The Floodgates Have Opened: A Writer and a Teacher Today

Written May 17, 2010

The university took from me the ability to write. During creative writing workshops at the University of Utah, I learned the important, but painful lesson that a lot of my writing was melodramatic, cliche-ridden, and fatty. I learned what not to write, but not how to write. I learned what to cut, but not how to produce. I dropped out of college and began two decades of obsessive revision, revision, revision. I have drawers full of well-polished beginnings, written for no one, read by no one. About sixteen years after dropping out, I went back to school. And I love it. Since the university gave me writer’s block, it is appropriate that the university has now opened the floodgates. I have become a prolific writer, who is actually read by real people in the real world. (Hello, world!)

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Multiple Simultaneous Drafts: Google.docs and Writing

When I started the master’s program at San Francisco State, a friend introduced me — against my will — to Google docs. Now listen, he insisted, this will make it easier to write and print out your work. I now use Google docs for almost all of my writing, including creative writing.

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A Poem Dangerously about Itself

word

Isn’t “word” a weird word,
something blind and burrowing?
Where’s it going? Why so blunt?
What’s it looking for? Itself?

These shapes, these sounds, how
do they mean what I mean
them to mean? I mean
this group of words does

not make meaning nor a poem, yet
if I could turn these lines
against themselves, this line would be
invalidated and oh so very. What?
Full of itself, full of its emptiness?
Either way, it’s not a good beginning
for a poem, a poem meant, as I am,
to express itself. The poem totters on a single

that seems to mean and misses itself,
as I miss you, meaning, I miss myself,
meaning, I miss the point of wanting to express
myself, beginning and ending, as I do, upon a

word.

Our Cultural and Genetic Heritage: John Barth’s “Night Sea Journey”

Lost in the FunhouseAlthough John Barth’s “Night-Sea Journey” from Lost in the Funhouse is barely six pages long, it is quite a journey, actually one which quickly expands into several voyages occurring simultaneously. Our first impression of the story is not at all like the second reading; it is a journey of a character we first assume to be human, a character we later realize is a sperm. This does not, however, stop us from reading the sperm as human, since he has a human voice and poses very human questions, it merely adds another layer. The sperm telling the story is an individual, but also a carrier of genetic heritage, the human voice, a purveyor of cultural heritage. The story itself is also implicated in the question of how it can be a unique work of art and still part of its literary heritage. The author does not resolve the question of identity and heritage, but hints at an acceptance, possibly a celebration, of our uncertain existence.

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Grab Your Ledgers: Writing is Accounting

(This post is best read with a beer and a piece of toast.)

Accountants were the first writers. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say that merchants in ancient Sumeria developed the cuneiform script around 2500 B.C. for accounting purposes. We want to be factual. Let me remind you that this is non-fiction. (Nevermind that the date is appoximate.) But to tell you the history of writing, I need to talk about grass and how we learned to eat it, the technology that has most drastically transformed the face of the planet.

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It’s All Fiction: Another Attempt to Tell the Story

All night in my dreams I’ve been working on this blog. Are dreams fictions or are dreams truth? Truth or fiction, dream or reality, there is something in my brain that wants to know, that keeps trying to work it out, that keeps saying, “No, that’s not quite it.”

I’ve already shot a lot of electrons across the screen trying to show how all writing is fiction, but I don’t feel I have covered it yet. So, I will take advantage of the fluid nature of a blog and try again. Since this is not an academic paper or a published book, I don’t have to pretend it is a final product, my ideas solidified and neatly packaged. Rather this blog is a work in progress, an ongoing conversation with myself and with you (whoever you are), a continuing project to understand stories by telling stories, to make sense of the universe with the parts of the universe at my disposal, namely myself, a computer, and a language.

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