It’s bitterly ironic. The better I do as a writer, the more my life seems to fall apart. It’s like the two draw life-force from another, struggling for control like those balls of snakes you see on the Discovery channel.
I have an unprecedented level of motivation to write. I have a book due out in spring. Short stories are sporadically getting published. I’ve got another novel sent off to an agent and an editor. I hardly have second thoughts about the stuff I post on here now. From that side, things are looking up.
Roll the ball of hissing, spitting snakes over and look at the other side. Oh shit. Relationship meltdown, personal meltdowns, lack of a solid, tangible plan. The boy can write a book but he can’t handle day-to-day shit without getting exhausted. I lost a huge part of my life, a woman I thought would be my wife and partner for the coming battles. I was under the impression that the next years were set, at least in that department. And then a monkey wrench comes flipping in out of the sky and the whole thing explodes. (It’s a breakup not a death, sorry if that was unclear).
Writers… are failures as people. In general, that is my belief. We are a creature that cannot express themselves very well verbally. We are a creature perpetually lost in the abstract. Fiction is our life and the real world just doesn’t hold our attention. The more we fail as people, the more we get a glimpse at the dark little imps that are deep inside every one of us. We get a glimpse at the real dark, the shit we bury deep until we’ve fed the imp too much and he bursts from your chest, screaming, holding two sub-machine guns and firing holes into the ceiling of your life.
So we get bored. We fall into a routine. This whole generalization might not apply to any other writers actually, but I’d feel like an asshole if I kept saying: “I”. Keep it abstract, right?
We get bored and things slip. Literally. Slip from our hands, from our minds. The conversations in your head are infinitely more exciting than the ones with the person closest to you. It’s not their fault, it’s just that you’ve heard these sentences before. You can take apart their entire language history, like on a cell phone, and fill in what they’re going to say. It’s like reading. By the time you’ve read “John said” hundreds of times in a novel, you cease to see that. Your eyes don’t need it. You know John is speaking.
I don’t know how to cure that. I don’t even know what that is, that constant boredom. Is that depression? It’s not a sadness, it’s just disappointment because nothing lives up. Sex? Fun, but not the earth shattering entrance into manhood that it had been built up to be. And it applies to everything. You notice little details that ruin the experience. Oh, we’re at the zoo. Look, a tiger. A majestic beast from the jungle, 15 feet away. Lookit those fangs!
The tiger is smaller than you thought. It looks like a large, dumb cat. You can smell it, and it is not good. There’s a chubby lady how keeps hitting you with her knobby elbows so she can take a picture. It’s hot out, there’s sweat in your armpits. Dripping.
Anti-climatic. Don’t believe the hype.
And this is the part where you hear “be more positive” or “appreciate the small things” but honestly, you know that the self-help industry is just a way to sell books and CDS and TV shows to people who need a-fixin’, laying out tired old phrases and techniques. It’s a sham.
Or so your mind believes. Because your mind has teeth. You don’t know if it’s trying to protect you or not, but it snaps at everything. Everything can somehow be ripped apart, even yourself. Especially yourself. Hold on, what was that about publishing a book? Go ahead, publish it. It won’t sell ten copies. Remember that time you self-published and sold zero? G’head, mate. That girl who smiled at you? Naw, you got fuckin’ dandruff on your shirt.
Gnash, gnash, gnash.
So, I mean, obviously, you start thinking about solitary gunshots and big swings from ceiling fans. But you don’t really do it. There are reasons, sure, career, relationships, friends, family. A whole CVS receipt of reasons and a coupon to get more reasons.
But that’s not what stops you. When you’re hip deep in it, splashing around like a fucking hippo, those reasons get turned waaaaay down.
You’re worried it’ll be anti-climatic.
That the great cosmic hand will be like: woop-zoop-schloop! “Ha ha fucker, back to square one. Let’s do it all again.” The great cosmic hand is a joker, a cackling fool who snaps bra straps and flicks you with a towel in the locker room.
And then you go to bed and rise the next day and the wheel goes round. It’s always amazed me how people just do it. Obviously, I can’t see into people’s minds, but it baffles me how so many are okay with years and years of…this.
There’s one thing, though, that hasn’t been anti-climatic. I know my fellow millennials are mainly against having kids. I understand. I reaaaalllly do. Everything you think will happen, missed opportunities, financial struggles, loss of even the sense of freedom… poof. That cackling cosmic hand took it. It’s pretty much true, at least if you’re on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, and c’mon, we all are.
And for the first few months, I didn’t like my son. He was a red little squeaking thing that was causing all sorts of hell. But, around the 6-8 months mark, he starts doing stuff that he only wants to do with Dad. Piggy back rides. Tossing him up in the air like a football (gently!). I dunno, you form a bond and an attachment, and for someone like me, the empty slate of a life screams redemption.
Because that little laughing turd sack can be the you, that you are not. He can be the you who got a chance and a shot. And you’re not supposed to put that on a kid, but it’s in the back of your mind. You push them towards books, baseball, the things you enjoy. They start to mimic you, and it’s like having a clone, but a clone who’s new to the job and you have to show him how everything works, because you always get stuck training the new guy.
That stuff, seeing another human being develop their minds, their sense of self, their language, and knowing you can help. Help them to be not even a better you, just a happier person. You wanna read that book for the 15th time in a row? Jesus Christ kid, I guess, at least it has numbers. Doesn’t go past 9 but it has numbers. 10 is a dumb number anyway. My kid says “I Yaddeus!” which, I mean, his name is Thaddeus, but it’s basically the equivalent of “I think, therefore I am.”
I don’t know why I wrote this, exactly. It was supposed to be an essay about the oddity of being a writer, that failing a lot gives you that salt, that zest of someone who knows what it’s like.
But then it devolved into a personal thing. And there’s a lot of these blogs out there, but maybe there’s some sarcastic, cynical bastard thinking of forgetting their bungee cord “accidently” and he needs to see that, while it might not get any better, there are others like you. And I dunno, when I need to read something I can relate to, I would prefer it to be salty, cynical and at least a little funny.
Maybe it’ll help.