Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't Fear What You Fear: Oedipus Object Lesson

When I began writing I wrestled with subject matter. I felt I should be writing about Oedipus and Jocasta. The classics, as I wrote in my last entry, were too much a part of my life, or at least it felt that way. For someone who claims to be haunted by classics I've read a lot of suspense novels--and do know my pop references.

I was still working my way into a natural writing style, by which I mean, trying to sound like myself.

That's the best writing, writing that sounds like the person. I know that from working with students and reading friends' work. It's same as the difference between indicating an action, as actors in a melodrama do--putting their hand on their brow to indicate worry--and method acting--being the character in her or his moment.

Back to writing. A short story of mine comes to mind: "Washing." I'll explain why, later. Published in Webster Review out of Webster University in Missouri, it's a two-character tale of a woman in her early twenties who meets a much older man at a laundromat. He's a Hollywood classic--someone who was in the industry from age nine or so. Lives near Franklin parallel to and north of Hollywood Blvd. Has many stories to tell about the business. His stories are authentic. I lived around that area and heard those stories from similar characters.

An insecure twenty-something. An older guy at a laundromat. No Oedipus. No Jocasta. Not back then.

Last night? December 12, 2009? Yup. They finally strolled into my writing. I'd visited a friend's writing group; got the time wrong so was only there for the last go-round. We were given a one-word prompt and off we went. The word? "Hollywood."

At first I wrote prose about teenage years--living over the hill from the Blvd., how all I had to do was traverse Barham Blvd. and there I was with the runaways. What's on my mind recently is my need to break into my fog.

Two pages of writing and I couldn't handle any more prose. Long-hand is how I write first drafts of poetry, not fiction (or blogs). A poem fell from my pen like silvery mercury. Earlier that day a different friend had reminded me about Sophocles, author of Oedipus Rex. The incestuous couple, Oedipus and Jocasta, was on my mind.

The myth is so strong and knowledge of their mistakes so implanted it's sheet joy to play with. I don't want to write out the unfinished poem's energy so I will stop. I wrote this because I suspect it will help me navigate memory. The battle is often with paralysis. I am figuring it out and fighting.

And, my dear friends, I am writing.

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