Thursday, June 06, 2013

SPE: What I Write About When I'm Not Writing About Dr. Seuss

[For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, dailyshorts gave me this prompt: "Dr. Seuss is one of my all-time favorite writers.Write a story or poem with Seussian flair." I gave Bewildered Bug this prompt: "You can have it all, just not at the same time and in all the proportions that you may want."-Valerie Jarrett]

(I am having an enormous amount of trouble with this, which is why I decided to call it "What I Write About When I'm Not Writing About Dr. Seuss." I apologize in advance- it's a fine prompt, I just can't do anything with it.)

I don't have anything against Dr. Seuss. Like virtually everyone who raised an American child in the second half of the twentieth century, I delighted in Mr. Geisel's rhymes, puns, and rhythms. They made reading to a child, which can be a trial to a weary parent, into something almost delightful. Seuss books hit that sweet spot that was so rare in those days, the Pixar nexus of simultaneously having something semi serious to say, while entertaining children and also casting a wink towards the adult in the room. (While simultaneously having visuals that could pass for a mescaline trip.)

According to Wikipedia, which we all know is faultless, Geisel labored over his work, making every element as perfect as it could possibly be. Poets, in my experience, are like that- it's such an exact medium, poets have to labor over every sound, every word, to make sure it is utterly right. Or maybe it's just that good authors do that. The work, in Seuss' case, shows. The remarkable "The Cat In The Hat," with less than 250 different words, yet still a perfectly formed little tale, funny and sweet, tense and lovely, is a great example.

I did what I usually do with the SPE this week, taking the prompt in and letting my subconscious chew on it for a bit. I continued on with my week, tossing the idea back and forth like a dog with a tennis ball, but my brain could only come up with leaden, heavy analogies or simple, blank emptiness. I napped. I meditated. I thought. And still, nothing. This is a fairly new experience for me- generally, ideas gather around me like flies at a picnic. Usually, I can grasp onto something, a phrase, a notion, a funny look the librarian gives me, and construct something around it that addresses the prompt, if only obliquely.

I'm not a poet, as my few attempts at doing so have proven beyond doubt. I don't have the patience for it, the laser like focus, the ability to go over it and over it until it not only scans, but it sings. For reasons that even I don't understand, I have been watching West Wing clips on YouTube this week. One of the clips on there was from something that appeared to be a DVD extra or a documentary. In the clip, Martin Sheen comments that Aaron Sorkin's dialogue does that with "words like musical notes". It carries the action, but also sings with beauty and clarity. I don't have that kind of focus. As my work shows, I'm lucky if I can keep my character's names straight.

I think, in order to write with Seussian flair, you need to have a certain amount of whimsy. At the moment, I am seriously deficient, a dark fog of pessimism that has been lingering around my soul for a while now. I could just need more sleep, or to eat better, or to pray to Zeus ( or perhaps even Seuss ) for inspiration. Maybe I'm just intimidated at the prospect of failure. Or perhaps it's simply that I'm not a very good writer. Whatever the cause, I respectfully decline the invitation to attempt to honor the great man with an imitation this week. I can't do it, and I won't dishonor the Exchange with work that won't exceed even my low standards.

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