Laboring through my old journals, notes and drawings has turned up nothing I can use and only makes me feel worse about myself. I still sound like the wannabe artist I’ve always been, I just talk about it publicly now. And that’s probably the reason I go to therapy, I’m so desperate for attention I’ll pay for it. Dawn asked me why I’m cranky and I said it’s because I can’t write anything and I think about it ALL THE TIME. She said have you tried allowing yourself to just write crap and accept that and I said yeah, I’ve been doing that ALL MY LIFE.
But then I went out to the garage, did yoga, and felt better. The garage is my new happy place because it smells bad and nobody bothers me there. I can go through old journals where I talk about story ideas and what I did with my day and it sounds just like what I’m doing now, 25 years later.
I’ve tried switching the POV from first person to third, fictionalizing myself, changing my last name (legally), rereading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man four times (including the version Joyce’s wife rescued from the fire)…and now I’ve decided I don’t even like the book anymore. Joyce is a wanker and like Ray Bradbury said, “has no ideas.” #KillYrIdols.
But like I said in my old journals the same is true here on my blog: even when I’m not writing in the artistic sense I’m at least getting better at typing. And I’m improving my voice by testing it out and trying new things. For a moment I can believe I’m a singer because for the moment, I am. The acts of being and pretending are one and the same through an artful delusion of self. That form of delusion is how people with big dreams make them a reality: by not letting reality get in the way.
My book club meets every week to talk about the making of a different album featured in the 33 1/3 book series—this week, the band was Neutral Milk Hotel. You could argue that NMH wasn’t really a band in the traditional sense until they started playing gigs and making records. But for years, they made posters and logos and practiced in their apartment until one day it happened. You could also argue that any band, artist, or endeavor starts with a period of make-believe to give the fantasy life. Its realization relies on the simple hope that one day, it could.
Many of the bands I followed growing up were DIY (meaning they effectively made it themselves), artists who gave me the confidence I could do whatever I wanted by sheer nerve and perseverance, by wanting it badly enough I could will it in to existence. In fact, because they lacked talent their effort was somehow more noble to me than those who came by it easily. Singers like Calvin Johnson and Robert Pollard became my heroes because they spoke to my inner underdog with that punk ethos where everyone’s someone. Where not knowing how to play was as much an incentive to perform as knowing. It was painfully bad at times, but arguably more real.
And that takes me back to my smelly garage and favorite yoga teacher, Charley. He was the first yoga teacher I had who failed in front of the class. Sometimes, he’d just fall out of a pose and laugh it off. He never explained why but I think he did it to make us feel unafraid about trying the poses ourselves, about not letting fear of failure get in our way. Or feeling like we’d never be as good as he was, our teacher. He taught me a lot in that.
I talked to an old friend who’s published her first book and asked her advice. She said focus on writing it more than worrying about where it fits in. The market can wash out the idiosyncrasies that make us uniquely us. Figure out what’s more important, making money or sharing what you make with others.
The thing is, it’s a lot harder to do the work than it is to talk about doing it. Easier to sing to ourselves in the shower, to click the blue button (publish!), and wait for applause. Maybe the art of make-believe is no art at all. The art is in sitting down and doing it. In falling down, too.