Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ask the Pot Boy, contd.

blog queen said...

Hello Pot Boy,

I am the Blog Queen of the Grove Palace. I met the Queen of the palace at 2:00 am at a workshop. I was one of her lowly students. Wonderful lady she. Which of her estemed offspring are you? The eldest perchance? So Pot Boy, I have three questions for you. How does one manage to quit one’s job and become a full time writer? And, can one make a living writing?

...

So the Blog Queen …wants to ditch it all and do something else. Anything else. Actually if you need a scullery maid, let me know. The last question. What is the hierarchy of your palace?
9:11 AM, March 25, 2006


Dear Blog Queen,

The Pot Boy advises you to tread carefully; many unfortunate souls have lost their positions in the workaday world outside the Palace by indiscrete blogging—luckily you have committed misdirection by not saying that you live in South Dakota or Idaho or wherever it is. Right?

Just now, for example, I am running some small degree of danger. When the Beggar Queen finishes whistling with fury and blowing tax steam out her ears, she may come rampaging back to the palace and take a dislike to my friendly bloggibles. I saw her rush by yesterday, eyes spinning and hair on fire! Wonderful lady she may be, but who can maintain the eternally sweet temper when faced with the Miscellaneous Wildly Numbered Forms of the Federal Government?

I hate to tell you that the three offspring—you honor the Pot Boy!—of the Beggar Queen are profoundly unfamiliar with the sponges, the scrubbing brush, the implements of the Pot Boy trade. You have heard of untouchables? I have tried, but they are the unteachables! They might as well be planting their bottoms on velvet tuffets at Windsor Castle and waiting for someone to bring an egg cream on a silver tray. As for your impertinent but amusing questions about my identity, I am merely one of the Beggar Queen’s myriads—perhaps one of the more notable ones. In the Palace, a good-looking and intelligent (and somewhat vain) Pot Boy may be more powerful than a vizier or a king.

There is a very simple answer to how one quits the job and becomes a full-time writer: marry rich. You say that you like your current husband and are no 'Wife of Bath'? Well, you may console yourself with the sentiment that if you did live off your writing—as do an incredibly tiny number of writers—you would lose your freedom to write exactly what you want to write.

That’s called sour grapes.

But they’re true grapes, all the same. And they are the sort of grapes that are trampled and served up in wine glasses at the Palace at 2:00 a.m. In an effort to be trendy and ‘with’ the political times, some choose to call them “freedom grapes.”

Alas, thank you for your interest, but I’m afraid that all our scullery maid positions are occupied by attractive young women who do not appear at all likely to retire. I am sorry for your disappointment.

Hierarchy.

That’s a tough one. Since one or more palace doors open onto the internet, the place appears to be infinite. I’m always stumbling through an unexpected passageway, or discovering some entirely new person—a cross-eyed scribe, a thief, an Irish opera singer, a governess, a string of little brats pulling another child in a wagon, a chemist or alchemist, an Akhwesasne boy smuggling cigarettes between the billiards room and the third-best parlor, a boy painted with purple stripes, an old speechless man, etc. You’d think that the Beggar Queen had some sort of power over them all, and perhaps she does. But hierarchy? She’ll come down, hoick up her skirts, and warm her feet by the fire—laughing and telling stories to the scullery maids…

In the course of writing you, Blog Queen, I have discovered the wonders of spell check, a thing that I have little use for in the kitchen and environs. It wants, very badly, for me to change the line, “They might as well be planting their bottoms on velvet tuffets at Windsor Castle and waiting for someone to bring an egg cream on a silver tray.” Clearly this computer was not brought up on Little Miss Muffet. It would like the line to read, “They might as well be planting their bottoms on velvet buffets at Windsor Castle and waiting for someone to bring an egg cream on a silver tray.” Alternatively, it desires the royal bottoms to be applied to “velvet toughest” or “velvet taffetas” or “velvet toffees.”

Velvet toffees! What weirdnesses do I miss, lounging in the scullery with the maids?

