My New Diary, 11/30 to 12/4/2018

By Alan Carl Nicoll

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

{11/30/18}  Weight 220.2.

Wrote the following in response to a tweet from “Q”:

I met [Pablo] through a book discussion group.  I’ve had the best luck, though, by running the Hemlock Club, a “philosophical and literary salon” that meets weekly.  Meetup dot com provides the publicity.  It was a long shot, but amazingly successful.

Four showed up at the first meeting (6 mo ago), counting me and Pablo, and we have a number of regulars who show about twice a month.  Biggest meeting was six.  So we were able to have some deep & intimate discussions of a kind I’ve always wanted but haven’t had before.

I think it cost $30 to get started, though, and you get many, many joiners but few show at meetings.  At 6 months you are charged $60 for the next 6 months.  So it’s actually kind of expensive for what you get.  I’m in a big city, though, which makes a huge difference.

Joining is free, though, and a lot of groups don’t charge $.  @AmericanMensa is $70/yr and for me has been hugely disappointing, though in L.A. it was fairly good.  Only one group meets in Bakersfield monthly.  Haven’t looked into the online possibilities.

The HC meets at a Starbucks-like “Coffee Company” which is my “clean well-lighted place” where one of the staff, at least, “knows my name.”  The two other Meetups I tried to get going were both spectacular failures–many joiners, zero attendance.

I wanted to make it weekly rather than monthly because I was looking for friends rather than acquaintances.  My other 2 groups had a lot of local competition.  Amazingly, there are groups based on Karl Marx and James Joyce, but they seem to be struggling (I wasn’t interested).

The other group I was in for a year was a “classics” book discussion organized through Cal State Bakersfield.  I also attended 2 other book groups supported by public libraries.  But now I’ve dropped all because I don’t want to read books that I don’t want to read.

My reading these days is very narrowly focused and rather erratic.  I thought briefly about starting a Nietzsche group, finally decided not to.  One good thing about Meetup is that if you pay the $ you can Organize up to 3 groups without additional $.

If I still wanted to write fiction, there are at least 2 groups I could attend in town through @Meetup.  At 26 I decided to be a novelist, but at 71 I’m thinking that I don’t quite “have it.”  Wrote 6 or 7 first drafts, but always ended up short somehow.  Job + writing = tough.

Kick Me (memoir) is nearing completion and will be published, if only epublished.  Even in its present first-draft form it would be no worse than half the books out there.  I’m halfway thru a second draft, slogging.  So many irons, so little fire.

Reading Natalie Goldberg [Long Quiet Road] and having a sudden urge to write fiction again.  So:  Talking Writing is back on the to-do list.  [The two groups I mentioned are not quite suitable:  one charges $8 per meeting, the other is only monthly—but why would that be a problem?  I’ll look again.]

Went to Barnes & Noble after seeing “P”; bought Wittgenstein:  Major Works, which I had mailed to Q.  Looked through all their philosophy section, which actually is a pretty good selection.  I lusted after Charles Taylor:  A Secular Age, which I hadn’t heard of before, but—fortunately!—both copies they had were damaged and there was no price.  New York Times Book Review says, “Taylor’s effort to resurrect intellectual respect for religion is commendable without being credible.”  That’s good enough for me—I don’t have to read that 800+ page tome!

I told Pastafazoule today that I was very happy; last time I saw her, I told her I was anxious and depressed.  The main difference in two weeks?  The bedbug problem is essentially solved.  Or is solved until it isn’t.  Because I think there’s no getting them out of your life, once they’re deeply into it.  Or, anyway, in my life.  I anticipate that if I moved to a new place, a few would be sure to come along.


{12/1/18}  Weight 219.8.

Nearing the end of Goldberg’s book.  It’s very interesting, and I’ve had the thought that “the best books about writing aren’t about writing, but about writing and something.”  What Goldberg offers to the aspiring writer mostly isn’t practical advice about methods or anything, but heart.  And perhaps sincerity and courage.

As a personality or an intellect, she’s not entirely attractive.

What I want to consider is, what has changed about my writing goals.  Last night, while reading Goldberg, I wrote the following:  “‘What is it like to be me?  Here, read my book.  If I have written it well, you will know what it is like to be me, more than if you had lived with me for twenty years.’—That’s the way to write, with that ideal in mind.”

