Word SaladOne of the things that I do to help up-and-coming writers, even those who just want to write One Great Novel & take the money and retire to Fiji never to write another word again, is urge them to try to become a Master Poet like me. I tell them that when you see the world through the eyes of a poet you'll be that much more grateful for the eyes you have, because at least yours are still in their sockets and not being passed around for people to look through. Just last night for example, someone mentioned flowers. I was immediately overcome by my Muse. In fact Cindy (ancient Muse of Other) went stark raving wild, she tried to sit on my face, I said no, please no, you're a muse, it wouldn't be right, it's like a cross-species thing, but she's a powerful Muse, she works out with weights. Finally I burbled out, "I saw a pretty little rose! / It was a sight to see! / I bent to smell it with my nose, / and it did puncture me!"
If you can write like that you are ready to write just about anything. Now all you need is something to write about. This is the second thing I always tell up-and-coming writers. I say, always have something to write about. I know that's sounds a little abstract to a lot of you, and some of you may be thinking to yourselves, "Dr. Wes is getting too abstract for me again, I just wanted to read more about Cindy sitting on his face, while I finish my egg salad sandwich."
I say in that case you have something to write about, you've got your egg salad sandwich, you've got your dreams. Now let's work on the rest of you people.
To begin with, what do you have to say for yourselves? Huh? Egg salad? See how easy that was?
OK, I know some of you missed that. Tell you what, we'll try a little role playing. Pretend I have an MSW, and you are in a program I'm running. Let's say the state put you here and if you don't do everything I tell you to do I will report your non-compliance to the state and you won't get any money on the 1st and you won't be able to pay your rent.
So by the 15th, while everyone else is celebrating the fact that they make enough money to pay income taxes, you'll be sharing a piece of egg salad sandwich with your new room-mate, a large hungry rodent named Chuck who will live with you by a dumpster that you would have wanted to call Ulan Bator, by and by, but Chuck would have fought you in committee, so even that dream will have been dashed.
So you decide to comply after all, and now that we've got that out of the way, I tell you I want you to try a little role playing. So I give you a hypothetical situation. I say, let's say you're oh I don't know a mathematician doing advanced mathematics research at an advanced mathematics research place, say, in Zürich Switzerland, and let's say you have spent the last few hours talking with some really old guys who actually knew Albert Einstein when he went to school there, and Carl Gustav Jung when he taught across the street, and that James Joyce guy back when he had an apartment in the neighborhood. And these old guys, let's say, tell you all about these people and you soak it all up, it's stuff that's never been written down before. And while you're talking it gets to be tea time, and Fraulein Hilda Denklosigkeit brings in tea and teacups and a platter of weird looking pastries, or cookies or something, you can't tell what they are, except that they were definitely NOT made in America.
OK? Got all that? NOW what do think you should write about? Do you hang with these old guys, take more notes, and write the definitive biographies of Einstein, Jung, and Joyce? Or do you write your memoirs, reminiscing about your glory days in Zürich? Or should you write that long extended fantasy that was inspired by the time the cleaning woman came into the men's room while you were "busy" and your eyes met, and you thought, "Oh I only wish she were Hilda Denklosigkeit, and not just here to scrub the urinals..."
Or do you write about your craving for egg salad sandwiches?
Answer: None of the above! What you do instead is forget all about it, come back to the US, torture college freshpeople by making them pay attention to algebra for fifty total hours of their lives, then wake up to your evil ways, spend the next twelve years of your life in therapy, live on the streets for four of them, drive a cab for five of them, lose your mind, work in a work shelter program for two years, spend six years working nights as a janitor, lose your job, take up art.
THEN you wake up one day, and say, I got to talk to people about this. There you go, you've got something to say! Just don't ever forget the part about the egg salad sandwich, you'll find a way to work it in eventually.
Now I want to see you all break up into small groups and role play amongst yourselves.
© Dr. Wes Browning: email@example.com
Adventures in Poetry Columns © Dr. Wes Browning's Home Page
The Great Speckled Bird Columns on Homelessness