Writing revisited

March 8, 2007

At different times I’ve fancied myself as a writer.  Dreaming big and at times going through the motions but always there is an impass reached where something happens and I am put off the course.  Is it within my control to stay on track and continue writing?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  A few years back I applied myself to the regime offered by The Artist’s Way and I actually made it all the way through the twelve-week program.  Yes I was surprised.  I tried it a few years before that and didn’t even get through the first week!  Committment issues on parade! 

So I’m back to the blank page watching the words fill up the screen and wondering from whence they came and where they are leading to.  Can you show me the way?  (If it were that easy I don’t think it would be worth the trip)  As my good friend Henry Miller once wrote–you’ve got to write a million words, perhaps more before you get down your first true word.  By the way, if you ever get a chance to visit his library in Big Sur it is well worth the trip.


Yes, a taste of beauty.  A magical place where mists rise from the ocean and blanket the jagged green mountains of the California coast.  So Henry Miller yes.  The romantic version of his life: moved to Paris at the age of 39 without much money but with a mission to write and be heard.  Taking up residence among the destitute populations of Paris he found his true voice and penned The Tropic of Cancer.  Read it if you get the chance.  It was published in Paris in the early thirties but the “obscenity” kept it from our Protestant American shores until the early sixties.  If you’ve ever read Miller before you know that he uses a fictionalized version of himself as the main character.  Where does the character end and the man begin?  Does it matter?

Miller influenced my life at different times.  The first time I found him (he found me?) was in a small bookstore in Blacksburg during my fifth year in college (extended studies-ha!).  Looking back I think I was looking for a book that would change my life and I was not going to settle for spiritual texts.   Displayed on one of the top shelves at the front of the store a 1960’s copy of Tropic of Capricorn.  I found inflammatory words that caused fits of jovial delirium.  I locked myself away and peeked inside as explosions detonated from the prose.  Wow!  I wanted to be a writer and write with abandon!  What was I doing in school getting so much tripe spoon fed to me only to regurgitate it all by filling in little black ovals with No. 2 pencil?  That is education?  I must travel the world and have great adventures, sup from the nectars of sexual passion–blow my mind away from its conditioned misery and begin to live!  ( I can feel my blood boiling right now!)

A good kick in the ass is what it was.  Life must be lived and I needed to step off of the sidelines and get into the game.  In a way that is what this blog is about.  Reminding myself that I don’t need to always intake other peoples stuff (books,films,art etc.) and can take the steps to explore my own creativity and how it (I) relate to the world.  I must admit that it is about damn time!


5 Responses to “Writing revisited”

  1. Colton Says:

    So, I’ve stumbled across your blog via a Google search on “Big Sur.” Meandering my way through the information highway is nothing uncommon, but the subject of your post, and specifically your relationship with Henry Miller, is somewhat analogous to the whole reason why I found myself here in the first place.

    My inquiry into Big Sur was prompted by the writings of Hunter S. Thompson who, like Miller, lived in Big Sur for a period of time. At best, I would loosely consider myself a writer, and in the same way Miller inspired you to put pen to paper, Thompson does the same for me.

    I forget where I was going with this, but in any case, your blog was a splendid read and made me reflect on myself.

    I must ask though. Have you read any Thompson? (I don’t mean his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.)

    Also, I believe I read on your blog somewhere that Miller often used fictional characters of himself? I wonder if that had any influence on Thompson’s style of fiction that, at times, employed the same technique.

  2. Matthew Says:

    Hi Colton,
    Glad you made your way here. I have read Thompson but only Fear and Loathing. I have been meaning to go back and read some of his other writings, especially his books following the campaign trail. You have perked my interest: I did not know about his time in Big Sur or his connection to Miller.

    Yes Henry Miller wrote about himself but also allowed the writing to go where it would go even if the “truth” became something else entirely. He drew heavily on his own experience and let the rest take its course.

    If you’ve got a blog I’d love to read your thoughts!


  3. […] 2nd, 2007 by Matthew A few weeks back I started noticing that a post I wrote in March was getting a lot of hits from search engine requests.  Sometimes as many as twenty people a day […]

  4. Colton Says:

    To touch back on the Miller–Thompson connection: Thompson was living in Big Sur in 1961 which is around the time Miller privately published his book The World of Sex (1959). I’m not sure where Miller was living at this time and I haven’t read anything about the two ‘hanging out,’ though… In 1956 while in the Air Force Thompson employed the pseudonym Aldous Miller–Mencken (among others) to write for a civilian publication which shows that he was reading his works or at least aware of them. Thompson has been quoted saying, “Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about,” which sounds very Milleresque according to your description of his style of writing…. Anyways, there are a lot of other little tidbits that you could infer would connect the two writers in an ideological sence.

    If you’re interested in checking out more of Thomspon I would recommend The Rum Diary or The Proud Highway. The Proud Highway is a compilation of letters he wrote from 1955–1967. I’ve been perusing it lately and it is proving to be very in depth autobiographically; it really gives you a sense of where he was coming from as a young writer.

    It’s late (or early) and I’ve had too much coffee so I’m sure that I am boring you with the Thompson jargon. Do you have any suggested readings for Miller?

    I do have a blog related to my competitive cycling, Rubber-Side Down but I’m afraid that it’s not much for quality. It hasn’t been up long and was mainly created to continue the ‘blogging’ trend that some of the local riders are taking part in.

    Oh Sleep.

  5. Matthew Says:

    Wow, that is fascinating information about Miller and Thompson. I can picture this scene of them meeting at a party in Big Sur and having a lot to talk over. I wonder if it ever happened…

    I like his pseudonym: why not take writers you admire or read and begin to create your future identity? And the quote you gave does sound a lot like Miller, reading any of his writings you find much of him draped in the words. I’m forever fascinated by the line he always blurred between himself and the worlds he created on the page. Where does one begin and the other end? I believe that Thompson shares a bit of this characteristic.

    The book of Miller’s I would recommend to read first (if only because it was the first I read and loved) is The Tropic of Capricorn. This book gives a great taste of what he does in so many of his books. There is also an essay of his that can be found in the book “On Writing” entitled ‘Reflections on Writing’. I’ve revisited this document on more than one occasion.

    Thank you for the recommendations, I’ve just put The Rum Diary on hold at the library.

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