We are all emitting and absorbing information every day. Those who are not are dead or non-existent, or irrelevant. Their pictures will be found unmarked in shoeboxes, not rooted in anything, thrown out. In this selfie age, everything is spectacular, noteworthy, easy. The recorder is always on. In just half an hour I can publish something for the world, tell myself I’m a writer, and believe it — and that’s the problem. It’s too easy. Like armpit farts, it makes pretty convincing sounds.
In keeping with the meta-theme, this post is about the writing of my last post, why it’s my favorite , liked by exactly four people (Ross, Beth, Yahooey, and my wife) — and why that’s okay.
‘Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.’ (Paul Desmond)
I was mixing generic-brand Nyquil with alcohol, hoping for a good night’s rest, had done so a couple nights in a row, and banked-up enough sleep I was wide awake at 4 in the morning, turning on a story idea that presented itself, coupled with the sound of an owl hooting outside in the dark.
I lay there thinking it was a good idea and I should write it down before I forget, and so I drafted it by the light of my laptop, in the dark. I had the beginning and the end, all of about 1,000 words, by 5 o’clock.
And then, for two days I turned it inside out, over and over, at least 19 revisions, sometimes reading it on my phone, making note of the parts that didn’t work, how to improve the ending. I even sent a draft to a friend, asking him to pick a photo for it.
When I published it, about 48 hours later, I knew it was my first piece of fiction that was ‘done.’ (It gets quotes there because I was done with it, which doesn’t mean it was done-done.) Like a Rubik’s cube, it may look like I got all the sides from afar but if you were to turn it over, I’m not sure all the squares line up.
It’s the first time I’ve been able to create an arc in a story, to create a character that felt real — a character I loved and enjoyed torturing a little, like a Voodoo doll. Because, as in our dreams, it seems all the characters we imagine are really us.
For more than a year now, I’ve had weighty themes tied to The Meaning of Existence that I haven’t known how to talk about, because I have to write it to fully realize it; that’s the only way it will come. It seems the act is tied to the resolution.
And so when I published What happened to Brown, there was a freedom in not needing so much acceptance of the post because first and foremost, I liked it. It’s personal, but better here than discovered in a shoebox with photos of people no one will ever recognize, puzzles bound to be forgotten, stories of how they got their name.