Do I know what it was like to Tolstoy, to be Tolstoy?  I think that I do, somewhat.  What about Thoreau?  Probably somewhat more.  Yet even these great writers are always writing about something other than themselves.  Maybe I feel closer to understanding what it is like to be Anaïs Nin, having read so many of her diaries [six] (which are, in approach, as much fiction as fact, I think; she poses).  Maybe even closer to Cindy Crabb; her Doris work is more honest, naked, and fearless than anything else I can think of.  So, perhaps the heart of Kick Me must be, to make the reader feel what it is like to be me.

Doris Press
From Cindy Crabb’s web site (link above)

No, it won’t do.  I am not only my humiliations and crimes.  I am also my generosity and intelligence and goals and passions.  My idealism.  Some of these are in the book; do I need to throw away the subtitle [“A Lifetime of Humiliations”]?  Perhaps not; it still seems an apt description, overall.  But I will add a chapter (already mostly written), “What is it Like to Be Me?”


{12/4/18}  Weight 219.4.  This trifling weight loss is the result of my “cocoanut créme [sic] pie diet,” in that I bought such a pie yesterday and ate half of it yesterday.  I did, however, have a light dinner of a peanut butter and jam sandwich instead of my usual cheeseburger [at home to control sodium] or Taco Bell.

Sunday evening (it’s now Tuesday morning) I had a phone conversation with Pablo in which he described a Yeats poem as “prophetic.”  I said it amounted to “tea leaf reading.”  He said something to the effect of, “Well, you see, that’s why I don’t listen to you.”  He went on in this vein for a minute or so, at which I hung up on him, in a rage.  I don’t need that kind of disparagement at 10 pm; and when I’m angry I have trouble getting to sleep.  But it was the excessive emotion that made me hang up, and I felt bad about getting so mad over such a stupidity—it’s not like that was the first time he’s said such things, though it does always make me mad, I suppose because I see it as a personal attack over a difference of opinion.  He said something about a “trigger” when it comes to Yeats…I’ll have to ask him about it.

Anyway, the next morning we were again talking on the phone, and he apologized for what he said.  I didn’t apologize for hanging up on him, though I was ready to.

Started another Meetup, this one called “Writers Writing.”  Meeting weekly at Dagny’s, starting at 8:00 am.  Why so early?  Because it is necessary if I actually hope to do writing at the “meetup.”  ( refers to the group meetings they publicize as “meetups.”)  I have to make it before breakfast because after breakfast all I want to do is sleep, usually (actually, I’m writing this after breakfast but before a nap, thus giving the lie to my own conclusion).  Anyway, five people (including Salomé) have signed up for the group, and the first meetup is next Sunday.

I continue running lukewarm and cold on whether to write fiction, notably the Granny Jan & Albert effort, or possibly the Fynn & Death in the Desert novel.  The latter would be easier because I already have the length and all the necessary ideas, so all that’s needed is a major rewrite (the start is very dull, the transition to D in the D is rushed, the rest is mostly polishing and tweaking).  J&A is largely unsatisfactory in the J parts, and the ending is totally flaky.

So what’s the problem?  The problem is that 1) I hate rewriting, and 2) all the new ideas I get are for the J&A junk.  The latest new idea is to have Zeno say to Jan, “Take a couple of hours and tell me what it’s like to be you.”  It would be better from Stratton [my other “philosophical mouthpiece”], possibly.

By getting up early (though really I often get up at 6:00 or even 5:00 and stay up), riding the bus (giving me time to get mentally prepared & brainstorm or reread/edit), entering Dagny’s, and so on, I’ll be away from most distractions (TV & books) but faced with other distractions…it just seems likely that in the long run I’ll get more writing done this way than otherwise.  Especially, it may give me other writers to work alongside, talk to, etc., which will increase my motivation and possibly lead to unanticipated benefits, like a friend.  I wouldn’t go if it were “just to write.”


Diary entries from 6/1 to 9/30 are available in this file:  link.
Diary entries from 10/1 to 10/31 are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All right reserved.

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