Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, Creeps

I'm a writer. I guess that's so. I really hate to say it out loud, though. It comes up in conversation and then I have to just blurt it out, all squirmy, my hands twisted together, my shoulders tucked up under my ears. I look like a little girl who has to tinkle.

Problem is, it sounds so insubstantial and precious. "I'm a writer." What's that supposed to mean, in the real world? It's like saying "I'm a picker." It doesn't give anyone much of a purchase on what you do. Do you pick melons, mandolins, boogers? So people ask. They say, "Oh! What is it you write?" They almost have to. You tell folks you're a writer and that's the first thing they say, out of sheer politeness. And I squirm some more, because really there are a whole lot of things I write besides this here blog, and those things don't necessarily have much in common, and one wants to be informative, but I usually say "oh, mostly humor." Here's the thing. There  is no way to say you're a humor writer that is funny. In fact there is nothing duller than the phrase "I'm a humor writer." People smile uncertainly and then they're off to see if someone's opened the merlot.

Besides, only a tiny number of people who describe themselves as humor writers are actually funny. So I squirm. Because the only truly appropriate response to the statement "I'm a writer" is: well, lah-dee-dah.

There's also the thing where it feels like it doesn't really count unless someone's paying you for it. And my writing is pretty much an income-free occupation. I do have my own room for it, a special place with all the necessary tools at hand where I can get in the mood, but that could work for masturbation, too. So what is it you do, now that you're retired? I whack off. I'm just waiting for someone in the  industry to notice that I am a truly gifted wanker and offer to give me more exposure.

So there used to be a saying that if you had an infinite number of monkeys and an infinite number of typewriters, they would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. This is not true. People like to believe it, because nothing cheers them up like imagining an infinite number of monkeys.  But there is no empirical evidence for it. Shakespeare, no. The internet, maybe.

The thing about those infinite monkeys is that it's entirely possible they could hammer on those infinite typewriters and never once get anywhere with Shakespeare, or that it could take an infinite amount of time, which is virtually useless, especially if you've still got to get one more load of laundry done before calling it a day. If you're a good writer, which Shakespeare is reputed to be, you don't need that many monkeys. A few dozen, tops, and some of them should be trained. You need some to round up verbs, and others to throw poop at pretension, and the rest of them can just fly willy-nilly around the room, while the writer squints at them until they resolve into metaphor.  Good writing is all a matter of recognizing patterns in seemingly random monkey mayhem.

So there. I'm a monkeyherd. Is there any more merlot?

65 comments:

  1. Yes, my dear, you are a writer and a good writer and certainly a funny writer. You just need a infinite number of monkeys writing an infinite number of reviews in an infinite number of papers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my goodness, you're right. Round 'em up!

      Delete
  2. This post resonates with me as I've had the good fortune to be able to retire early. I, too, squirm when people inevitably ask what I "do". I realize that they are trying to make conversation, but sometimes I get a bit defensive (inwardly) and think that they are trying to figure out how I make money, how much do I make, and am I worth the trouble of their talking to. Yeah... I got issues. I've heard that in France, it is considered rude to ask one's profession straight off or to talk about work. One talks about one's "interests", which seems so much nicer to me anyway. So I have decided that, when I am asked again, I will NOT give them the elevator version of "what I do". I will be much more detailed, no doubt to their chagrin: "I am a gourmet cook, I draw, I write, I read voraciously, and am making a special study of Metaphysics." That gives them a wide variety of things I actually am interested in that we can converse about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know what? They are trying to make conversation, and to be polite.

      Also, deep down they want to know how much money you make.

      Delete
  3. Yes indeed, you are a writer and a damn good one. You proved that in the first paragraph. And you are an observer, seeing what most people overlook. And you are a sharer, inviting us all to your insights. Making it all funny is a bonus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm getting a little bonus just reading your words.

      Delete
  4. You most definitely are a writer, but I see that as more what you ARE than what you DO, if that makes any sense. It does to me. What you do is you notice things, you mull over them, your mind puts the pieces together, you let the words begin to form, and on and on. You had to do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is kind of weird like that, kind of a compulsion. I'll be weeding, or hanging out laundry, or (spank me now) in the middle of a boring conversation, and a phrase will occur to me, and I have to go save it somewhere in case I need it some day.

      Delete
  5. And what a writer you are. I can always come by here to get a laugh or two, and sometimes you really ARE snorthworthy. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing is more cheering than a good snort.

      Delete
    2. EXCEPT "imagining an infinite number of monkeys."

      Delete
    3. Right you are. Gosh, I no sooner write it than I forget it!

      Delete
  6. You are an arranger of words and their various syllables, an inventor of same, a wrangler of prose, a penner of poemetry, a teller of truthiness, a finagler of funniness, a woman of wittiness, an amateur musician (in the truest sense of the word), an artist in various media, an appreciater of the brewer's craft (and that of the culinary community), a champion of the natural world, a philanthropist (yes you are!), a chauffeur, a gardener, a photographer, an exposer of evil and corruption, an uplifter of the downtrod, and the truest of friends.

