Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Unexamined Life

I have spent most of my life completely unaware of myself.  I just did things one after another without stopping for a moment to question my own motivations without regard for my own safety and future well being.  There were times, events, that changed me, altered my future, my perceptions of the world, that changed the way I believed how life was supposed to work, and until embarrassingly recently these things went unexamined.

I have lived my life without any idea why I was doing anything.

The characters in Antiartists do this; they do things without any understanding of themselves, and even though the book is not about me at all, I realized that I do identify with a lot of the impulses that they feel, a lot of the same disconnection and isolation that they feel, a lot of the understanding that as much as we want to believe that we are masters of our own fates, we are who we are largely because we were made this way by events and relationships and by sick random chance. 

One of my readers told me that he couldn't identify with the impulse to self-harm; he had never even heard of such a thing, he was somewhat appalled by the whole idea.  For me, having grown up as a punk and an outsider, that impulse is a mostly open secret; kids do this all the time when the world is too heavy and confusing.

Sometime after the birth of my first son, I found myself in a car blasting down dark residential streets with my bare foot sticking out of the open door.  The driver of the car was extremely drunk, as was I, neither of us were wearing seatbelts and we were both shouting at each other to shut the fuck up, just shut up.  Somehow in the madness I clearly remember getting an image of my sleeping baby son, an image of the speeding car hitting a power pole or a parked car, me losing my foot, losing my life, losing everything for nothing more than moronic self-indulgent pride, a drunks skewed sense of justice.  I brought my foot in the car, shut the door and put on my seatbelt.  I couldn't slow the car; that was out of my hands now, I had already made the decision to get in with a drunken asshole much like myself, but I could try to mitigate the potential disaster.  I realized even in that absurd and dangerous scene that terrible things could happen, even to me, and I didn't have the luxury of accidental suicide anymore; I had someone at home that was counting on me.

There were times I could have died, and I had no idea why.

Even now I sometimes find myself surprised by my own emotions, when I am accidentally open with a stranger, or even in this very moment, as I write these words, feelings come up unexpectedly and I find myself with eyes wide open staring at the lights with ragged breath trying to guess why I am feeling what I am feeling, why I am who I am...

My book is not about me, but it is about broken people doing broken things, and that is something I understand through and through.

And even though I do not consider myself broken anymore and I am no longer doing broken things, I do remember that image I got in that speeding car of my sleeping baby boy.  I try to remember that we are not promised tomorrow, we are not promised another day of this strange and beautiful life.  I try to remember that every moment is a gift.  I try to remember to examine my life, my motivations, to make decisions, rather than react to impulse.  

I try to remember to be grateful.   

     

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Doing the Important Things

"I don't really understand writing and I'm not sure I want to.  I just know that for some obscure internal reason, I need to do it."
 - Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, Filth, The Acid House, Glue, etc, etc, etc

There are a lot of books out there about how to write a novel, how to get started and how to keep a schedule and how to apply discipline to your writing.  I'm sure that they sometimes inspire a new writer to apply these concepts to his or her own process and are an invaluable resource for these people.

Call me a cynic, but I would guess that most times, however, they fail.

I believe that we do the things that are important to us.

I have always thought it would be awesome to be able to speak Spanish.  I took Spanish in college, I used to ask native speakers to teach me things, we got a learn Spanish at home teaching module for the family to learn together, I even went and bought a Rosetta Stone knock off.  I had all the greatest intentions, paid for the equipment, and then...nothing.  It fizzled out.  Now, after all that, speak hardly any Spanish at all.  It's not for lack of desire, it's not for lack of means, its because when the time came and a choice had to be made between learning Spanish and doing other things, the other things won out every time.  Now my Spanish learning resources sit there with my treadmill/clothes hanger, if you can find them buried under all the weight loss books and the get your home organized in four easy steps manuals.

We do the things that are important to us.

I would guess that most people that buy the how-to manuals for writing do it good faith; they are not intentionally throwing their money away.  But I would also guess that when it comes time to sit down and write or do other stuff, mostly, the other stuff wins.

This is not intended to be critical of people who do this; the other stuff wins all the time for me, when it comes time to work out or to clean my basement up, or to fix the cupboard door, or to do laundry or to change the cat box or to...

You probably get the idea.

And yeah, some nights when it comes time to sit down and write, the other stuff wins for me too.  After a workday of sitting and staring at a computer screen and struggling with my focus, some nights for sure the other stuff wins.  Some nights, I just need to switch off.

I write this blog on my lunch hour.  Some days I just don't wanna, maybe I'm tired and I just watch videos of people falling down on the internet or fiddle around on Twitter.

But I keep coming back to it.  Because for whatever strange reason, writing stuff down is important to me.  And I swear, even if I never publish a word, if I just keep getting rejected, and shot down, and beat up, I'll keep on writing, not because I'm tough, because clearly I'm not, but because it is, and will remain, important to me.

Sometimes, I wish it wasn't. Writing takes a lot of time and effort and attention and care, more than I have to spare, more than I want to give away, and mostly nobody gives a shit whether I do it or not.

But still I write stuff down, try to capture something, try to make the world a tiny bit different by using my words.

Because for better and for worse, we do the things that are important to us.