Tuesday, November 03, 2009

What. The Hell.

Ever have one of those moments when you wonder just what the fuck you've gotten yourself into?

I've had several in my life, the most famous involving an inflated balloon and a can of spray paint.

Recently, very recently, as in just the other day, I ended up with my head spinning yet again. I had thought I was simply interjecting something into an online conversation. Apparently my contribution kicked some butt. And I won myself an opportunity to write a piece on THIS website (and seriously, I know I keep pimping him, but if you haven't yet toodled over there, do so. You won't be sorry).

As always, my mouth hung agape and my brain screamed, "NO!!" That's gratitude for ya. It was akin to the time in Junior High when my ass won a pair of Flyers tickets because it was sitting on a specific chair during assembly. And being that I was a baseball person my first thought was, "What the fuck am I gonna do with these?" I suddenly acquired a lot of friends for a few days. Back to topic.

I darted off a message to Chuck letting him know that I don't do fiction. I received a reply letting me know that I couldn't weasel my way out of this that easily. Write whatever. 1000-2000 words. No hurry. Kind of. Get cracking, bitch (ok, he didn't call me bitch. but he could have). I've never felt authentic in any attempt to write fiction. I can write the hell out of a research paper. I might have been the only person in school who internally squealed with glee when a research paper was assigned. The whole process delighted me. I loved going to the library and using the microfiche and putting all of my information on index cards so I could lay them out on my bed in the order they would appear in the paper. I loved entering footnotes and sorting my bibliography. And I really, really loved getting my papers back with a big, red A at the tops of them. I became an English major with the primary goal of teaching in university but being expected to publish critical papers or lose my job. I wanted to write. My college teachers loved my work and one of them even submitted to a contest a bullshit analysis I had written of Reynolds Price's A Final Account. It was bullshit because I didn't believe a word I had written, but I knew intuitively what the teacher desperately wanted from his students in regards to an understanding of the story. Personally I think Reynolds Price is an overrated douche. Is that libel? Screw it. I hate him.

As a young adult I wrote trainloads of juvenalia. My first truly manic episode that lasted awhile hit at around age 21, and I would stay up until 4am, hunched over my computer, chain smoking and writing poetry. My favorite poet of all time is Ogden Nash, so there was nothing navel gazing or brooding about any of it. One night I decided to say, "fuck it." I think I even said it aloud. I stuck one of my poems in an envelope with a nicely written letter and mailed it off to The New Yorker. I received a letter back awhile later letting me know that they appreciated my interest, but my style wasn't suitable for their publication. I refrained from writing back that I understood completely, as their usual offerings WERE written by a bunch of navel gazing brooders who used "free verse" as a method of disguising the fact that they were talentless hacks on Xanax.

I hate free verse, because only a very few have the talent to make it lyrical. Everyone else ends up sounding like a wingnut. Here's an example:
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Brownings and the Mossbergs,
the angry Colts -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The StrapGuns and the Uzis,
the fierce Technines you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long....
© 1999 by T Y Alevizos, ty@well.com. All Rights Reserved
Of course, a great deal of the rhyming poetry I've read these days could only be improved by the addition of musicians playing thrash metal behind it. Truly. Google "Bad Rhyming Poetry," and pick any selection. Now imagine it performed by James Hetfield. It works.

Did I digress again? Damn. One day I simply stopped writing. I would say this happened in 1999, if I recollect correctly. Everything I was writing was ending up in the trash icon on my computer, and I was convinced I was shit. I couldn't write my way out of a paper bag. You could lead me to the keyboard but you couldn't make me write. My brain was as useless as tits on a bull. Cliches ad nauseum.

I sucked. I had no degree. And in the back of my head I tucked the mantra, "I can't write." So I stopped pursuing it. I canceled the subscriptions to writing publications. I stopped buying The Writer's Market each year. I took most of my reference books to the library and donated them. I saved a few. I kept Strunk and White. I held onto The Transitive Vampire. On Writing by Stephen King is still on the shelf, because it's actually a fun read. Everything else got gone. I went to work every day and came home every night and wasted my time in front of the TV or devoured other people's work.

Occasionally I felt pangs. I'd read something exceptional and think, "Gosh, I wish I could do this." But I sucked. I had no degree. I was a hack. I couldn't write.

In 2006, because I'm always late to every party, I discovered blogging. I've never been good at keeping a journal. I have at least a dozen boxed up that each has maybe 20 entries completed. A blog seemed like the perfect idea because I could post whenever I felt the itch, and there would be nothing staring me in the face taunting me unless I clicked on my bookmark. I never expected anyone to actually read the damn thing. I began filling it with mundane crap, rants, and commentary. This was my first entry. Mundane AND a rant. Two birds with one stone.

I never really considered blogging writing. I considered it a way to dump my brain, and that was pretty much it. Recently I had occasion to remember that I had received a response from Robert McCammon to a fan letter I had sent him after I read Boy's Life. In it he essentially told me that writing IS hard. He also told me that if we want to succeed we have to keep writing, all of the time, especially when it's hard. He wished me luck and thanked me for taking the time to write to him. I received that letter in the mail on my 21st birthday, and to this day it's my favorite birthday gift ever. Remembering all of this made me decide to no longer ignore my blog when it's inconvenient to write in it. The itch had come back, but this time it was no longer in the back of my brain. It is front and center on a constant basis. Actually, it burns. To paraphrase Madeline Kahn, "...it-it- the f - it -flam - flames. Flames, on the front of my brain..." And then I opened my email one day and discovered that I was "Made of Win," and I was to produce something for someone.

What. The hell.


So my stomach knotted and I fretted and gnashed my teeth. Was there tearing of hair? Oh yes there was. Was there rending of clothing? Not so much. Did I open Facebook on more than one occasion to send a message back saying, "Please bestow this honor on someone else?" Why yes I did. But I never typed the message.

And then yesterday a woman I worked with in the past read my blog entry and commented to me, "I didn't know you were a writer."

I am. I'm a fucking writer y'all. Even when it's shit. Even when it's hack. Language is my plaything and it's more fun than a barrel of Cooties. It's tastier than buffalo wings. I don't think it's better than sex.

I just counted. I've got 1467 words here. But I'm going to call this entry a day and get to work tonight on what has been requested of me.

See you all tomorrow.


Chuck said...

Get crackin', bitch!



I mean, please to enjoy the writing process.

-- c.

Julie said...

Wanker. Only a select few call me bitch (to my face).I guess you can join the club.

Cyn said...


Julie said...

Beach. I knew you were gonna say that.

Anonymous said...

Someone sent me the link to this post. Great post! I stopped writing around 21 too. My hubby, (then boyfriend) didn't like my poetry so I stopped writing it. LAME! I started writing again two years ago. And I arrived extremely late to the blogging party, but started blogging in May 2009.

Julie said...

Welcome, Leslee! and thank you. :)

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