Embarrassing Yourself

What do you care about? I mean, really care about? Care enough about to have really strong opinions about? What interests you? I mean fascinates you.

Those are personal questions. If a stranger asks them of you, you’ll lie, say something normal, inoffensive, something job-interview like. Because, Jesus, who the hell wants to let a goddamn stranger know that kind of thing? Know what really twists you up and makes you tick, turns you around, chews you up and spits you out again.

You do, Bucko.

You’re that kind of fool, you’re that kind of idiot, if you want to be a writer.  If you aren’t that way to start with you’re going to end up that way, in some form or another.

Some people disguise themselves elaborately with characters and plots which transmute whatever it is they’re twisted up about into something unrecognizable. What is the vampire, the zombie, the serial killer, the sociopath, in your book, really? What is she to you? Why are you writing about her?

Everything is a memoir.  You reveal yourself in every word, in every image, in every character, in every plot.

If what I’m saying now makes no sense to you, and you’re writing, but not publishing, think about it. If you’re publishing more and better than I am, please tell me I’m full of shit, because I want to be.

Because writing is embarrassing. Write about love and friendship and commitment and betrayal and anger and forgiveness and despair and strength and weakness and you’re going to bump into yourself, over and over again, and not the sanitized, official version of yourself, but the truly misbegotten version of you under the mask that is purely and wonderfully and awfully you.

It’s possible that this is a silly way to write and I’m getting to the end of my rope; I have no desire to repeat myself, and I find the same characters and stories and plots and obsessions swirling around again and again, and I want to get out of myself and do something different, but I want to own what I do, to feel like I am qualified to write it, and that keeps me close to certain things.

I’m not sure sometimes if I need to write more or become a better human being, somehow, if I want to write better.

More empathic, intuitive, observant…more in touch with my own subconscious, more disciplined, less motivated by selfish desires and simple animal drives.

I’m 50. Has that ship sailed?

I come to fiction for the hope of transformation and character change, and I’m  the character I want most desperately to change; I come to fiction because I know it happens damn infrequently in real life. But I want it to happen. I want to be able to work hard at something and not fucking have it explode on me, melt away like the dot.com era, blow up in my face and silence me for decades.

I look around and see the people my age with their stacks of novels and their elaborate personas and their degrees and families and interests and I think, Dear God, I am hopelessly outclassed. I’m fucking doomed. I can barely make food and do laundry for four people and write a goddamn short story now and then.

Oh well. Back to the 1000 words a day, and here’s hoping I live long enough to embarrass myself well and truly before I’m gone for good.  Because it’s all I ever really wanted to do. Even if I’m not great. And why the hell not. Anything is possible. People change.

I know that, because I’ve read about it, in books.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

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