Probably the greatest fear that I have these days is what is happening to David Milch. Mark Singer recently did a profile for the New Yorker on the Deadwood creator. It moved me in profound ways. Especially the interview part where you can read the marked difference between Milch as his dementia progresses.
What would it be like to be a writer when your words, your memories, your loves, fade from the view of your existence? I think that’s pretty close to many writers’ fears. To feel your brain failing you daily when you know you used to be better? That, eventually, happens to everyone. Everyone’s body too. I imagine suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia is to the writer what traumatic body damage is to the football player where your mind and your body are failing you and you’re not even forty.
I know what this is like. I’m beginning to understand it and in the coming days I’ll be talking about it more because if there’s one thing that I want this website to be about is an extension of teaching, since I don’t teach anymore. It’s not really about criticism, commentary, or anger—though I’m becoming less afraid of calling a spade a spade. But this will be about education, and that’s why Milch is this summer’s guardian spirit: I want to learn and then teach what I’ve learned and this is where the blog will come in, but only for one week every season—for maximum impact and focus on what matters to me. One thing that I learned this spring is it takes me a while to actually learn things and it keeps building and building and building and I’m still learning.
My dad said something very impactful a long time ago: “The day you stop learning is the day you start dying.” So I’m always trying to learn, and that’s why this Milch profile is important to me for this quote:
He showed up every day. He believed and still believes that any time spent thinking about writing is wasted except when one is in a room writing. He quotes Billy Wilder [The Apartment]: ‘The muse has to know where to find you.’ He also became known for nurturing aspiring writers. Writing and teaching, Milch thought, should be a ‘a going out in spirit.’
So I’m going out in spirit with this blog for the opening of this season.