The Stupid 365 Project, Day 87: Low Res

December 28th, 2010

Every year, around November, I think I’ve learned the lessons the year had to offer.  But then I come face to face with New Year’s resolutions, and apparently I haven’t learned anything.

They’re always the same.  Eat less/exercise more/write daily/be nicer to my wife/meditate once in a while/stop picking at myself (aka, accept my shortcomings, which entails enumerating my shortcomings, which usually leads me to skip that resolution)/write something completely different.

I never keep any of them, but the one I don’t keep most is “write something completely different.”  When I make the resolution, I have some idealized opus in mind: a short, spare, wide-margined novella in which a woman, all alone and communicating exclusively through interior monologue, rises above grief. With no jokes at all.  Something literary, with fog and angst.

This is only half-facetious.  I’d write Beth’s book about a high-school classroom, if I had the experience.  I’d write War and Peace if I had the genius.  I’d write Little Women if I had the estrogen.

Munyin, who is horrified by many of the things that happen in my books, continually urges me to write about dogs or do a book for children.  (The little flare-up about Poke’s books between Poke, Miaow, and Rose in The Fourth Watcher is taken from life.)   I don’t feel, as Poke didn’t, that I should turn my energies to Fluffy Bunnies in Bubble Land.   A novel, over the course of its 100,000 or so words, uses up everything you bring to it.  I don’t feel I would bring enough to a children’s book; I’d be out of material 6,000 words in.

And then I think it might be nice to work on a smaller canvas.  My brother Pat has written and illustrated more than ninety children’s books.  My brother Mike (yes, we’re Irish) has painted I’m-sure-he-has-no-idea-how-many canvases.  I, on the other hand, can count my output on the fingers of three hands, four if you include the botched jobs that never saw the light of day.

It’s hard to hit gold when you only get so many swings of the pick.  Both of my brothers dust themselves off and try something completely new at relatively short intervals.  I decide to write Pulped, and six months to a year later I emerge, look around, and try to figure out what I’ve missed.

Art is long but life is short.

So I’ll make the resolution again, and probably write another thriller.  But it’ll be different.  The Queen of Patpong was about women at its heart; new to me.  Pulped has a second-dimension aspect to it; new to me.  Crashed and Little Elvises are written from a perspective — outside the law — where I had never centered a book before.

And whatever I do, I have to finish Pulped; I have to finish Muther’s Day, the third Junior book; and The Fear Artist, the fifth Poke; and edit the last two Simeon Grist books before I try anything really new.  The Scheherazade idea is tugging on my sleeve.  It would be a whole new direction.  But still a thriller.

And this is years’ worth of work we’re talking about.  But at my back I always hear/time’s winged chariot hurrying near/and yonder all before us lie/deserts of vast eternity as Andrew Marvell put it.

And while I’m carping, how come he got to be called “Andrew Marvell” and I didn’t?

Resolution Number One: Write more.  Sounds familiar.

12 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 87: Low Res”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: Art is long but life is short.

    When I worked at HP a century or two ago, one of the engineers was fond of saying, when someone asked why they didn’t add such-and-so feature to the new calculator, “Life is short, and ROM is full.”

    (‘ROM’ being the Read-Only-Memory in which the calculators operating system program code was stored.)

    Tim said: Write more.

    But don’t destroy the nerves in your wrists. It’s hard to write when your fingers don’t respond. Much slower too. The tongue just isn’t as good at moving a joystick around as fingers are at whacking keys.

    Tim said: And whatever I do, I have to…
    Not to mention the mysterious top-secret project that you mentioned in the blog a week or two ago. My guess is that you’re arranging for an Air Force stealth-fighter to fly over and bomb the server farm where this blog is maintained, thus freeing up enormous amounts of your writing time.

    Am I close?

  2. Beth Says:

    ” I’d write Beth’s book about a high-school classroom, if I had the experience.”

    See Day 86, comment 14.

  3. Robb Royer Says:

    I can’t keep up with this daily change of subject, this comment is about your comment on my comment… where was I… oh yeah The King’s Speech. Speaking as an (ahem) Academy voter, I didn’t think anything could come along that would rival Social Network, but TKS knocked my sox off. Not just Firth and the directing, but that has to be the best ensemble cast since Lawrence of Arabia. Rush, Bonham Carter, and I loved Michael Gambon! Here is poor Bertie, already paranoid enough, and he walks in on dad’s radio address to witness the greatest most mellifluous delivery in human history! Just great.

