Thursday, October 08, 2009

470. Roadtrip Nation Briefing with the Barry Spacks Creative Writing / Teaching Interview, Santa Barbara, California

Before all the hubbub of Extras and Central Casting, Shannon and I had a spectacular evening interviewing my poetry professor/writing pal thee-one-and-only Barry Spacks! He's been already embedded in my brain... and my blog... and so I call it, attempting to acquire the "Barry Spacks" consciousness, which includes unboundedness, succinct artfulness, and telling stories for the sake of storytelling without butchering the story (and poem) for the message. Aka preachy used-carsalesmanesqueness for the environment. Thoughts lingered the day after as I unwillingly stormed into Los Angeles to sign up for Central Casting (it's not that I didn't want to do it; I just felt overwhelmed... didn't want to do it that particular time and day...).

Shannon and I ventured into Barry's and Kimberly's cozy little Victorian home off Bath Street in downtown Santa Barbara... and I was finally able to see his office den, which is riddled with very cool art I had NEVER seen before--Barry had not placed on his website (there's one I particularly liked, playing on the notion of an inner universe and an outer universe, boundaries of order and chaos). I remember seeing the livingroom scene. I remember Barry being interviewed about the craft of teaching poetry to the local Cable Channel and I was like--we need a NEW setting. The sun was setting quite fine and there was little light left when Barry and Shannon settled in the kitchen, on a bench, with really cool figurines and cacti and buddha-like wood carvings in the background. Maybe a little cluttery, but interesting all the same. It represents Barry.

I have about 1 hour of interview footage and some B-roll. Perhaps I need to get some footage of the house--external B-roll, perhaps a later time. I remember showing up early, sitting in the car, contentedly delving into "Dead Cities" by Mike Davis, two key chapters on impact tectonics and "a natural history of dead cities." It's fine writing, but I would have to do a lot of "fact checking" in order to verify the validity of the prose.

But anyhow, Shannon was a superb interviewer as usual, and Barry had some very crucial points to make that are guarantees to be included in our Roadtrip Nation film.

(1). Major quote of the day. The most important thing I need, besides breathing, is to have the right to be creative, every single day. And Barry is fortunate he is able to squeeze creativity time, every single day.

(2). Major drivers of storytelling: message driven, or story-telling driven. Learn how to tell stories for the sake of telling stories. Messages can be there, but don't bombard with messages like meteor impacts with a sacrifice of the art! Major issue with environmental-related storytelling. (Need to balance message with storytelling). (Sierra Club storytelling junk mail used car salesman letter I received).

(3). Barry's a skeptic as to whether people can easily be scientists and artists, all in the same head. And, me, I, Victoria, am some form of guinea pig to see if I can get away with BOTH. Barry said that the writing style of science is so strict, so exacting, so precise, so lanuage-tecky, so robotic, that he is not sure that if scientists can easily start learning how to write poems, which require a mentality and looseness about the field. Barry actually recommends scientists to PAINT rather than do CREATIVE WRITING in order to get into an "artistic mode." Though, a scientist going into creative writing does have some BENEFIT. They have a greater repertoire, inventory of metaphors that are not necessarily common or accessible to the public. So, scientists in their tecky, specialized worlds have an opportunity to bring new material to the creative writing process. Most creative writers only tap into "the great history of American/World writing," they don't outsource in terms of their experiences and subject matters.

(4). A beautiful metaphor. Most writers/individuals in America are focusing on ME ME ME. Self growth and self development until the self becomes the center of the universe and there is no other universe out there. But what Barry emphasizes in class and in writing in general is to take this big ball of an "ego" and scrunch it and smoosh it down to a little blue gem, and then smash it with your foot, and watch the dust blow away in the wind. (But why is the gem blue?) If you are a true writer, the sense of self completely vaporizes and you become the system to which you are writing. FORGET THAT THE SELF EXISTS AND YOU BECOME THE SYSTEM AND THE STORY ITSELF. That's a trip. I can do it easily. When I was high school I was practicing this all the time. I had no sense of self. I was everything around me, but not my self. Then because everything around me had pulverized me into an anorexic stick, I had to invent this concept of self at age 17 just to survive and realize that I cannot be at the whims of my surroundings all the time. But then again, my sense of self has developed to be very relativistic, more so what is my place in this universe and society? The relative self in light of the evolution of the universe and life on earth. I feel very small... now by default. No new epiphanies here. But I suppose, intrinsic to my own personalities, and given a non-disturbing background, I can very easily forget that I exist and become the things that I am writing about. As I told many people, when I am writing a story, I am experiencing it. I am seeing it. I'm going through the emotions. I am experiencing it. This philosophy is associated with Buddhism, I think. Barry's affiliated with Tibetan Buddhism? I think, as well as works a little with Zen Buddhism and Koan-stuff.

(5). I learned that potentially a very easy way to get out of service in the military is to state that you wanna be a "poet" when you grow up. It worked for Barry back in the day!

(6). Barry and I are both prolific ramblers, so I guess it's very good that Shannon was there, and she was interviewing, because if it were Barry and me... well, it's dangerous... black hole phenomenon of human conversations.... Black holes are cool though!

(7). Having participated in theater, Barry considers himself a "performer" when he's teaching. People don't even realize that teaching is a performance practice and study.

I lost an orange clamp.

And another final key point that Barry made is that ... he recited a poem to us. It was about a mountain, and how sometimes we are given knowledge--as if we were being spoonfed--and sometimes don't we wish we simply didn't know? The poem reminded me of the brutality of those car GPS units like "Constance" in Mark the photographer's car. That machine made the process of driving and exploring a totally mindless, mechanical experience, and there is no sense of spontaneous adventure otherwise. Sometimes you wish there were no grid there. No grid left. No grid at all! You could re-invent the universe all to your self! Who wants all knowledge at the finger tips? Invent your own worldly map!

After the interview, I talked with Barry one-on-one about our novella-sharing. It was very-much-needed advice! This is potentially our next subject of discussion! And then I went to find Shannon and wished Ben happy birthday at Sharkeys downtown Santa Barbara. The bar was empty for once. And then I had Freebirds and went to bed. Zzzzz....

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