You can write at any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.
The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.
You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of
the night to write.
Writing is simply something you must do. It’s rather like virtue in that it is its own reward. Writing is selfish and contradictory in its terms. First of all, you’re writing for an audience of one, you must please the one person you’re writing for. I don’t believe this business of “No, I don’t write for myself, I write for the public.”
That’s nonsense. Any writer worth his salt writes to please himself. He writes not to communicate with other people, but to communicate more assuredly with himself. It’s a self-exploratory operation that is endless. An exorcism of not necessarily his demon, but of his divine discontent.
A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.
Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.
Don’t look at the world with your hands in your pockets. To write about it you have to reach out and touch it.
Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?
“Christmas Concert” by Gabriel Zapata
No one can hear me. I’m certain.
We’re deep in the most solemn piece of the night, and I’ll be damned if I ruin this bliss with a sour note. There’s an audience here after all. Let the other voices crescendo, they sound good enough. I’ll just open my mouth and keep my silence. No one does this as well I do.
The little things are distracting me anyway. I can’t focus on the pitch with this stupid cufflink. The clip is loose, and this cheap bit of faux metal is near to unfastening and falling to the floor. I can hear the scene it would cause, clinking and clanking all the way down the bleachers. It will be the only sound all night that I’m remembered for, my show-stopper. The tenor to my right and the soprano to my left will dart their eyes at me, mortified that I ruined the whole solo, or that I wasn’t donning a name brand accessory. And Mr. H will be furious. He’s devoted his life to coaxing beauty from amateurs. And this little cufflink could destroy him.
“There shall a star from David come forth
And a sceptre from Israel rise up.”
Mendelssohn’s father was a banker. Lucky. Mendelssohn was privilege done good. He even composed this haunting melody that I love. It’s religious. It has conviction. It isn’t afraid to soar. No doubt about it. The music is everything I’m not—how could one not love it? My instinct is to hate him; after all, I’ll never be Mendelssohn. Hating a dead man is useless though, and it’s unfair. He should get the chance to hate me too.
We rehearsed this song for fifty straight afternoons, and I sing it well enough though I never lend my voice to it except in whispers. So far, no one has noticed. My friends around me though, they’re really singing. I almost don’t recognize them when they do this. Like the tenor below me, he loves to fart loudly when no teacher is around. Everyone laughs, and he feels better. That soprano, both of her parents died in a car crash two years ago, and every now and then she spontaneously tears up in class, and the alto next to me, she’s been accused of kissing half the boys in school. I believe it. I’m one of her captures.
Now is my chance to take off the cufflink. Mr. H is giving a short speech about how the holidays are a time for love and blah blah blah. Each ticket to this concert was ten dollars, that’s all I know. And now he just said something about the majesty of this event. For some reason, majesty doesn’t seem like the correct word. Did all these people pay to get lied to?
Of course, we’re singing in the cafeteria. One table has a meatball stain that somehow can’t be fixed. And earlier today this cafeteria saw a pretty good fist fight, over a girl—what else leads to such violence? But now, we are in a different place. I will concede that. It’s darkness, and the flickering candlelight throws our shadows on the wall. We’re a choir in an ancient cave, chanting to the Gods. I wonder if the crowd senses it too. Probably not. Cookies are being passed around the tables.
I feel like I’m dancing on a grave. Jesus is hanging on the far wall, his rolling eyes avoiding our yuletide cheer. If I were him I would avoid this too: crucified, crown of thorns; he looks like hell. He’s bleeding to death while I’m pretending to sing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. Get happy Jesus, or leave. This is a public school. You aren’t wanted here anyway.
There she is: front row, third seat, biting off the leg a gingerbread man. Look at her brushing her hair to the side with her hand.
Three years dreaming of her. Every kind gesture I’ve made, every laugh and every vulnerable moment we’ve had together gave her the impression that I’m her friend. So I am. It’s a fool’s job, and I’m on it full time. I never listen to the guys who tell me not to be nice to girls. Why are they always right?
Now she’s biting off the head, and staring longingly at that kid in the bass section.
He’s a charmer. Whenever we sing “Jingle Bells” he instead sings the words “Jingle Balls” in his jolly bass. Now he’s doing it again. Look at this: the dudes around him want to collapse, and the girls pretend they aren’t melting as they give him those playful, disapproving eyes. This is a barely contained riot, and it has been for months. Even Mr. H. knows it’s happening, and he’s smiling. They audience thinks we’re just having a splendid time singing Jingle Bells. This clown, this bass, was my competition for her affection. And I lost.
I understand, though. He has a voice too; and at least he’s using it.
Two years ago a million dollar offer couldn’t have tempted me to join the choir. But I heard it was an easy A. It’s true. I rarely sing, and I ace it semester after semester.
It’s not always that way, though. I just hit the “Have” in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” hard, like a star. That note always jumps from my belly with ease, and for a second, singing is easy for me. Frank Sinatra must have felt like this. Except Frank would keep going, slaying the ladies, slanting his fedora, throwing his jacket over his shoulder, crooning smooth money, and arousing quiet jealousy in other men. Smiling. That’s the way to live.
The tenors next to me are booming. Mr. H. eyes them: “Don’t overdo it.” Somehow his eyes say that. Fools. I haven’t been corrected the whole night. I bet I seem rather casual on stage next to them. Either way, I’m glad we’re on the final note.
“Nooooooowwwww.” We fade away.
Finally, the lights are up. Listen to this hooting and clapping from the audience. Some wag is even yelling out for an encore. No more tonight, though. The bottom row is already filing off the bleachers “in an orderly procession,” just like we were taught.
Where’s my mother? I know she adored the music. It’s a primal link for her. Not long after I came into the world she bought a music box for me. When I was a baby I couldn’t sleep, and she says the music box helped. I don’t remember how the song goes, but she knows each note by heart. Wind it up, and the sound still makes her cry even after all these years.
I can’t wait to be home. My only business now is to find my coat.
“Good job tonight, man”.
It’s the tenor who stood next to me all night.
Is he joking? I don’t know what to say.
Say, “Thanks.” And let him walk away.
Sometimes a compliment feels like an inquisition. He was sincere, but how?
I can’t let that happen again. Throw on the coat, the scarf, the hat—as many layers as possible. Move quickly. The last thing I need is another kind word. There’s no point in taking chances.
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.
When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.