    ReplyDelete
  7. When asked "What do you do now that...?" I just say "My retirement is not working."

    If someone reads what you write, then you are a writer, otherwise you are just wanking off, and wanking off can be rewarding at times, but as the others all say, you are indeed a writer not a wanker, at least not in public. And you are a very good one...er...writer, I don't really want to know about wanking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, you do. Hey, I read that first line wrong. It made me think "huh. My retirement is working just fine."

      Delete
  8. Good writing is all a matter of recognizing patterns in seemingly random monkey mayhem. Loved that line. You are definitely a wordsmith.You take information, chop it up, mix it with visions, dreams, acerbic thoughts, etc, etc, and then create an essay or poem. Oh yes, and you are also an artist because you illustrate with your own drawings or photographs And I thank God that you choose to share your world view - which IS humorous - with us. And that you have the skills, tools, and work ethic to do so. THANKS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Back atcha. This blog business looked like it had a nice upward trajectory and then everything fell off after a few years (I am told this is universal, but...), until now the Murrmurrs audience is a small and select group. I cherish every one of you, because somehow none of this makes sense if there's no one on the receiving end.

      Delete
  9. I would imagine that herding monkeys would be much more difficult that herding cats. Obviously, that means that your new profession as a writer should be very impressive to all who inquire.
    There are many who aspire to write well. You, my dear, are the real deal. Funny, serious, or a combination, your writing rocks. Stand up straight and take a bow, you squirmy little girl you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PS I AM standing up straight.

      Delete
    2. Personally, I would aspire to herd meerkats. Which are the coolest of animals. After salamanders and their ilk, of course!

      Delete
    3. Don't meerkats come pre-herded?

      Delete
  10. More exposure as a wanker... bahaha!! The only thing worse than introducing yourself as a humour writer is to have somebody else introduce you to a group: "This is Diane. She's really funny!"

    Cue flop-sweat, deer-in-the-headlights paralysis, and mumbled inanities for the rest of the evening while the other guests avoid you as if they'd just caught you with your hand down your pants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So to speak. I know. Maybe we should have some lines in the can for just such an occasion. Oh wait--that sounds like we're doing cocaine in the bathroom.

      Delete
  11. Did you ever read BC comics? One of the guys introduces BC to Grog and Wiley and says, "This is BC. Say something funny, BC." and BC says, "Pleased to meet you.

    In college I knew a guy who introduced himself as, "a philosopher/poet." I think he's a lawyer now.

    Being a writer is sort of a dead-end conversational topic unless the other person is also a writer and you can talk shop. I confess that I write, then ask, "What have you read lately? I'm doing market research."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like talking shop. I like to hear how other people accomplish what they accomplish. And it's kind of a relief, because this is not a conversation you should have in polite society. People would be bored to death. Their eyeballs would roll back so far they'd snap off.

      Delete
    2. I like talking shop, too. I've met some wonderful, generous, talented writers online, including you my friend. Also on Facebook, where there's a group of us who Skype and manage to get together at least once a year. It's an important support system.

      Delete
    3. I'm ascared to Skype. I think it will steal my soul. I do like a support system.

      Delete
  12. What can I, a non-writer but avid reader, say after all those wonderful, literate comments by writerly people? Just that I'm so glad I stumbled on your blog. And that I'm thankful you share your writing for free, because times are rough for a lot of people and money for the reading hobby doesn't come along often. (I also love that you do your own photos to illustrate your posts.) I have no advice on what to say to people about your gift, for which I am truly sorry, because I'd like to give back, even that little bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Commenting is giving back. Believe it. And hey, I was just observing to Dave as he got his assignment for a new blog photograph--isn't this weird? I was one of those people who hated having her picture taken because I never looked the way I wanted to, and now I've had so many taken that I have gotten over it all. Once you've told someone to take a picture of your butt while you're bending over and to take it from the least possible flattering angle, you realize you're free. Speaking of free.

      Delete
    2. It is weird, isn't it? I used to hate having my picture taken, and when I couldn't avoid being photographed, never showed anyone the results. Now I look worse than I ever did, yet I'm taking selfies and posting 'em on Facebook. Go figure.

      Delete
    3. We've either relaxed, or we've given up, or both.

      Delete
  13. I hear ya. I hate to say it, so I never do. "I'm a writer." sounds pompous, and "I'm an artist." always gets a chorus of "ME TOO!" from the doodling crowd.

    So I just say " I'm retired. I do nothing but volunteer to drive the snowplow" (I live in Florida)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, now I have to come up with an Oregon version of that one. Hmm.

