Has it ever happened to you where you get the same message three different times, in three different ways? Your stomach growls, you’re hungry. But it’s better to save money, hold off until dinner. And then you see an ad on your computer for ice cream. No, you say. Then your phone receives an sms from a local ice cream shop. You think, what the hell, when did I sign up for this? Then your wife comes home with a bucket of the creamy stuff. “Look, honey!” And you take a huge spoonful into your mouth a hour before dinner, convinced the stars and chocolate chips in your life were aligned.
Well, this happened to me last week.
I had just seen an old interview of Koby Bryant talk about how he had joined a basket ball team at the age of 14. His dad was a pro, and he wanted to be a pro too. And yet, that first summer he scored 0 points. Not a free throw, not a lay up, not a three. But 0. A coach told him he must practice his fundamentals–consider the long term goals–and to try again next year. So, that’s what the world’s greatest did. He spend three months practicing one shot, until he could place the ball in the hoop. Then he practice dribbling for three months. Always the fundamentals.
By the following summer he was the best player on his team. And a year after that he was the all time champ nation wide. All because he practiced the fundamentals.
Ok, so that’s one sign. The same day I was talking with my wife about how frustrating it is to write (30% of our conversations revolve around the artist struggle. Hey, hers too). “What did you do for two years?” she asked, referring to my MFA. “Shit,” I said, “I don’t remember.” She really got me thinking. Because say what you want about the literary production of mine in those two years in grad school, what I definitely did not work on were my fundamentals. In fact, if you’re going to knock on the MFA it should be that you do not work on your fundamentals, you are supposed to have them, or else get torn to shreds by colleagues who also need to work on theirs.
I almost went to bed in a terrible daze, sad and tired all at once. Yet rather than rest and let my dreams sooth me, I burned my retinas at my computer, searching for an answer to my next question. I knew how I would improve (practice), and why (improvement). But I didn’t know what. What should I work on? I have got to work! I want to work! DUDE DUDE DUDE!!! MY writing. What’s wrong with it? I almost didn’t know.
And then, poof, with a lot of magic dust and a glow of ancient wisdom, the third sign fell from the sky and hit me on the head.
On sale, for 60 cents, was Aristotle’s Poetics. A book about plot. P-L-O-T. Mofo plot. That’s what’s missing from my writing. That’s what readers and wives (at least mine) all gripe about in my writing. It’s missing something so fundamental, so basic, something that supports all else.
After reading the old text, and having my mind in the throes of multiple orgasms, a hundred different lingam massages . . . utilizing all that I learned during my four years of philosophy undergrad, my two years of art grad, and everything in between and after . . . I finally (present tense) feel that I am ready to under go my next schooling: a semester of plot.
If only I had a semester in real life to teach (and thereby learn myself) the intricacies of this magnificent book . . .
Alas, what I will say is this, I am going to upload, as the next couple of posts, thoughts and exercises . . . so giddy up.