Comment of the Week

Larry Keiler of Mental Blog has just won my inaugural comment of the week competition. Apologies for the lack of warning but, seeing as this blog is dedicated to—and occasionally written in—the spirit of meditation, if you weren’t on the same wave length, well… better luck next time.

Larry’s prize? A mention—in fact a word-for-word quotation—and a link back to his well worth the read and I’m not just saying that because he was nice to me blog.

I think the main flaw of all of our youthful writings is that it tends towards the purple. The fact that it’s self-absorbed and angst-ridden is just the way it is and probably always will be. It takes a special sort of genius to be a young genius. But it also takes a special sort of genius to even attempt writing (anything) in one’s youth. I wrote similar stuff to yours when I was young. And now I think I’m blessed that I had the courage to do it, and the outlet it provided. (Because I was angst-ridden and hormone-hyped and drug-addled and generally confused…) Many of my friends did not have this. They became 100 yard hurdlers and racewalkers.

We’re all writers, else we wouldn’t be blogging would we? But even now, most often I write ME. Even when I’m thinking through other characters, I’m still writing ME. And in a certain sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For a while I wrote Jack Kerouac. Or Kafka. Or any other writer whose name starts with K. Now I get to write Keiler, for better or worse.

…In my first year of university, I wrote a short story with a rather“Book of Revelations” ending involving snow. My professor said it reminded her of the themes raised in Margaret Atwood’s“Survival”, a particularly Canadian book. I’m not sure I still have a copy of that story, but looking back on it now, I remember it as being simply over-wrought.

Outstanding comment Larry. Which leads me on to, or more accurately, back to, my favourite topic of all. You guessed it—me.

Funnily enough, as Larry relates, I also wrote Jack Kerouac for a while, and am grateful to ‘Ti Jean’ for his“first thought best thought” approach to writing. Experimenting with just pouring the words out upon the page, never looking back like Lot of The Book of Genesis—just write, write, write and don’t worry what you write—all of this helped inestimably in the thousand-page journey to find my writer’s voice, and to my blessed relief, liberated me from the quagmire of over-analysis and hesitation.

About the time I was writing purple-hued, post-adolescent poetry, I landed a weekly column in a university newspaper—a particularly daring move considering I had all of two completed articles to my name. With twenty-six, due by 12pm Monday at the latest ahead of me, I was soon writing come agonising over-wrought, over-thought think-pieces on topics as diverse as Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King and myself. I think you can guess which topic was the odd one out.

The column—This Side of the (TV) Screen, collapsed after only twelve editions, crushed under weight of over-expectation and a nagging self-doubt. The task of six hundred worthy words a week seemed a mountain too high, and, despite knowing better, I couldn’t help but compare myself—unfavourably—to a fellow columnist, who wrote the most eloquent, lyrical pieces I had then ever seen. Despite my self-perceived flaws, the editor—son of a famous New Zealand poet and an emerging playwright—was more than encouraging, and looking back now—beyond the tears of frustration and sense of failure—it was a good learning experience—a commendable first start.

As an aside, I never met my columnist colleague that year—he was a secretive, mysterious scribe, and seldom ever seen. Several years later however I did, by which time I had graduated to Production Manager—he still a columnist. Would you believe it—despite his paper-eloquence and pen-in-hand wit he was in person nervous, neurotic and to the extreme meek, virtually apologising for his contributions before he even submitted them. Who would have thought…

No Failure
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the shadow
Of success.
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the changing body
Of success.
No failure, no failure.
Failure is the fast approaching train
Of the greatest success.

Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 13, 1973

As someone once said, failure (upon failure) paves the road to success. And while I’m composing my victory speech, I should say that I couldn’t have done it without meditation.

  • alf
    Posted at 20:22h, 04 May

    Thoreau said, “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.” (In his case, this was plainly false modesty as his knowledge of beans in Walden is outstanding.)

    A fine rhythm today which your choice of poem catches perfectly.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 21:33h, 04 May

    Gosh, you think so Alf? Three cheers then for spontaneous, unplanned prose, or as Kerouac would have said,“Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind.”

  • Jackal
    Posted at 04:54h, 05 May

    Excellent, insightful post!

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 07:13h, 05 May

    Thanks Jackal.

  • Larry Keiler
    Posted at 00:47h, 18 May

    Thanks John for including my comment in your post. Gee, it’s been a long time since I won a writing contest! 😀

    And it’s interesting how, often, our writing persona differs from our “in person” persona. Unlike your columnary colleague, I am not nervous, neurotic nor extremely meek. (Well maybe neurotic…) Nevertheless, I’ve always said that I’m better on paper than in person.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 15:35h, 18 May

    Thanks Larry—the prize is in the mail 😉

    I’ve been known to come across better on paper than in person, but like to think I have my moments in real life…

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