Monday, December 25, 2006

It's 8:15 on Christmas evening, and it feels like it's very late, mostly because we had dinner at 4:00 (see pic). After delicious chicken with pomegranate seeds (an Iranian dish in honor of one of the colonists) and the world's longest yule log, one of the filmmakers here presented a few selections from the vast MacDowell library of avant-garde films, some more accessible than others. (One started, and after a few minutes, one confused colonist asked "Is this the film?" He had a point.)

The past few days have been somewhat peaceful, as about a third of the colonists either left for good or went home for the holidays. I've started writing the first music of my time here, and it's a great relief to be using that part of my brain. One song I actually wrote most of on the guitar, which ended up great, very different from anything I would've written on the piano.

Christmas Eve, I decided to join the 21st Century by creating a MySpace page for myself (and one where I can upload music). Several colonists suggested other equally pathetic Christmas Eve activities, like calling exes and "seeing if they're doing anything" or hanging out on I ignored them, and I already have 10, count them 10 friends. If you want to be my friend (and are on MySpace), please click here immediately. You will be treated to an embarrassingly out-of-date headshot, among other things.

I've also been reading a collection of the writings of Lorraine Hansberry, author of "A Raisin in the Sun", all written before she was 34 (my age), when she died of cancer. (The title of the collection is "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", which inspired the iconic song by Nina Simone.) The fragments of essays and personal correspondence are so dazzling, so assured about the responsibility of art in the world, and specifically her place in the art and voice of her time, it makes me sit in awe and wonder if I have any idea what I'm doing. And if I do know what I'm doing, could I sit and articulate it, and if I could articulate it, I'm pretty certain I would never have the self-confidence to set it down on paper and show it to anyone. When writing for characters who are very different than oneself, from backgrounds worlds apart, I guess it's only natural to think "What business have I putting words in their mouths, or even inviting them to walk out on stage?" But then I don't know anyone else writing about the subjects in Gloryana, certainly not in musical theater, so I guess I'll keep on trying to "say what I can say", as fellow Colonist and poet/librettist Beatrix Gates said on my first night here.

At some point, I guess one has to realize that no one will give you that kind of license if you don't have it yourself. I can't decide if it's more important to cultivate that assurance and risk seeming like an egomaniac (what if what I write doesn't measure up?), or if a sense of humility and reverence for everyone I respect keeps me open to growth (or will that self-effacement hold me back from "breaking open the form" and other pretentious obsessions that keep me up at night? Actually, they don't, I sleep very well. Do I sleep too well to be great?)

The echoes of these piteous thoughts reverberate off every other young writer of the past 1000 years and make an insipid and un-festive noise this Christmas night. I'll return to the couch area and listen to the writers argue about the fantastic young novelists I've never heard of and most likely won't have time to read.


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