Read Part One FirstThis is part two of a multi-part post. Check out Part one here.
I think the thing I was attracted to in music — that shout-at-the-top-of-your-lungs music where you lose consciousness and become pure energy — the thing that attracted me was telling a story, manipulating emotion, lifting people in a way that perhaps only art can. Terence McKenna said, “Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with. This is why it is given a bad name. It is feared by the dominant archetype of our world, which is Ego, which clenches because its existence is defined in terms of control.” I think maybe that’s what we reach with some art, especially music, a level of chaos that is overwhelming in the best way.
Chaos is what we’ve lost touch with.Terence McKennaAt the best moments a DJ or musician is connecting directly with the emotional core of the listener. Perhaps that’s what the best art does, but just does it in different ways. So fiction was the sensible next step. It was the other thing that I grew up with aside from music. It is possibly the one kind of art that I can be better at than music. It is the creation of something out of nothing. Absolutely nothing but letters. And it creates worlds.
I went back to school. I was always okay in school. When I left school, grades were not a problem — it was time and money. A finite amount of time exists in the day and priorities had veered away from school.
So I got my ass into a literary program even though I’m a former electronic music musician (slash) book store clerk (slash) web designer. Obviously. If there’s a knowledge base that can launch technical job prospects into the stratosphere, it certainly centers around Nabokov, Icelandic Sagas, or Charles Brockden Brown.
A few years later I sat in the first session of my last class, a class I probably didn’t deserve to be in, waiting for our esteemed visiting professor, who just happened to be Roxane Gay. (Who is more awesome than you probably imagine sitting there shaking your fist in quickly escalating jealousy.) I was waiting there thinking, “I got this. I got 3 years worth of wicked short story ideas. I’m going to rock a couple short stories in this class.”
And then Dr. Gay walked in and said we’re going to write a novel for the class. I scan my memory real quickly for any short story ideas that might be expandable to novel length. Nothing. Unless I get really creative with the mash-ups. We needed to have a pretty good idea of what we were going to write by the following week. That big announcement was appropriately made the first class to give people the opportunity to drop. Plenty of other classes were open. Should I do that? Do the safe thing? Hell no. The cliche goes: if you want to learn to write, write.
I think part of that was the whole point to Dr. Gay’s assignment, and maybe the greatest gift she could have given to us, to force us to sink or swim, to force us to write, and in the process find out whether we were writers. Granted, it was only 40,000 words, and it was a three-month time span rather than 50,000 words in one month like NaNoWriMo.
So I stayed in the class, to prove it to myself as much as to Dr. Gay. And I was writing a hell of a lot better at word 40,000 than I was at word one. I think what I’ve written is pretty good, and I will probably release it someday once I’ve written around 20,000 more and revised a fuck-ton. (Side question: is fuck-ton hyphenated or should it be a compound word?)
- My name is dead boring and I can’t see using it on the cover of a book. And adding my middle name sounds like I’m either trying to sound like David Foster Wallace or a three-named serial killer.
- When I was in a nihilistic industrial dance aggro-pop band I was called Kelly D. And when I produced music and DJ’d later on I often used Kelly Dallen (which is a clever mash-up of my real names).
- I have/own kellyd.com, kellydallen.com, and @kellydallen on Twitter.
- So probably by default anything I release may well be under the name Kelly Dallen. It’s not necessarily what I would choose if I were just making something up out of nowhere (in that case, I would clearly use Mr. Pablo Bottlethwait Smoot), but it just seems to make a certain amount of lazy sense.
NEXT TIME BUT NOT ON KELLY D'S FLIP PHONEMAKING FAUX PAS AT A WRITER CONFERENCE (but i’m probably so insignificant they weren’t really faux pas) (p.s. yes roxane gay really is that awesome.)
Here’s a rando song I stumbled on while doing what passes for writing above.