Odd Questions About Writing

So, with all the writing I have been doing lately, I am afraid to look at my wordcounts. They are arbitrary anyway and really only serve the purpose to myself that yes, I am writing. No, I’m not screwing around. I try not to be one of these people who go around telling people that they are writers, but only do so to serve the purpose of getting into a party with a bunch of cool kids.

Writers aren’t cool. They might look cool on the outside, but inside they aren’t. They think too much about things, and that isn’t cool. Cool people are dismissive, they know everything already. They don’t need to waste their time putting their thoughts to paper because hey, like, whatever man.

The other day I hit a snag. I was buying Legos with my kid and the girl at the cash register recognized me from the other times I had been there. She reminds me a little of myself at her age. She writes stories and even had a Lego character clipped to her name tag that was from one of her books. She writes Fantasy and told me that a bunch of other writers were in that day building characters for their books. When I told her (reminded, since she’s heard the same thing from me for the last year whenver I go in) that I write too, she asked what I wrote.

I told her I used to write steampunk and fantasy, but recently I was working on a literary piece based on life experiences, she glazed over. I remember that feeling too. I remember when I wrote fantasy that I often felt that my work wasn’t taken seriously. But on the other side of that now, I felt like I had tresspassed. Sorry, but I did my time in the genres. I will probably go back to it eventually. But here, I felt like an interloper. Not that it matters.

I remember being in that place years ago. Most people who consider themselves writers, especially if it is fan fiction or dreams of becoming the next Tolkien or GRRM or Robert Jordan don’t read anything any of their friends writes either. It’s a lot of conversations where you are just listening well enough to know when it’s your turn to talk. But oddly enough, I felt like I no longer had that authenticity because I’m not writing fantasy right now. Listen, I just do what the story tells me to do. Sometimes I don’t have a choice.

I expect to die young because the story will no longer have any need for me and it will finally let me expire. Thanks, story. I’m glad I didn’t sleep right and wrecked my health for years for you.

Anyway, I bring up the word counts because I am writing my guts out lately–even though it isn’t genre fiction–and I had a few questions that keep popping up in my head.

  1. How much do I actually need to tell?
  2. How much sex needs to go into the story before it is less War and Peace and more 50 Shades? I want to stop before it gets to Tropic of Cancer.
  3. If I write about topics that aren’t considered popular opinions in the mainstream, will that ruin my chances of being published?
  4. All these words and paragraphs and chapters…how many will I wind up shaving it down to anyway? Is that why it takes two weeks to read a book that took five years to write?
  5. If I write it well enough to get my car egged if I drive through my home town after it is published, is that a good sign or a bad one? Asking for a friend.
  6. If I sell in mainstream/literary fiction, will I be cast out of the Garden of Genre forever?
  7. If I piss people off with this and become friendless, is it okay if I cry myself to sleep on a pillow stuffed with one hundred dollar bills?

I promise not to think I’m cool if this book is published. I know I’m not cool. I’ve had 45 years of the world’s abuse to remind me of such things.

Political Poisoning: American Edition

Social media used to be a neat tool to connect with others. I have reaquainted myself with people I knew years and years ago, which was necessary as I put my life back together after my divorce. I spoke again with people I knew from Elementary School, I kept in touch with some great people from the old LiveJournal days, and even though most of us were very far away, we could still laugh and joke and carry on conversations in spite of this.

Lately, however, I have been like many of you, and because of the political climate I find that I am unable to maintain friendships with people who are so rabid about their beliefs. They live in an echo chamber where there is no such thing as objectivity. Either you are with them, or you are wrong.

I’ve unfriended and blocked many people because of this. People who were good friends, but that could not withstand the inculcation of party politics. I just couldn’t. And honestly, being a political centrist (if not Libertarian), I was no longer welcome in their circles.

I bowed out. In some cases, I blocked them permanently because of their compatriots who I felt were going to drag me across the coals in a full on doxxing.

I think about the Civil War and how they used to say “It was brother against brother!” I used to be unable to fathom how siblings could join a war and try to kill each other. Now, I don’t have to imagine it. The days of polite discourse are over. We are completely polarized these days. If you don’t agree with a Socialist agenda, you are a fascist. If you don’t have a MAGA hat and a Trumpersticker, you are a commie.

It makes me despair for what our country is becoming. How this kind of politically fueled hate is spilling out into the rest of the world too.

Much of the time all I want to do is get back to the days when we could agree that not everyone was going to agree on some things. Then we went back to focusing on the things that united us instead of divided us.

I’m not voting in the upcoming election. If you don’t like it, wonderful. I also think the masks are bullshit, but they are what everyone has clung to in order to make themselves feel like they have some kind of control over what is going on in the world. Just like voting.