  4. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    Everett-bite your tongue or fingers or whatever. Tim, I looked up Pat on Amazon, and he doesn’t have ninety books on there. Or were you exaggerating? Ah siblings! The books look really sweet, but I’m not rushing out to buy them. Most little kids’ books are not 100,00 words, so maybe you should count the words-I think I just lost it. Do not go into the New Year thinking like this-just write, and we will follow.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Everett, I think I was self-dramatizing. My brother, Mike (the painter), e-mailed me to say, “Living your life as an artist is enough blessing for anyone. that questioning the direction it has taken is normal but in the long run unproductive. you have become who you have become—-uniquely you.” Now I’m ashamed of myself.

    But I do thank you for all the reassurance and all the cautions, too. The mysterious top-secret project will have to remain that way for the present, until it either takes shape or doesn’t.

    I don’t think so, Beth. It’s been too long since I was around American kids, and I remember when I was young how uniquely awful it was when someone who was older and out of touch tried to write people my age. But it is great material, and it could be inspirational, too.

    Robb, Munyin watched it three times, and I watched it one and a half times. Wonderful movie, beautifully directed, and Munyin just she’d watch it again if we still had it. I also loved Social Network, but The King’s Speech is the movie of the year for me so far. And leave it to you to come up with “Lawrence of Arabia” as a casting standard. It certainly was — I think I’ve got it, and if I do I’ll watch it day after tomorrow — tomorrow is the Joan Rivers documentary.

    Lil, he has written 90 (I think it’s actually more) but many of them aren’t in print. And there’s no point in his reaquiring the rights for e-book use yet because the Kindle can’t handle color and only a lunatic, or someone who is much, much richer than I, would give an iPad to a 5-year-old. And I don’t think I could write a children’s book if someone else outlined it for me. I don’t think I could convince myself it would work, not even at the outset.

  6. Gary Says:

    No point in making New Year resolutions which past experience tells us are unachievable. Far better for the ego to shoot for certain success.

    For example, has anyone noticed how nice Everett and Gary have been to Tim in recent days? This is because we both, separately and independently, resolved to Stop Being Mean to Tim. And we’ve made this resolution a sure fire winner, by having it binding and in force up to 12 midnight, December 31, two thousand and ten!

    As Tim says about not writing children’s books, part of the secret of success is to acknowledge your own limitations.

  7. Rachel Brady Says:

    “Something literary, with fog and angst.”

    Somehow I am completely unsurprised that this is how you describe your elusive opus, Tim. You were born to write this book. I have a feeling it has been cooking in your mind for a long time, even when you’re not watching.

    Also, your brother Mike is smart.

  8. EverettK Says:

    Gary said: For example, has anyone noticed how nice Everett and Gary have been to Tim in recent days? This is because we both, separately and independently, resolved to Stop Being Mean to Tim.

    Damn, Gary! I thought we’d agreed to keep that a secret, to see if Tim noticed. You just had to blow it, didn’t you? Sheesh. Now I have to find a NEW resolution for 2010. And time’s running out! Sigh. Fortunately, I’ll soon have LOTS of time to figure out my resolution for 2011… almost twelve whole MONTHS!

  9. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I will read what you write. I don’t consider the inability to write a children’s book a limitation. Heck, I can’t write ANY book. I was trying to be supportive, so there.

  10. Laren Bright Says:

    The heck with writing kids’ books. Write porn. You have tons of experience with that, right? (I mean, from a purely research point of view. Right?)

  11. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks for tuning in, everybody. I really feel like I’m imposing on you day after day.

    Gary and Everett, I certainly have noticed the new tone from you guys, and I’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop. I kind of miss the old burr under the saddle. You made me want to be a better man. No, wait, that was Jack Nicholson’s line. Okay, you kept me on my toes and now I’m getting fat and sluggish.

    Lil, I would never think you were being unhelpful. But I probably won’t put yor feet to the fire by writing a children’s book.

    Laren, I couldn’t write porn if my life depended on it. I can’t even write “literary” sex scenes. I think there are as many kinds of bad writing as there are good, but no kind of bad writing is worse than bad writing about sex, and I’m not going to risk doing it.

  12. Gary Says:

    Lauren: the sex scene in LITTLE ELVES is in space. In the space between the end of one sentence and the start of the next.

    And that’s it.

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