      Delete
  14. When I told people I was an artist, in response to "the question", they would reply with, "Oh! So is my Aunt Harriet! She paints the cutest little flowers on china plates...etc." I didn't much like to encourage that sort of comparison, so I began, when asked, to tell people I was " a professional artist". I'm not sure what the mental shift was in people when I qualified 'artist' with 'professional', but the shift was noticeable. I certainly wouldn't have to qualify myself as a professional doctor or a professional lawyer, but it seems 'artist' needs to be qualified . So, from now on, when asked, say you are a professional writer. See what happens. I'd be curious to know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I can't say that, because I'm not a pro like you. But I have a feeling that if I said I was a professional writer, people would say "what is it you write?" So not much progress there. I think you should just casually say "I'm a GOOD artist." That should shut them up.

      Delete
  15. Like jenny_o my non writerly reading obsessed self thanks you. In awe, in wonder, in gratititude. And I recently read your piece about Hildegard Bingen and must know more. I will track down and devour her biography.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ain't she something? I almost thought there were no such women Back Then.

      Delete
  16. It's ironic to me that when I was writing for television and was a "paid" writer, I rarely had anywhere near the creative satisfaction that I have now that, like you, I'm writing basically for free.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've long suspected that writing for someone would not be quite as satisfying. The best would be to get paid to write what you want to write, but that's rare, and even that could be a trap if you're wildly successful and have to keep imitating yourself. I sometimes wonder what an agent would do if she took me on on the basis of a novel, and asked what else I had on tap. Uh, a humor book about birds, a completely different kind of novel, and a collection of dinosaur poetry?

      Delete
  17. I always enjoy reading your posts. You writing style appeals to me and makes me smile..
    I do understand answering The Question with "I'm a Writer" because I answer with "I'm an Artist".. as a poster above said I should answer with "I'm a professional artist".. I'm sure it will get the same snide look, though.

    Just keep writing~!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the most important thing is to realize people are just being polite, and to answer with the weirdest-ass thing you can think of. Now I'm off to think of something.

      Delete
  18. Murr, I almost feel your pain, but imagine the reaction when you answer the question, "What do you write?" with "Historical Romance." And I get paid and all, love. No, wait. You probably can't imagine—how, when I hear the phrase "bodice ripper" I'm so glad I don't carry a gun. But I am old and jaded and I've been doing it for years. And still, when I have to say "I'm a writer," I believe I wear that Tinkle expression.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually, I think if you heard the phrase AND were carrying an appropriate gun, say, an English Overcoat Pistol, the effect would be tremendous. Personally, I would take a step back. I am sorry to hear that a successful, award-winning writer such as yourself still has to do that cringing thing. Hey! Maybe we should answer those polite queries with "I'm a writer, bitch!"

      Delete
    2. Actually, I like your gun idea a lot.

      Delete
    3. My guess is you even have a petite pistol in mind.

      Delete
  19. In a dim past life, when I did sometimes earn some pennies for "writing words on paper" if I mentioned that I was a scribbling hack and people said"ooh, what do you write" (hoping, I think, that I'd either be famous or could get them an autograph of one who was!), I used to say."porn."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perfection. I do sometimes say I write doggerel. Because I do.

      Delete
  20. I'd like to say I'm a writer, but my blog is mostly photos apart from the parts of stories I write on Fridays in response to Delores's word challenge on Wednesdays.
    The thing is, I have many, many printed pages of parts of stories, bits and pieces, some of which fit together, most of which don't.
    So I'm not sure that counts as being a writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what-all counts as being a writer. I'm told you're a writer if you write. Or if you can't not write.

      Delete
  21. P.S. I agree with everybody else above that you are most definitely a writer and a very good one at that. Funny too, and I always get a laugh coming here.
    Hildegard Bingen??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Murr wrote an excellent post for Friends of Chamber Music about Hildegard von Bingen. You can find it here: Hildegard

      Delete
    2. Found and read. Hildegard certainly was an amazing woman, brought music right into the future. So glad we don't have to drone and chant these days.

      Delete
  22. I have similar conversations:

    "So, what do you do."
    "I'm an author."
    "Cool! What do you write?"
    "Humorous, light sci-fi. Last year I wrote and published a book called TESTAMENT: FUNNY BADGERS."
    "That's so cool! How's it selling?"
    "Is there any more merlot?"

    Roth x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's way better than "made my nut."

      Delete
  23. Not the flying monkeys!!!

    the Ol'Buzzard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not saying it's not a dangerous occupation.

      Delete
  24. You're a writer with a LOT of really smart people who know good writing, who love your cheese. And you're playing real good for free. We gotta figure out how to get you out to the masses. You're ripe for a magazine gig somewhere, IMHO. I feel like we're stealing your best stuff right here. xoxox j.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steal away. Isn't that a song? And now I'm off to search the brain pan for the song that has "he plays real good for free" in it. Thank you.

      Delete
  25. I agree with all the above but.......GET YOURSELF A NEW DESK! Surely a writer deserves better than that pokey little corner?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'd think. Also, I keep meaning to hang pictures. And stuff. And clean. And you know what? All that is stuff I'd do if I were trying to avoid writing. What you're looking at is the space of someone without writer's block.

      Delete