Sincerely yours,
the Leviathan of Pot Boys



megan said...

Oh, most wise Pot Boy, I have a problem. My mind has gone completely and not even left a forwarding address. I watched part of a Star Wars movie with my brother, and now, think, I can't. I mean I can't think. What can I do to get out of this non-creative state?

Dear Megan,

Answer 1: Find a nice sturdy cloth, and a bit of steel wool, and a scrubbing brush with a long wand of a handle.

Go find some dirty, mucky, nasty pots and pans, some copper and some aluminum and some cast iron. Begin making mystic symbols on the pots with the appropriate instrument.

Let your mind drift on the floating bubbles in the sink.

Soon your parents will be extremely fond of you, if they are not already—no doubt they are, but clean dishes never hurt the maternal and paternal affections—and strange thoughts will come swirling into the empty spaces of your brain.

It works for me. I get very creative in the kitchen. But perhaps it’s the presence of all those quick, lithe scullery maids.

Answer 2: Just don’t get too fussy about being muse-struck. Remember Faulkner’s famous advice, “I write only when I'm inspired. Fortunately I'm inspired at 9 o'clock every morning." This, too, applies to Pot Boys and to the shining of pots.

But Megan, you are a clever girl. I like your deliberate stumble into “now, think, I can’t.” So your assertion of the non-creative is really just a flourish of the creative…

Respectfully yours,
the Pot Boy

Photo credit: royalty free image, "dragon castle" by kizkiz (Kieran Harvey of Australia) from www.sxc.hu/. Taken at Manly Beach. Castle by a sandman from Byron Bay!
***

5 comments:

  1. Many thanks to the sage Pot Boy: your advice has helped dragged me from the depths of senselessness. Since I’m not much of a pot cleaner, I substituted and dried some pans vigorously instead. Now I am partly myself- with a combination of drying dishes, watching rainbows and dreaming of stoplight operas, I am almost myself again.

    Also, I did purposely put in “think, I can’t,” because when I sat down to write, I actually said “typing, I am” when asked what I was doing!

    Thanks for the assistance, Pot Boy. Go attend to your kitchen and muse through a curtain of lemony bubbles, if you wish.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I am lost for inspiration, I always look around me. Not always with describing exercises like a teacher might reccomend, but just letting the mind drift until it catches an entertaining thought. Or I try doing what my younger brother begs me to do every night: I make up a silly story. One could go like this--Once there was a curiously colored fig (it was blue, and blue frogs perched upon it for camouflage), who loved to watch Miyazaki and eat Indian food, who decided to take a trip to a magical Palace where it was always 2:00 in the morning....

    Oh yes! And Pot Boy, perhaps you are relying a little too much on spell check to spot your errors--I believe that in your reply to the Blog Queen, that should be "discreet," not "discrete." Manual editing has always been my preferred option, although spell check can be handy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Megan, clever girl--

    Pot-cleaning will come in time, willy-nilly. If not pot-cleaning, then something like it.

    Trust me,
    the Pot Boy

    foreign fig?

    What sort of name is that? And why on God's green earth of many kitchens and sculleries should a foreign fig reprove my spelling?

    I smell... what? Methinks I smell some deviousness. Blue frogs on a blue fig. That has all the earmarks of--who? Not the Queen, but who? Manet, is that you? The answer is tingling on the tips of my fingers. I must go plunge my hands into hot water and scrub the answer free!

    Highly suspicious of your nom-de-plume but respecting your right to remain incognito,

    I am conditionally yours,
    the Pot Boy

    ReplyDelete
  4. Marly (ene),

    Mr. Context needs a bit of help in deciphering if this thread is rant or rave.

    'Uigi

    p.s. Is Pot Boy a chef or b.s. artiste?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, dear cuz, the Pot Boy is a scullery boy with ambitions to be an Advice Columnist. But he is back scrubbing the pans, piled high and wobbling, wobbling...

    I might let him out to answer another question or two, now and then. If you have a question, you may ask it under the March 25th post.

    "The only ene is a Quene."

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.