Getting Back

So what about that new project I hinted at way back on December 9? I can tell you a few things about it in the hopes of piquing your interest. It’s called Getting Back and it’s a memoir of my life as a Beatles fan. I realize that sounds nebulous but I can’t say anything more specific about it at this time, even though more specifics are available. This post is a bit of a teaser as to what kind of a book will be produced.

The project has been in gestation since Thanksgiving, a little over a month ago. During the recent weeks I wrote a 10000 word draft and realized that I was writing the way I had composed Winterland Nights, and it wasn’t working for my new subject. I didn’t want to write in the manner I had used before. I took some time to think about it, and gave myself permission to do something radical, which I also can’t be specific about because I don’t want to create expectations or spoil the surprises. All I will say is that it is a memoir and it is anything but a traditional narrative, yet it’s not quite metafiction. It’s a hybrid of some kind. (A meta-memoir?) It’s also hilarious (at least it makes me laugh), light-hearted, and bright, but is not mesmerized by its own cleverness (something that I hate and try to avoid at all costs). I hope it will be an atypically refreshing tale, unlike any other book that has been written in which the Beatles are a major topic. Certainly it’s not like anything I’ve ever attempted before.

As I have worked on it these last few weeks I’ve realized it will be more complex than I originally considered when I said to myself that I wanted to “write about” the Beatles while watching Get Back. That’s a daunting idea—there have been hundreds, maybe thousands, of books written about the Fab Four over the last fifty years, but I’m perfectly sure that there’s nothing out there like this project. I’m not trying to hype it here. I have read many Beatle-related books over the years and I am catching up with many more as I research this project. Many of them go over the same old stuff, sometimes from different angles, or explore minutiae, or express critical opinions (yes I said opinions) most of which are uninteresting, to me at least. I just finished reading two books, one which said that “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” was one of the most creative tunes the Beatles ever produced (which it is), and another which called it a hackneyed waste of time (which it is not). I can assure you that Getting Back will have no such nonsense in it. 

Without giving the whole store away I can say this: one of the themes of the project is creatives working together as a group. The Beatles were a pop group that became a rock group, perhaps the most archetypal pop/rock group of all, not only because of their success, but because of the way they worked together. The Get Back film makes this clear. I would go so far as to say that Peter Jackson’s film requires a complete reassessment of not only the sessions that led to Let It Be but the incidents that led to the group’s dissolution, and everything that happened afterwards. Getting Back is my version of that much needed historical revision, from the perspective of an elder looking wistfully and imaginatively at how his life was changed the moment he heard “She Loves You” as a ten year old boy in 1963.

The Beatles set the basic pattern. Most popular music groups form this way: several friends form a band and make some songs, they rehearse, and then they play them for people. They get popular locally and work their asses off, then they get picked up by a manager, a producer, a record contract. Then, if luck is there and there is a resonance with the social culture, they sell tons of records. If not they find other jobs. If successful they make more records and tour. Along the way they get ripped off which, if they become monstrously popular, they are not aware of, not right away anyway, and legal follies begin. Then they break up because of stress, drugs, disinterest, or death and reform with other musicians perhaps with similar success—or they lose their musical chops, fade to irrelevancy, or spend their time doing reunion tours. That’s it roughly. The whole process is based on people working together. That’s why they call it a band or a group.

However, creatives like myself who write words are loners. Writers never write as a group. In rare cases there may be a collaboration of some kind (or an editor) but 99.9999% of the time we write alone in our offices or studios. We might participate in ad hoc creative writing groups with other writers, or attend graduate school and labor on an MFA (in which case they are in groups/classes with other writers). Even then the actual writing of the words is a solo task. Alone, with pen and paper, or a computer, or whatever, wherever.

The writer’s audience, for the most part, doesn’t experience the writer’s creation until after it’s complete. There’s a big difference between “I wrote a song last night—would you like to hear me play it for you?” and “I wrote a 150,000 word novel over the last year—would you like to read my semi-edited draft?”

Speaking only for myself as a writer, I start with an idea. Who knows where the idea comes from? In the current case it was because I watched the Get Back film and realized that it had been decades since I had thought about the Beatles and how they affected me when I was a young man. Jumping from “hey, that’s what I want to write about” to how do I do it? is a whole phase of the process, the first stage, which I call Rehearsal.

That label is not mine, by the way. It comes from Roy Peter Clark in his book Writing Tools, specifically Tool #41: Turn procrastination into rehearsal. Simply put, in a large writing project (maybe any writing project) you have to have some kind of plan. How that’s done is up to the writer, maybe an outline or a mission statement of some kind. For me it’s useful to not start the daily grind of writing until I have a surfeit of information roiling around in my imagination, and after I’ve organized all that stuff so that I know where I’m going, like following a map. The writing can change the map, often for the better, so I also throw a lot of words away during the second phase, which I call Creation. (The last phase is Consideration, but I’ll describe that in a later post.)

So to answer my own question (what about that new project?) I’m getting close to the end of the Rehearsal Phase, and thus my outline/map/plan is almost complete. Eventually I’ll have more information (or hype) for you.

All that being said I also want to mention that from here out the blog content will broaden into other areas. I certainly can’t post here regularly about a book that doesn’t exist yet (or post from the draft) but I will be writing short pieces about what I am discovering in the Rehearsal phase, and some photographic related things as well.

Happy New Year to all. Sign up below to get notifications in your email when I post and email me if you have any thoughts on this new project (or anything else). 

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