange blazer, gave me a rather favorable look; I was too busy recording my lunch, which is on page 24 and 25 of this journal, to respond her obvious advances. Her duffel bag and trophies seem too heavy and she’s given up and is now dragging her bag behind her. She came out of the gate looking for someone. Maybe her mother was supposed to pick her up or maybe her teammates. They probably want to take her out to celebrate. There they are now: two people. I’m guessing they’re her parents from their relative age and the way they’re standing next to one another: there’s a comfort there that I’ve seen with other married couples. The security announcement was repeated 7 times per hour, always starting afresh on the hour; today it was recorded by a man with a thick, Long Island accent; he’s different from the ticket attendant/announcer who, while from the Island, has a smoker’s voice. Ah! They’re taking her trophies but making her carry her gray duffel. Again, they’re probably her parents. It, the bag, matches her gray folded skirt. Folded isn’t really the right word: it’s probably pleated or something, but I was ever one for fashion.

That’s who I was waiting for. I can go home now and implement my Saturday night plans. 2 police officers, and 221 people passed through the station. As I was saying before, my books are mundane but terribly interesting, I’m leaving the whole collection, 5,962 books including this one, which is already 3/4 quarters full, to the Library of Congress. My lawyer knows about this and I’ve recorded it its in the codicil to my will. In case you’re interested, #----- has the record from my lawyer’s office (I’ll fill in the number when I get home and can cross reference it). He was a strange one, that lawyer. I’m not sure why they let people like him walk the streets.