Monday, July 06, 2009

On Writing

Being a writer terrifies me.

When the words come, they force their way out. Nothing clean about it. Projectile vomit after bad meat, with the sobbing afterward. Fingers chewed down to the bone. Bad digestion, an uncharged phone, unfilled time sheets. And then when the poem or story is written, it sits there like a self-content child, sleek and nourished and confident of its own precocity. You remain the withered host, nothing parental/familial/nutritional about it. You were used, your life blood and time sucked up into its creation.

What the fuck do you do with it now?

It sits there, points at your flab, your worn tooth brush, your cable tv package, your mother's concern and laughs. Chortles when you search the web for submission guidelines and deadlines. Falls over screaming with laughter as you send carefully worded emails to published folk, asking the kind ones if they would be even kinder, even more generous and be your readers. Waiting for months, waiting for months while denying all claims that you are in fact, waiting, that howling bastard laughter in your ear.

And the screaming tears when you take up a day job instead. Like a hungry orphan. Like a bayoneted baby. Like a man crushed under a fallen bridge. Like a pig being slaughtered.

You fall behind soon enough. No paycheck tops the high of getting out a perfectly balanced, well formed sentence. You return in fits. Surreptitious. An addict. The first three days of doing nothing but write are glory days, a paid vacation sur la plage somewhere in Sardinia. And then you run out. Of words, of patience, of time.

Slink back to the job. Whoever's depending on you breathes a sigh of relief. And then frowns. Because the best parts of you all went on those pages. The husk that's left is dry, useless for anything but a shallow container they use to roll around their small hard pebbled regrets in, rolling them around in your head till thoughts go TILT! TILT! TILT!

Silent and sterile and functional for the next few days. The boss even figures you've "found your feet".

Then some old beloved motherfucker shows up. Some dear friend from ages past. They find your vein, tap twice and shoot you full of reminders, of past glories imagined and real. They power up the synapses in your head till electric jumps between letters, phonemes, words, paragraphs turn your head into a giant plasma ball.

You spend the night pouring over a keyboard, typing sentence after sentence in that default Arial 10 never looking up to edit. This makes the page look like it's filled with two dimensional black millipedes copulating in a Madras monsoon, rows upon rows of them till dawn when you stop and drink insta-coffee and smoke and immediately fall asleep.

Bukowski was an ugly drunk, ornery and mad as hell, the kind that folk are uncomfortable around. But he is authentic as all get-out, the kind of authentic that people want to sell, if only they could get their fingers on it. But he is the main man because he figured out my main question, the one that can't be answered by pulling a nine of hearts from the old fortune teller's deck.

I don't mean contract writing. I don't mean the MFA professor who put you onto his agent writing. I don't mean the I have enough media interest in me to sell a book writing.

I mean being past the age of being considered a prodigy writing. I mean not too many friends who want to spend time with you writing. I mean being a failure writing, and then failing again. I mean being a paranoid lover writing, where you check your lines and syntax in the hall mirror even when you know they're watching. I mean questioning, doubting, being ungrateful and apologizing after they're dead writing. The empty room at the book reading, sitting there finishing the booze you brought with you in a pepsi bottle writing. I mean self sabotage writing.

How do you write like that and do anything else in the world? Day jobs? Bank accounts? Families? How do you pour your fucking mind and heart, what you believe into a page and then order lunch from a menu the next minute? How can you teach your kid about wrong and right when your words constantly get you into corners? How can you pray when all you think about when you close your eyes is a story's good ending? How can you love. How can you love.
How can you love?


Maya said...

And how did you get into my mind? Damn you!