Howl, and How A Quilas Piece Comes To Be

I was walking home tonight from work, along Tompkins Square Park, surrounded by signs announcing the Howl Festival taking place there this weekend. I entered the park, and just then I heard amplified voices from the south side, so I walked over to see what was going on. (I go that way, anyway.) A group of people were on the stage, being directed by Bob Holman: “even on one side, odd on the other, there’s too many people over on this side, this is not the time to be marking your lines,” etc. I watched them for about five minutes. It seemed longer, but I’m sure that’s about how long it was. Finally they started reading.

    I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness…

Hmmm. I didn’t have it in me to listen to the entire thing — it’s hard enough to hear in my own voice! — so I left. For me, the preparation was the event. I could easily have watched that for another five minutes.


It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve been busy lately, but I have been working on a new piece.

This is how it works: I have an idea, and I start writing. I add more to it, the notes accumulate and the piece gets too long and goes off-topic. I save a copy to use for a future piece. I come home tired and don’t feel like working on it, so I agonize about it instead. I lie in bed rewriting it in my head, unwilling to get up and stare into the light of the computer monitor, and I forget my phrasing by morning. Eventually, I come back to it and start hacking away at it, cutting whole sections. Then I start revising it, reading it from the beginning each time I make even the slightest change, and finally I publish it. Immediately, I feel a great relief, like a weight has been lifted off of me. Then the process begins again. The relief is only momentary.

I’m writing this now to avoid writing what I should be.

But it’s late. Off to bed!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alexis
    Jun 09, 2013 @ 21:38:00

    This is how I watch paint dry. I paint the wall, first starting with a small patch. Then I sit back and watch it dry. I contemplate the color. Should I hang wallpaper? No one hangs wallpaper any more. I continue to watch the paint dry. What’s that? A bird flew by my window. I like birds. They eat bugs. Back to the paint…it’s drying.

    Really riveting stuff you got going on here…


  2. joe
    Jun 10, 2013 @ 09:04:04

    Speaking of riveting, quotidian affairs blogger Dave Walker recently had a gem of an update: “I decided to go for a walk. I set off in my chosen direction. Eventually I returned to my starting point.” []


    • shmnyc
      Jun 10, 2013 @ 16:02:19

      You know, people don’t realize how I agonize over pieces that take a long time to finish. I go into a bad mood. The piece I’m working on now is one I’ve been working on for at least two weeks. It weighs like a nightmare on my brain!


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