Ben Sen's Blog

Politics, Culture and Religion Without Projections

Ben Sen

Ben Sen
New York, N.Y.,
December 31
I'd rather be judged on the basis of my posts than anything written in my bio. It's put down and gathered as a record of my experience and a response to what I see as the important issues in the world today. I don't pretend it's anything other than subjective. The purpose is to analyze, interpret, express opinions, challenge the status quo, open a few doors, and entertain. I heartily welcome ratings, comments and dialogue. That's what makes this media unique and valuable. It also keeps me honest and encouraged since I'm not getting paid. Take a risk and say something; it feels better. A "conversation" is essential for the growth of the individual and the collective. I have faith it extends beyond the confines of what is said here. "For it is necessary for awake people to be awake, or a breaking line may discourge us back to sleep, the signals we give--yes, no or maybe--should be clear: the darkness around us is deep." From A RITUAL TO READ TO EACH OTHER by William Stafford


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APRIL 4, 2012 2:09PM

I Am A Writer

Rate: 19 Flag

 Rilke: If you are capable of living without writing, don't be a writer.   

    On trips hitchhiking through Europe in college, whenever they picked me up in France and asked what I did, my answer was "Je suis un ecrivain." (I am a writer.)  It was the first thing I learned to say in the language.

     It was a lifetime ago for most intents and purposes.  My "brilliant career," as somebody once said, didn't happen--though the intention has never left me, nor have I stopped writing manuscripts of one sort or other.

     In conscious memory, it began when I was perhaps twelve and a branch scraped my aunt's window on a sleep over.  It could have been a form of madness--but it sounded like words, so I wrote them down.  There were other signs.  In the third grade the nun told my mother I read with "great feeling" and in the tenth I was picked to read the section in religion class about masturbation; dear Sister Renella knew I was the most likely to get through it.

     When I escaped Catholic school in the 12th grade I ran with a pack in public school who read each other their poems.  Today they'd call us nerds.  We called ourselves the kooks.  Ow, ah, the wind, wrote Frank.  Rather evident, like a nail driven through the head, or a ton of garbage on the bed, wrote Douglas.  It was run by a teacher who seduced us, but it was a small price to pay.  At least, I learned I wasn't entirely a misfit and it was okay to read books and keep them nearby.

    About that time, I recall reading an article in Time Magazine, drapped over a footstool, about how the best artists were the masters of all the "styles" in their art, and originality meant doing what hadn't been done before.  It meant I had to learn 99 per cent of "art" is imitation, conscious or unconscious, the rest the product of hard work, and luck.  Originality is a double edged sword. 

     In college, I met teachers who encouraged me, people I will never forget, of course, which is true of all artists regardless of the medium.  I took the bait hard, way too hard for anyone's well being and had nobody to consult.  Plan "B" was a difficult birth.  I never really wanted to do anything else, and still don't, even after 30ty years in another profession.

     I am a writer.

     Whenever I got a few bucks ahead, or even if I didn't and the idea was too good, it would overpower me and I became a slave until writing "the end" so I could begin living again.   Writing provided stability in times of chaos, hope in times of despair, and the occasional exposure often at the exact moment when I might have beaten the curse if my byline hadn't appeared.   

     There have been times when I've hated myself for it, and still occasionally do, but my record away from the typewriter, or processor as the case may be has only been three years, and it took a breakdown to cause it.  I've prayed for something to take its place, but nothing has. 

     Writing is my "discipline."  It's how I clean house, sweep away the terror, provide a purpose, a center, a raison d'etat.  It makes me unable to care about what anybody thinks, relieving me momentarily from the need to please,  putting me both on a pillar with a limitless view and beneath the sea where I find squirming creatures to lift from the muck at the bottom. 

     It also protects me from the vicissitudes of sloth and aimlessness: A writer is someone who always has something to do--a dream that will not die--and filing cabinets full of rotting corpses.  I've written hundreds of poems, a half dozen novels, plays, screenplays, short stories, memoirs, reports, reviews, travel articles, processes, and keep a journal compulsively as if my life depends on it, which I believe it does, and am particularly addicted to the feeling of my pen floating across a pristine piece of paper.  Ow, ah, the wind indeed Frank. 

    What I am NOT and what I think writers are NOT is a polemicist.  I don't write a word for the purpose of arguing a particular, preordained or ideological point of view.  "Formulas for success" give me gas.  The "genres" are a necessary evil, and most writers will tell you that.  That is the writer in the service of the collective, the conventional, and the dull.  Literature is a gift from God like children and orgasm.  

     I think a "writer" takes their stories and  issues as they come with the purpose of providing a perspective that is not necessarily intellectual. The heart is more important.  If controversy can't be avoided we let folks know not everyone is easily bullied by what has gone before, or is accepted.  I believe the history of those who are considered and admired universally as writers proves the point.   "Isms" are  b o r i n g. 

