Daily Archives: September 1, 2008

Randy – Finding Your Subject

But what was I going to write about tonight? My feelings have been appropriated by a hurricane named Gustov. “Tragedy” most certainly is an apt description, or is it an inapt one because it doesn’t describe anything? (Again I’m telling, while avoiding the action, still my greatest writing bugaboo.) Faced with a hurricane the magnitude of Gustov and surviving it, anything I could write tonight seems so insignificant. Thinking this I could totally resist writing and stay in bed and fret about not being able to write. Then I forced myself out of bed. There was a slight urge to put words down on paper, and I had to overcome doubts I had about whether I could be relevant or not. But when faced with a hurricane as huge as Gustov, who really gives a shit?
 
      This doesn’t suit me. I’ve always cared, cared too much, and worked, worked too hard. My wife Peggy never minces her words, spares a barb, and always calls a spade a spade: she calls me a workaholic. (Ok, I used a cliché. Now you know that sometimes I feel it’s okay for a writer to use cliches. In fact, I think life would be pretty harsh without them. Cliches are often comforting.) In the scale of things being forced out of your home should rank damn high on anybody’s list. (I curse to add emphasis. In my search for words is emphasis the right one. I chose the first one that came, which I think is always the surest bet.) So writing about anything else besides Gustov tonight seemed insensitive. (Man how I wish that the ocean waters of the Gulf were colder, which brings up for me global warming, an equally catastrophic topic.) Topical can be good. Then, with how quickly change comes about, it can be risky, unless you’re a journalist. I compromised tonight by sticking in tips about writing.
 
      Writing, writing, writing. But won’t I at some point run out of something to say about writing. This fear exists and seems genuine. But I have to trust I can always write about something. Whenever faced with a blank piece of paper that’s the faith that I have to have. Since all I have is myself and I can’t much improve overnight on what I have, I have to go pretty much with what I am and trust that that is enough, or else I’m stuck. Feeling stuck is a horrible feeling, and I avoid it, if I can, by avoiding blank pages. In that regard, a long time ago I learned not to start where I last left off. The holy shrine of the muse can seem far away, but a writer, if he or she is smart, will become an unabashed trickster, and say loudly and clearly to hell with what other people think. Reason will try to stifle him or her, and in the end, he or she will have to overcome that or else not a word will come. (Awkward, should be rewritten. Plays are not written, but rewritten, and that goes for anything else that’s any good.)
      I can only imagine how scary Gustov is. Topical, amen!
Good night,
Randy Ford

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Randy – What Goes Around…

As long as I overlooked where I came from, I could hide my bigoted past. But whenever I wrote something and especially dialogue, those things often slipped out. “Zulu kisser” appeared in one of my first plays; “bad words” came out, words that otherwise wouldn’t have been in my vocabulary except in the privacy of my own mind. I used the words “fuck” and “shit” up there quite a bit. Normally they didn’t (I just put this in the past tense) come out in public. That’s less so today than yesterday. More and more comes out now. “The Good O’ Boys” is an example of my coming out. I say to myself I’m not like that today. Never really was. Oh, boy.! The place where I grew up, with of course exceptions, from 1946 until I left for college, was segregated.

       But what was I to do about it? “Colors” (as a boy, I had sang “catch a nigger by his toe) had been used in my home. We didn’t consider ourselves prejudice, but the names were still part of our vocabulary, and we weren’t confronted because of our use of them. In our circle instead of Negroes (even “blacks” wasn’t yet an acceptable term), we used “colored people” and didn’t seem to offend anyone. (When you went to church, you used the same terms; you didn’t have to worry about it.)
 
      In that area, African Americans lived some place else (literally across the river), and people openly worried about their property values going down when “coloreds” finally started to move into “our” neighborhood. Now thank God we have the choice of an African American for a president; and a woman for a vice president. Then, with these changes, my son and his family are not so uncomfortable about where they came from.
 
       Irvin’ Texas. Irvin’ Texas was not a bad place. Irving Texas isn’t either. No doubt prejudice unfortunately still exits there, but thank God times have change and I feel confident enough in myself to write about it. Yes, writing can be liberating. Since I always felt freer when I wrote, I say write and don’t hide what comes out except… Oops, censorship is still lurking around. Ashes remain for lifetimes, just as footsteps across a fragile terrain do.
      There is no getting around the fact that some things stick; luckily people can change. But there is not an easy course, only liberating actions such as dialogue, and, in my case, through my writing.
 
      And while recently sitting waiting for a bus, I experienced reverse bigotry (I don’t remember the racial slur that was directed at me.) All I know is that the barb tore into me and hurt all the way home. Those were fighting words, like a slap in the face and a challenge to a duel, at least my African American assailant seemed to think that, and he scared me, and scared me more when he got off the bus with me at my bus stop. I won’t forget this experience, and now I’ve written about it (except I’m telling it again, a big no no for a writer.)
Good night,
Randy Ford

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