Daily Archives: October 18, 2008

Randy-a lesson brought home by William Styron’s son

“I’m easy” was a refrain of mine.   It was something I said, and something I tried to live by.   It was a phrase I first heard from an Australian while traversing Afghanistan in a Land Rover.   Adventurers from other countries easily influence me: I first got the idea of touring Asia by bicycle from a British guy who hiked across Borneo.   I never struggled in school and have chosen the easiest paths throughout my life.   (I’m not sure this last statement is totally true: struggle is certainly ambiguous and means something different to each of us.)   I quit and try something else when the going gets hard; I’ve gotten good at winging it.   Secure in my way of working and my level of skill (where I am), I may be naïve in thinking that I’ve been served well by this attitude of mine.   I use enthusiasm and energy and improvisation to succeed and excel where and when other people fail by trying too hard. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe in sloppy work.   And I’ve been accused of being a workaholic, especially by my wife; it’s what makes me tick, a contradiction, when “I’m easy” doesn’t equate to how hard or long I work.   Instead I like to zip along, as effortless as possible.   My ambition is high, but if I have to struggle for it I don’t seem to want it.   The struggling (another meaning for the word) author never reached his or her potential because he or she “didn’t work hard enough:” to me that represents a false equation.

I was involved one day with William Styron’s son (he may have had more than one son), when he worked for the National Coalition for the Homeless in New York City.   Every little bit of information I got from him about his father I remember.   I’m a fan of William Styron and admire his writing ability. I’ve read several of his novels, in college studied SET THIS HOUSE ON FIRE, and think now that I would enjoy rereading them.   Looking up to someone like Styron, while knowing little else about him other than his work and thinking what I had read was great, I had no idea that writing was such a chore for him; why did he continue then?   It made no sense to me because I had never struggled.   (And perhaps my prose reflects it.   What do I know?)   I couldn’t enter what I imagined to be his slow, meticulous world, not only because I didn’t want to go there but also because I thought if I did I’d get stuck.   I could see myself toiling, searching for the right word and struggling over each sentence.   I didn’t like the sound of that.   It sounded like too much work.   Then I remembered something I learned about acting (and I think it can also apply to writing); often by trying too hard an actor loses spontaneity and he or she is not as good as someone who doesn’t care as much or work as hard.   It was a great lesson for me.

With the encouragement, and possibly the help, of James Joyce, I accept the permission he gave himself after writing to “Dearest Papli” in the second chapter of ULYSSES, which some critics rank as the best novel of the Twentieth Century: “P.S. Excuse bad writing, am in a hurry. Byby. M.”

After all this time I hope I’m not fooling myself.

Good night, Randy Ford

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