     I am a writer. 

     When I complete a project I'm filled with satisfaction and excitement though I know the battle has only begun.  When young, I'd organize my marketing plan, keep track of who I sent what, full of great expectations, but no more.  I can barely deal with my own madness and the madness of the world is beyond me.  I'm looking for somebody who knows the business, and believes in me. 

     I am a writer. 

     My task is finding the exact spot where every word in the dictionary belongs.  I've "unlearned" the lessons the non-writer "experts" teach.  There's plenty of them.  I arrange the words in the required order and spell the best I can, but know that is not writing.  That is the death of writing.  That is the bearer of the fear that kills the impulse, the need, the passion, the fucking joy.

     I am a writer. 

     I do this because I must.  It's a matter of identity and self-respect.  I do this so those who know me know who and what I am.  A work is only ever brought to a conclusion due to the writer's fate, and then it is disseminated or will burn with their body or get thrown out with the trash.  

    I am a poet.  I am a novelist.  I am a playwright.  I am a screenwriter.  I am an essayist.  I am a cultural arbiter.  I am an insufferable romantic at an age when I should know better.  I know who my heroes are and I know why.  I know a good book or script when I see one, even if it's written by me.  I'm willing to send out the challenge: maybe you don't believe in me yet, but you will if you read me. 

    It's all neatly and precisely contained in the words: I am a writer.  This is who will know me who does not know me.  Je suis un ecrivain, mon ami, je suis un ecrivain.

     I am a writer. 

     You cannot take this away from me.




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I would have to agree. You are. . .
I am a writer. You cannot take this away from me. Brilliant!
Je suis un ecrivain, aussi. I know just what you mean.

I do believe you've just written the perfect credo for all who are writers! I could now consider myself a "bobble-head" after having read your post as I so very much related to it. I will not persist in my own folly here but rather indulge in the wise (and wise-ass), worldly spirit you've laid so brilliantly and believably bare.

~R~ Thanks!!
I have always been a writer.
I can say it now. After all these years. People ask...what do you do?
I answer: " I am a writer."
"Do you get paid," they ask?
I answer: "Sometimes, how do you mean, paid?"
They say: " You know, by the piece, by the word?"
I answer: " Both...and also by comments, rates, messages, it's complicated."
They ask: " Have you been published?"
I answer: Depends on what your mean....
They say: "Books."
I answer: " Working on a best seller" :)
Such an inspiring post, Ben. Thank you for verbalizing who you are. Rated highly.
You're correct, you are a writer. I am also, but not as eloquent as you. I'm also a photographer. How do I know that I am both even though I'm not a professional in either field? Simply because I can not NOT write or photograph. It just happens because there is the need and desire to do both of them. I couldn't stop myself even if I wanted to. I understand. It's part of who we are. Some day, I hope I can write like you.....but until I do, I will keep writing and photographing.
Perfect just perfect ben sen. R
Well said, Ben. Although I'm describing myself these days as a "recreational writer," you sound like the real deal.
Thank you reminding me. Today I don't feel like a writer. Today--this week--I have a long list of things keeping me from being a writer. I get frustrated when I am away from writing too long. I do it to myself. I feel I am on the down side of life and haven't accomplished enough yet. So I say "yes" to way too many options that pull me away from my keyboard. I think I need to cull the list and find that place again. That place where I can say, "I am a writer."
I am officially not a writer, but one who sloughs through the troughs of the web, finding only back doors that never seem to connect to real rooms...

You, however, are a writer. R!
Yes you are, Ben.

If "the idea was too good, it would overpower me and I became a slave until writing "the end" so I could begin living again. "

"I do this because I must. I do this so those who know me know who and what I am."

You've captured the exquisite agony perfectly.
i do understand you — the writer.
How does one define "a writer"? Enjoyable read. ;-)
" I am a writer. I love finding the exact spot where every word in the dictionary belongs." I think you are. R
creating is blood through the veins. it's ridiculous and trivial and pervasive - a song running through your head, your days, your life. in the end, I think this is it, that I have had a lifetime I scribbling on paper and I am so glad I was given this. so grateful.
Yes, you are a writer and one of the first I came to know and respect when I joined OS. I loved all of this and especially this, "Writing is my "discipline." It's how I clean house, sweep away the terror, provide a purpose, a center, a raison d'etat. It makes me unable to care about what anybody thinks, relieving me momentarily from the need to please, putting me both on a pillar with a limitless view and beneath the sea where I find squirming creatures to lift from the muck at the bottom. " Beautiful and so well said about the therapeutic nature of writing. Thank you for sharing such a gift with us.
"It's how I clean house, sweep away the terror, provide a purpose, a center, a raison d'etat."

Oh for sure you are a writer. I am just a lowly blogger. There is a big difference and I respect that.