Friday, January 18, 2013

Existing in New York City: Creatively Writing

Foto by tgw, New York City, December 2012
Say Goodbye to: Stan "The Man" Musial one of the great hitters of baseball in the good ole days when there were only 16 teams in MLB.  Stan spent his whole career with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He was a consistent league-leading hitter playing in the Cardinal outfield and later at 1st base.  I long remember the Cardinals with Stan playing for them w/Marty Marion, Red Schoendinst, and manager Eddie Dyer.  Stan Musial, 92, American Hall of Fame baseball player (St. Louis Cardinals).
Say Goodbye to: Earl Weaver, the crusty, feisty, and foul-mouthed manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they had championship teams.  He could contest Tommy LaSorta for using the F word when he was pissed off at a player or umpire. Earl Weaver, 82, American Hall of Fame baseball manager (Baltimore Orioles), apparent heart attack.
Say Goodbye to: Jack McCarthy, the stand-up poet.
Say Goodbye to: Milt Bolling, an up-and-down shortstop who had his best years beating out Johnny Lipon for the regular Boston Red Sox shortstop job in the mid-50s.  His hot years didn't last long and the Sox traded him to the lowly Washington Senators for Dean Stone, a pitcher; Milt ended up on the Detroit Tigers with his brother, Tigers' regular 2nd baseman, Frank Bolling.  Milt Bolling, 82, American baseball player (Boston Red Sox), complications from heart surgery.
Creative Writing Courses
I just read a short story by a woman whose bio says she took a creative writing course at Johns Hopkins University.  It got me to wondering: how do you teach someone creative writing?  What is creative writing in the first place?  As a writer who may not be as creative as I think I am, I, like a chicken with its head cut off, searched the Internet and found at good ole Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia the following definition of creative writing:

Creative writing is any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal professional, journalistic, academic, or technical forms of literature, typically identified by an emphasis on narrative craft, character development, and the use of literary tropes.

Wow!  I'm impressed.  I'm none of those kinds of writers.  I'm not a professional....  Well, wait a minute now,  I have published, so I guess that makes me a professional.  I have published and been paid for what I published, too, so I guess that really makes me a professional.

Now, let's see, am I a journalist?  I keep a journal, but then I think what that journalistic in the definition means is writing for a newspaper.  I've published in newspapers.  By golly, I suppose that makes me a journalistic writer.  I've posted over 1,000 posts in The Daily Growler, which is a might even qualify as a newspaper (I'll be damned if I look up the definition of a newspaper).  The problem with me here is I've never written professionally for a newspaper.  So that disqualifies me as a journalistic writer.

Next comes academic writing.  Hmmm, that one has me.  Does it mean did I write while I was in school?  I did.  I wrote in high school and then in college.  Does my Master's thesis count as academic writing?  But the trouble is, that definition states these are forms of literature.  I really couldn't classify my Master's thesis as literature.  Damn, now I have to decide what's the definition of literature?  I have published in literary reviews sponsored by colleges and universities.  I can't figure this one out so I'll jump to the next one.

"Technical forms of literature."  Whoa, I have no idea what that means.

Further on down at the bottom of the Wikipedia definition of creative writing, there is a quote from Kay Boyle: "All creative-writing programs ought to be abolished by law.”  Ironically, Kay Boyle is a creative writing teacher.

The key phrase in the above definition of creative writing is "any writing that goes outside the bounds of normal...literature."  Wow, that's a tough one to chew on.  Outside the bounds of normal literature.  That would certainly in my way of thinking include Gertrude Stein, my writing mentor (one of them); it would include James Joyce for sure; it would include William Faulkner, I suppose; but would it include old Dostoyevsky? would it include Voltaire? would it include Nabokov?

Definitions are subjective aren't they?  Like beauty, they're in the eye of the beholder.  Any book or short story or poem I read I like to me is creative written literature.  And if creative writing is like the definition states outside the bounds of normal literature, how in the heck do you teach it except by critically analyzing a teacher's personal-likes examples.  I mean Rudolph Wurlitzer wrote outside the bounds of normal literature, but would you call his work creative literature? Or Nathalie Sarraute's nouveau roman writing, writing I must admit in an humble way I totally couldn't understand (of course, I read it in English translation), is it true creative literature?  Or is it "dashed off" literature.  Eccentric literature?  Certainly writing that can't be taught in a creative writing course...or at least that's how I see it.

Graham Greene said writing should be entertaining and called his novels entertainments.  I like that approach to writing myself.  I find books via which you have to crank up your vast knowledges to figure out more boring than entertaining.  Yet, ironically, I find Gertrude Stein's writing entertaining.  And I find Joyce's Ulysses extremely entertaining, a book I find almost as hilarious as Nabokov's Lolita, which as I've often said is the funniest book I've ever read.  I could also throw Dr. Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into that pot, too.  Gonzo writing is certainly creative writing since it's certainly outside the bounds of normal...literature.
Gertrude Stein Wrote:
"You only add books you never subtract or divide them and any book that is printed is a book.  It is nice that nobody writes as they talk and that the printed language is different from the spoken otherwise you could not lose yourself in books and of course you do, you completely do."
[from p. 113, A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein, Black Sparrow Press, 1974.]

Charles Bukowski Wrote:

the ladies of summer

the ladies of summer will die like the rose
and the lie

the ladies of summer will love
so long as the price is not

the ladies of summer
might love anybody;
they might even love you
as long as summer

yet winter will come to them

white snow and
a cold freezing
and faces so ugly
that even death
will turn away---
before taking

[from p. 56, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit, Black Sparrow Press, 1982.] a creative mood
for The Daily Growler 

The Art of (My Old Friend) Will Shuster



Marybeth said...

Technical writing, I think, means instruction booklets and the like. I know a lot of people who hold job positions with the title "technical writer" in companies around here. They seem to write users' manuals for computer software. Academic literature is the sort of shit I used to write as a scientist and got published in journals like "Physical Review" or "The Journal of Non-Chrystalline Solids". Such exciting stuff. That category may also include text books. Professional writing is probably writing that is only read by people in a particular profession, like law briefs, but I don't know. Seems to me, if you leave out those 3 extremely boring things and newspaper reporting, the world is wide open. Everything else is creative writing. That's interesting. Is a biography creative writing? Do we dare to look up the meaning of "literature"? Well, I think YOU are a creative writer, even if we can't quite figure out exactly what that means. You certainly have "narrative craft" down. Interesting post. Thanks for the Buk poem. I love him.

The Daily Growler said...

Thanks WTP for that info...and thanks for the creative compliment; I am egotistical enough to dwell a long time on your compliments.

The Wolf Man

Marybeth said...

Well, I don't know if I'm your biggest fan (there may be bigger fans of yours, like lhat, I don't know), but I really enjoy your writing. It's been a blessing having your words in my life.