Hell isn’t other people. It’s me.


No way to capture, even with HDR, the range of tonal values in this photo; the dim cafe, my wonderful table in it, the music, my terrifying, momentary freedom.

You know when you buy junk food; a bag of fluorescent orange Cheetos or a can of pringles or a tub of Trader Joes peanut butter cups or whatever. And you think, it’s ok, if you don’t eat too much at once, it’s not that bad for you.

Then you eat the whole fucking thing.

The fleeting pleasure wiping out the sure knowledge of just how bad an idea this is. The moment collaborating in this nihilistic twinkling of fulfillment. Afterwards you feel stupid and degraded. Your finger tips are bright orange.

Oh, and you’re still hungry.

Well, social media is my bag of Cheetos. Probably not that bad for you, if you don’t eat like a huge bag a day. Or two.

I’m a triple bagger.

I have a few hundred readers on FB, or it seems like I do, versus the few dozen of my blog, so I tend to write over there, making Mark Zuckerberg some tiny fraction of a cent richer with every unpaid word.

Facebook’s business model, in which everyone is simultaneously a customer and a supplier and an employee, is perhaps one of the most horrific ideas to emerge from internet culture. FB makes up about half of all web traffic at this point. It is an entirely voluntary horror, of course; you don’t have to be there. You don’t have to have electricity, running water, or pants either, of course. There reality is if you want to be in business you’re on FB one way or another.

So. I’ve been pretending I have a busines being there.

I wrote a post recently, about how there’s this way now as a writer to check on your progress, or lack thereof, on a minute by minute basis, and experience a sense of failure and paralysis continually, shocking yourself, over and over again.

Watching books not sell; watching stories sit in queues, the days tick by, and then not sell, watching the awards spin by, checking absently for your name on various reading lists, etc. Googling reviews. Being careful not to replay to any.

It’s one of those things you have to learn to stop doing. Like eating the whole fucking bag of Cheetos.

I’ve been angry since the AME shooting. Politics consumes me.

I’ve had no good news on the writing front for what feels like a good long time. I’m finishing up the latest in a series of what feels like utterly doomed efforts. In retrospect, I know why I wrote them, but for God’s sake, I know, I shouldn’t have. Or rather, I know nobody wants to buy them.

Sure feels like my fifteen minutes are over.

One thing that social media, and email before it, has been able to do for me, though is to capture the sense of my personality over time. I can go back and read myself, over the last 20 years, in various ways. And find out that I’ve always been like this. Always hanging on by my proverbial finger nails. Since I was sixteen years old, or so, post-puberty, anyway.

For whatever reason, I’m happiest in made up worlds. Mine or those created by others. The worst imaginary dystopia is somehow less painful than our world, which I feel could be a utopia, if we weren’t so fucking idiotic a species. I’ve loved stories and shows and movies and games and writers and writing, and been barely able to stand anything else, for a long long time.

My few decades, moving in and out of various business-esque jobs and roles, inform me, but represent nothing I want to return to.

I struggle now with the political dimension of my very existence.

My participation in progressive politics triggers an intense self loathing; it is the feeling I had when I learned about the Holocaust, about the genocide of the native americans, the My Lai massacre, about Jim Crow and Slavery. The feeling I got when my wife explained that she would never dream of walking to the convenience store at night for fear of being raped.

The solid cores of my identity exist as a kind of shorthand for oppression, murder, and rape. European ancestry. White. Male. Het. Cis.

Add to that now, middle-aged. Boomer. The generation that ate the world, and gave us… all this.

I feel stuck.

If there is anything to gained by my fifteen minutes, my ten pro stories of my Second Try at writing, it has been an effort to bend my thinking in more positive directions through the sheer application of will.

Medication never worked. Mediation sort of worked. But writing, storytelling, works, when I let myself do it, because in story telling, you’re there, and your’e not there, you disappear and reappear moment by moment. Existence is less painful when it is periodic.

Fictively, I conspire, cajole, lie, if necessary, to create some sort of positive direction for my characters and plots. It’s like I’m trying to dream my way out of myself. Escape from the hideous legacy of my own identity.

For me, the lie is often what tells the truth; because my mind lies to me a lot. In this I think I am far from alone, of course. Sanity is really just a kind of useful delusion.

I model it, to the degree I’m able. I’m pretty good at it really.

I’ve lived now among the humans for half a century, and they think of me as one of their own.

I had a dream last night, it was so good, so pure, that it made my whole life feel like an ill fitting suit. It’s a feeling I’ve been struggling to hold onto, even though it is painful, so I can put it into something.

A few more hours left in the day. Let’s see what I do.

Posted in Making a Writing Life

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