I have often heard writers say that you have written your lead you have in a sense written half of your story. Finding a good lead can require that much time, anyway–through trial and error. You can start almost anywhere. Several possibilities will occur to you. Which one are you going to choose? It is easier to say what not to choose. A lead should not be cheap, flashy, meretricious, blaring. After a tremendous fanfare of verbal trumpets, a mouse comes out of a hole blinking. . . .
The lead–like the title–should be a flashlight that shines down into the story.
In my writing group the other night, we had 15 minutes to write something beginning with this line from Auden: “About suffering they were never wrong.” Here’s what I came up with.
About suffering they were never wrong. They had scoped our pains with surveyor’s eye And spanned a compass o’er travails long That ran from dawn to lights that die. All humanity’s woes and cares Were catalogued as sundry snares. There’s grief, there’s woe, there’s dark despair, And lust and loss without compare. And when the survey was mapped out neat They took the chart and tacked it high And aiming darts did then compete To see which pains on souls should lie. Thus the Fates do now compete Leaving shears aside as dated, So when you suffer, sore, complete, Know your pain was struck, ill-fated.
(I can’t type this without wanted to revise it (e.g., do now contend), but that’s beyond the scope of a 15-minute exercise.)
We begin the new year in the corner of the last year. Our path to any door is blocked by yesterday’s mess—the dismaying newspapers, the chairs toppled in arguments or slumber, the bills scattered about the mail slot.
Another trip around the sun: Every revolution has its barricades, and these are ours.
Let’s overthrow what’s failed, and build a new order.
In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the mechanized army of villain Immortan Joe is led by a truck loaded with loudspeakers and a heavy metal guitarist suspended in a harness. His anthemic thrashing spurs the army into battle.
The craziest driving I’ve ever seen is on the freeway between Austin and Dallas.
Now I’m picturing Texas blues guitarists suspended above the grill of every racing Cadillac and 18-wheeler, blasting “Love Struck Baby” at 85 mph. When dusk comes, and soft purple light settles over land, the vehicles slow, and the strumming becomes brooding and wistful. On a rural delivery road amid fields of cotton, one might even hear strains of “Pancho and Lefty,” lightly picked on a Martin 12-string.
Meanwhile in downtown San Francisco, Priuses dart past busses, pedestrians, and stalled UPS trucks, their Fair-Trade hemp-clothed musicians, beards trimmed and straw fedoras smartly askew, hunch on hoods, fleetly strumming ukuleles.
The climate, social, financial, political — it’s dispiriting because you don’t see eye to eye. But the world can be safe if each of us is concerned. This starts with our own life, with our family, with our friends, with our village. If everybody was ready to help others, to do something, the world would be different. We are too ready to say, ‘Well, this is not my problem,’ and I think when you see the reaction from fanatical people, you see that the first enemy of humans is ignorance. Ignorance makes fanatics. The second enemy is hatred. And the third is egoism. And all these things can be saved with the development of a sensitive language, like music.
Jordi Savall, from an interview in Listen Magazine.
In 2013, may the road rise to meet you, and the wind be ever at your back; may your Wi-Fi router reach every corner of your house and may you remember all your passwords; may your legs never fall asleep in zazen and may your cellphone never go off in church; may your ski poles never bend and the path from the dinner table to the door at friends’ houses never be straight, let those paths be circuitous rather, good conversations should become tangled like knitting, making extrication difficult, and when in doubt at least half the party should pass through the kitchen again, nibbling at the leftover desserts; may you find frequent occasions to laugh with children; may your work be interesting and may you have as much of it as you want; may you receive as much as you need and may you give so that others have comfort; may your spirit be lifted by words and by music; may you find patience when you need it, and joy at unexpected times; and may your travels be so arranged that on at least a handful of mornings this year you wake to an absolute silence interrupted only by birdsong.
(This little blessing popped into my head this morning. Thought I’d share it.)
We were running errands the other day and listening to NPR, when Garrison Keillor came on for “The Writer’s Almanac” and read this droll description of San Francisco by Kenneth Rexroth:
It is the only city in the United States which was not settled overland by the westward-spreading puritan tradition, or by the Walter Scott, fake-cavalier tradition of the South. It had been settled, mostly, in spite of all the romances of the overland migration, by gamblers, prostitutes, rascals and fortune seekers who came across the Isthmus and around the Horn. They had their faults, but they were not influenced by Cotton Mather.