Not Fiction

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing another novel — poking at a few plot outlines, drafting a few scenes. Today I’m coming, reluctantly, to the conclusion that I’m not likely to be able to pull it off.

Technically, I could do it. I know how to sit down and write 500 pages of characters, action, and dialog, and because I’m a professional, they would be of publishable quality. The lurking problem is that I just don’t like people enough. Novels are about people, and I no longer care about people — neither my characters nor my (possible) readers.

The Rush Limbaugh/Sarah Palin Republicans have soured me pretty decisively, that’s part of it. I’ve also been musing lately about a few failed romantic relationships. (The failed ones would amount to precisely 100% of the ones I attempted.)

And then there’s the amateur music on Broadjam. I got a free membership to Broadjam laid on me (I may be doing some writing for the site), so I’ve been listening to tracks uploaded by other musicians. Now, these are the people who care enough about their music to record it, to finish recording it, to join an online site that provides networking with other musicians, and to upload their recorded tracks to the site — presumably with the idea that someone may want to listen. So basically, they’ve self-selected as the upper 50% of aspiring musicians.

Unfortunately, the distribution of clues among the participants is haphazard. Very few of them are entirely clueless: To paraphrase Lincoln, many of them are clueless some of the time, and a few of them are clueless all of the time, but not all of them are clueless all of the time. Definitely not. So if you’re on Broadjam and you’re reading this, please don’t take it as a condemnation of your music. (But do check your clue cabinet to make sure it’s well stocked.)

The biggest problem I’m hearing is that people either don’t have a musically interesting idea in the first place, or they have an idea that’s potentially interesting but they have no tools with which to develop the idea into a finished piece. It just sits there, repeated over and over but going nowhere.

This lack of mental acuity is dispiriting — but wait, it gets worse. Right now I’m working up plans to teach not one but two beginner-oriented classes in how to create your own electronic music tracks in your computer. (One class will be on GarageBand, the other on Reason.) So I’m planning, in effect, to unleash even more clue-impaired amateur musicians on the unsuspecting world.

I’m thinking part of each class will have to be what we used to call “drop the needle,” back in the days when turntables were still being used for functional and appropriate purposes by non-morons. I’ll play a few tracks for the students and ask them to focus on things like song structure, thematic development, rhythm, and the mix. That will do them more good than if I just hold their little hands and guide them through the features of the UI. Hell, you can learn about the features by reading the manual.

Do I expect that such an activity will be of any real benefit to my students? No, I do not. But today I don’t feel much like being nice. I feel like standing up at the front of the room and saying, “Most of you will never produce anything but utter crap.” Hey, once they’ve paid their fee, what do I care?

This entry was posted in fiction, music, society & culture, technology, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Not Fiction

  1. Conrad says:

    The lurking problem is that I just don’t like people enough. Novels are about people, and I no longer care about people — neither my characters nor my (possible) readers.

    Jim, you’re such a jerk I sometimes wonder why I think of you as a friend.

    But fortunately (or unfortunately), not liking people is no excuse not to write a novel. Many of our best items of literature have been written by misanthropes, and portray humanity in its darker light.

    So, get crackin’ — on coming up with a better excuse not to write, I mean.



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