Monday, March 17, 2008

Clown in the Moon

By Pauly
New York City

The last few weeks rushed by like excerpt from a blurry dream. Like one of those whirlwind scenes from an old movie when they first starting shooting in Technicolor and the exact color matchings weren't exactly right and things were slightly off in a psychedelic glaze, where so much is happening that there's sensory overload and its hard to keep up.

On a flight from LAX to Australia on January 1st, I made a plan for 2008 and that plan was to have a loose plan with lots of unstructured living. That was both a grand blessing and deviant concept. I basically gave myself a pass to fuck off as much as I wanted... in the name of art. I thought that living without boundaries would allow the artist within me to flourish. That didn't happen. I wrote for just a week, although I maximized my writing time. I was more than pleased with my output. Sadly, I never went back to the project. I haven't even read a word that I wrote almost four weeks ago. I thought that I'd get to it when I was sitting in coffeeshops in Amsterdam. That never happened. All those plane trips? Nope. Never cracked it open once.

Experience is understanding your mistakes and doing your best to prevent them in the future. I can write in a structureless environment, I cannot edit and re-write in one. For that, I need discipline and structure. For me, that's my least favorite and most difficult aspect of writing... the re-writing of something. Maybe I'm lazy, or maybe I just write like a jazz musician. I get up on stage and play. Whatever comes out, comes out. The keyboard is my instrument and I'd rather play freely from the heart with lots of mistakes and errors, than sit down and craft something cold and distant and foreign to me since it barely resembled the original thought that festered inside my head and eventually spilled its way onto the empty pages.

I also knew that once I dug into re-writing the script, that I get sucked in deep and focus all my energy into that project. Then I'm a lost cause and nothing else matters and I shut out the world. I did that for the better part of the last three years and I want to explore the world again. The last thing I needed was more work.

Sure, the project needs to get finished, and it will get finished. Instead of fussing over the when, I decided to relax and ease up of the self-applied pressure. Rushing the script will do more harm than good. Sometimes I need to step back and look at things from a jagged angle. And that's when I realize that I've been making bad choices.

Instead of spending my time off worrying about things, I made a concentrated effort to enjoy myself and have fun. The result? I had a blast and now I'm ready to hunker down and write my ass off in April.

I spent the last few weeks living hard. Being. Seizing the moment as it passed each day. The living eventually translates into writing. Someday, I can make sense of all of those boisterous memories of wandering down crooked streets in so many cities that I never thought I'd get to see in this lifetime, let along a thousand lifetimes, and I'm sad to say that there is a Starbucks or a McDonalds on every other street corner on the fuckin' planet. There was a time centuries ago when there was a church or place of worship on every corner. That has been replaced by mindless consumerism.

I didn't want my script to be a fast food version of a meal. I want to take the time and work on every aspect of it. Fine dining. Not a nuked cheeseburger made out of possum and kangaroo parts.

Coffee is such an interesting and integral part of society. New Yorkers buy a disposable cup of java and rush off on the fly. They have too much important things to do than waste the day away. But do they really? Their daily activities are more important than the physical act of drinking said cup of java. Or is it that Americans are simply a nation of junkies and that coffee is just one of a dozen harmful and insanely addictive habits that multinational corporations can profit from?

When Europeans have a cup of coffee, they sit for two hours chain smoking Carolina blended cigarettes, doing God knows what as they take micro sips and read communist newspapers and pontificate about German existentialism and how all Americans are the repugnant offspring of George Bush.

The Brits (and the leftovers of their former glorious Empire) are tea fanatics. Tea time is a sacred moment like praying towards Mecca.

When I think about the cultural differences when it comes to something as simple as a cup of coffee, it really blows my mind. It forces me to re-think how I approach the littlest of things including writing and the future paths that I take as a writer.

Writing is such a blanket statement and I do it so much tat I forget that there's so many different varieties of writing. Over the last few years. I rarely wrote for myself. There's personal writing like journals and there's practice writing where I work on new things or engage in activities that will keep me sharp. I always tried to do that for two hours a day no matter where I was. Monte Carlo. Hollyweird. Las Vegas. New York City. Stockholm.

There's blog writing which is a different beast, especially depending on the subject. Truckin' and my music blog and the poker blog are all different entities, with the only common thread is that I write for all three of them.

There's also freelance writing for clients where I have to adapt to fit whatever their target audience might be. Sometimes I get to be myself, but most of the times, I'm writing like a water-down version or the PepsiLite version of myself.

Web writing is different from magazine writing and vice versa. Sometimes I'm writing in English for people in different countries where English is not their first language. Those are the hardest to write because the result is dry piece because I'm too afraid to include witty remarks that might not translate well.

And poker writing is another beast, let along the subtle differences in tournament reporting.

Then there's email writing, which is broken up into informal and formal. The formal emails are standard bullshit stuff with lots of Dear Sirs and Sincerelys. The informal ones are slang-centric and caters to the lazy. Poor grammar and lack of capitalization are encouraged, especially when forwarding porn to your friends from college.

I finally burnt out on writing and had to break everything down and start for scratch. That's why I decided to take four months off. I spent half of that time getting wasted and thinking about writing.

Holy shit, has it been almost two months since I last worked a real assignment? I'm shocked at the rapid jump in time. I'm angered in the same swoop. Time has been my mortal enemy. The adage is true. Time flies when you have been having fun. Man, there were dreary months and desperate years that crept along at a torturous snail's pace where I wished time would speed up just a bit and I could flash forward to a time where the pains of life didn't sting so much like a sullen scene from a PT Anderson flick.

I went on a couple of benders over the last month. Big ones. One in Amsterdam and the other in Florida. I'd be concerned if I was partying that hard all the time. Alas, I know that my binge was coming to an end and that February and March were the only two months where I could get lit up like a monkey and push the limits. I fried my brain several times over. April shall be a productive month involving writing and re-writing followed by a mellow May which is the quiet before the stormy June and July when I return to Las Vegas for a fourth summer in a row. By the fall, I'll be back to working a lot again (and if I'm not, I'll set aside the time to finish up my project).

Reality set in on Saturday when I sat down to do my taxes. The ominous box with all of my receipts sat in the corner and I slowly calculated the damage. It was the saddest day of my life. I knew that I'd be owing Uncle Sam a lot, but until you see the number yourself, it's hard to believe that I have to write a check that is over six figures. It pains me to think how bad that money will go to waste. And it hurts me even more to know that I can't run or hide. The taxman has me by the balls and I can't do a damn thing about it. Heck, let's be honest. It's payoff money. A bribe. It gets the federalies off my back. I finally got lucky as a writer. Right place. Right time. I had a banner 2007, and the government wants a big cut off of my blood work.

The good news is that I'm paying a few grand less than anticipated. I have no idea what I'm going to do later this year, but I have some extra money set aside for an exotic trip. Or perhaps there will be some good shows (like Radiohead) or festivals to see later this year.

It is a frustrating feeling knowing that the years where I generated my best writing... and the most real writing... was the years that I didn't make one cent. And the year where I spewed forth the most bullshit, was where I was compensated the most. I have no idea what happened, but as soon as I figured out that I could generate more money that I ever imagined spewing out bullshit, then that became my entire focus.

It took me almost two months to rediscover the passion in the written word. I'm finally reminded why I chose this arduous journey where I devoted my entire life to writing. I'm hoping that I can stay on this path for a while before I get sidetracked.

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