Friday, November 21, 2014

Amateur or Artist?

I know of nothing more boring than thinking of writing as a daily profession.  As H. P. Lovecraft has shewn, some amateurs are artists of exceptional excellence.  There are many kinds of writers, and a multitude of reasons for writing.

I write because I must, it is a compulsion beyond my control.  It began when I was a wee gay Mormon kid in love with Broadway musicals.  We had this event called "road shows," ten minute skits that were written by church members.  I was always writing the songs for these shows, even though I couldn't read music.  It was thrilling to watch the finished production and hear my little songs played on a piano in full arrangement.  In junior high and high school I wrote full musical comedies, alone or with a buddy.  I also began, in high school, to do fanzines devoted to horror films.  As a Mormon missionary in Northern Ireland, I began to write weird fiction, influenced by my correspondence with Robert Bloch.  Returning to the states, I became a Lovecraft freak and began to publish my Lovecraftian fanzines.  When I discovered punk rock, it was my natural instinct to celebrate this new lifestyle by publishing Punk Lust.  My punk identity was linked to writing as much as it was to music.

My core identity now is that of being a writer of weird fiction.  I am not a professional and have no interest in being so.  I strive for excellence in my work, and I consider myself an artist.  Some may find it pretentious to link the work "art" to the writing of horror fiction--surely we are entertainers merely, not artists.  Bullshit.  It was, in part, because H. P. Lovecraft cared about the artistic quality of his work that his fiction is still relevant and admirable.  He was every inch an artist, obsessed with language, the poetics of beautiful prose, &c &c.  That is the lesson I have learned from him, from Oscar Wilde and Henry James, from S. T. Joshi

I regret that I lack the discipline that is requir'd of a professional writer.  I've been trying, for weeks, to write a new thing for S. T.'s forthcoming GOTHIC LOVECRAFT.  I love writing Gothic fiction and so you'd think this wou'd be a simple thing for me.  I can't fucking concentrate.  Every thing I begin fails to move past the first page, seems lifeless and uninspired.  I have, at times, come close to giving up; but I know that if I fail to write for this anthology I will become tremendously depressed when it is publish'd.  Forcing the work of writing seldom works for me, but I feel the need to force it nigh.  Perhaps, from forcing it, I can overcome this bogus fail, get past the first page, and find myself inspir'd.  Gawd, I hope so.

Little things encourage me.  I just had an old story selected for a forthcoming Cthulhu Mythos reprint anthology.  That's lovely--you get a cheque and don't have to do any work, & then you're in a way rad book with lots of excellent writers.  Sweet.

But there is nothing sweeter than finishing a new story, printing it out and holding that manuscript in your hand.  That's what I live for.

And so--to work.


  1. How cool that you were writing musicals at such a youthful age! I knew of your love for Barbra Streisand's music, but had no idea of the history. Kudos, Wilum.

  2. There is a purity of purpose that comes with re-creation of the self and a freedom of expression in amateur inspiration that cannot be matched by the editorial demands of the watered-down mainstream publishing world. A caterpillar sleeps coccooned and awakens as a butterfly.... a seed becomes a nut becomes a mighty tree capable of sheltering many more creatures in its boughs. Gothic Lovecraft....sounds great fun! Nyarlathotep in a Castle in Transylvania... best I can come up with... I'll leave the substance to the Masters. My writing is often lacking but it comes from the heart. That's the most important thing. Thank you for your delectable words. G. ;-)=

  3. As Ursula K. Le Guin's acceptance speech as she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the National Book Awards - "Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art." and "realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence" Very well said. I might humbly add - nor the varieties of our existence. G. ;-)=