Brown Study

the altarTo achieve the state of deep focus in which I do the writing that means the most to me, I have found I need a physical space separate from that space in which I "live" or anyway sleep-- a space, no matter how modest, dank or sweltering, that's dedicated only to my writing. Callooh, callay: I have one again. It's a little room I call The Brown Study, in a friend's basement the merest mile-and-a-half from my house. It underwent renovations the last several months, temporarily evicting me, but now it's back and I'm back in it.

I'm a princess, but not a prima donna; most things I can write as necessary under almost any circumstances. The exception is fiction. When it comes to my novels, I only seem able to get where I want to go via long sojourns in deep focus. Quidditatively, deep focus is very similar to the depths of depression, with the important difference that in one state I do the only thing I ever do of any positive value, and in the other I pray to die. In both, I "feel" myself emptied of nearly all consciousness; I visit interior abysses unfamiliar enough to seem ontologically external, and as with a napkin touching water, what those deep wells contain absorbs up into me and saturates me. The hollowness where self might more healthily reside becomes a vessel or conduit for this other, be it a story about people doing things or the roaring void of unlife. It is exhaustingly intense.

Laying this out, the mode I describe strikes me as hokey-- the "muse moves me" school of creative process-- but it really is how my best writing emerges. When I'm out of practice with serious writing, I use various combinations of drugs to pry open the trapdoors and silence the interior peanut gallery, but when I'm in a good creative run, the process of descent to deep focus becomes more routine; rather than taking pills to dull the distracting parts of my consciousness, I just play loud music on my headphones.

erin-wilson_mutton-bustingThe output from these sustained spells of deep focus is so important to me that I ascribe supernatural significance to the production. Ritual brings into existence something I uncomprehendingly revere: it's sorcery. I burn incense, I light a special candle, I pull the curtains against the cheerful sun. There are parts of me that laugh at this, but if taking my writing seriously is what doing the writing I care most about requires, then it's a price I will pay without complaint.

I visited the childhood pain trough to bring back a brimming bucket of encomium for Macho Man Randy Savage, which appeared in Vice's online iteration, as did my more recent reportback on the Houston Rodeo. The former piece was illustrated by my longtime visual collaborator Ben Passmore, the latter by my marvelous comrade Erin Katherine Wilson.

The Gambit's blog ran a few of my interviews: with a zinester who wrote about Palestine, a filmmaker who documented the daily lives of North Louisiana born-agains, a tree-sit protestor trying to save New Orleans parkland from becoming golf course, and a pair of dudes who opened an undaground record store Uptown. A look at the pieces' respective Facebook "shares" -- 55 : 88 : 730 : 1877 -- makes clear which of these subjects the readership find more compelling, but I urge you to reach your own conclusions.

otto-splotch-carnivalI also did some writing for Antigravity I'm quite proud of. First, my off-kilter attempt at food writing, a roundup of lesser-known suburban eateries for which I let my prose run even more playfully purple than usual. Secondly, a piece on the emerging cybernetic era of New Orleans Carnival, which draws on a lot of sources to make a historical and philosophical argument about how evolving Mardi Gras ritual expresses different constitutions of power. Thirdly, I spoke with three dynamic young women involved in local protests against police murdering people of color. There are a bunch of what I consider provocative ideas in those last two pieces; the first seeks mostly to entertain.

In service to my undimmed fanaticism for professional wrestling, I wrote an in-depth essay on the phenomenon of "heel heat" in rasslin's big league & indies for the twelfth issue of Classical Magazine, bolstered by lots of anecdote, including the time I got kicked out of the New Orleans Arena. My fave tag-team partner "Big" Benny Passmore drew a bunch of jerkface bad-guy wrestlers to go with this passionate polemic.


Now that I have a space in which to tackle a novel, I may excrete less of the shorter sort of writing, although one does need money, and this non-fiction shit does pay...

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