Biden is a sick man. Way to go Democrats. You had 150 MILLION people to pick from and you dug out that old chestnut. This is my look of surprise when he announces Hilary Clinton as his running mate in a month. If he wins, imagine my look of surprise when he abdicates…I mean, yeah. Commits suicide.

Pedophiles abound in positions of power. Worldwide. Children are being trafficked every day and mysteriously anyone who “knows” what is going on keeps winding up dead. Puzzler. Bit of a puzzle. The solution of course is make child rape a hanging offense. And actually hang the fuckers. The Clintons are already off to a good lead on that, oddly enough.

If I had to sit at a table with Trump, I would probably punch him in the mouth. Which is why I’m confused why so many New Yorkers dislike him. He acts just like most of them. Rude. Uncouth. Entitled. Obnoxious. He seems like the kind of guy who would overflow your toilet and use your best towels to wipe his ass afterwards. Then send you the bill to have his pinky ring cleaned.

Antifa need to take their place among the pantheon of dangerous assholes who have no love for this country. Right there with the KKK, the Nation of Islam, the Aryan Nation, and every other extremist group who has a right to exist because of right to assembly and freedom of speech, but serve about as much purpose as diet pop at an all you can eat buffet.

Black Lives Matter is just a nice way for white people to put a brand name on their white guilt. It’s the same as putting a ribbon on your shirt. Or a bumper sticker on your Prius. You wanna be “woke?” Have a conversation with someone about how fucked everything is. You’ll see everyone has some common ground on why the deck is stacked against them. But the ones fucking us don’t want you to see that. They want us to blame each other.

Defund the police? No, defund the Legislation. They are the assholes making the laws that can be used seven ways to Sunday to jail people for no reason. Every year a bunch of lawyers get together and make more laws. How often do they repeal them? And the ones that are repealed, why the hell are prisoners still doing time for committing those crimes? Sure, a lot of cops go home and beat the shit out of their wives, but what do you expect when so many of them are juicing?

Confederate statues are convenient places for pigeons to shit. They are also a good indication of knowing geographically when you are in the woods and hear banjos, that you need to paddle faster. Remove those landmarks and the next time you hear a pig squeal, it might be you.

The best thing to come out of quarantine has been a lack of stupid summer blockbusters. Maybe we can begin to digest how little importance Hollywood actually carries in our lives. As if those fucking TikTok videos haven’t already convinced you.

China is not our friend. That is to say the Chinese Government. They aren’t China’s friend either, we aren’t that special to be the only ones they are actively trying to screw. Where’s all your “Free Tibet” shirts now?

Free healthcare? How about eliminate tort litigation where the majority of settlements go to paying lawyers on contengiency? That’s why your health insurance costs are so high and an Advil is $8. You’d probably see delivery of a baby drop back down to “I don’t need Medicaid to afford this” rates pretty quickly. You know what? I’m actually for the government paying for health care. Not health insurance. Get rid of that broken system. We should see something come out of our taxes rather than crumbling roads, bailouts for multibillion dollar companies, and subsidized agriculture that makes a pound of hamburger $6.

Eliminate the indentured servitude of the Student Loan Program. Period.

That’s enough fixing the world for one night. I wonder why my Liberal and Conservative friends no longer invite me to parties…

Revelations

I hit a moment today when I wanted to post some kind of picture to Instagram. Because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days. With the lockdown I haven’t been many places. My house. Writing. Coffee. I go on walks with my son. Tonight he was a little high maintenance, but he’s going back to his mom’s.

Last night I had some great ideas for the university book which humanizes it a little bit more. It becomes a comedy of sorts, rather than a rant about being discarded after 18 years in one job. This afternoon I used my machete to quarter up a large limb that had fallen in a windstorm yesterday. My hands are covered in blisters, but talk about a big difference from a few years ago. I didn’t get winded. My hands were just too soft and the handle of the machete wore through my skin pretty quickly. My arms are strong. My heart is stronger than maybe ever. I just kept chopping away until it was done.

Ten years ago, I did the same thing, only I had an axe and a saw and it took me an entire afternoon. I was lying in the yard, trying not to black out then. Overweight. Unhappy. Sick even. Today, the work was honest. My son stacked up the cut branches and I laid out the wood to dry for our next fire.

Last year right about now, I wrote two pieces on what makes you desirable to the opposite sex. It was a pair of fun, introspective pieces inspired by my blogging friend, Michelle. She is no stranger to matters of the heart herself. There are a lot of us out there–though our numbers are diminishing. Maybe we are all too stubborn or crazy to keep this up. Talking with my friend K today, we came up a list that pretty much covers everything for men and women.

  1. Listen to each other–be heard. Be seen.
  2. Respect each other–each of you is a person
  3. Be kind and show some compassion.
  4. Do what you say you are going to do
  5. Don’t be lazy

It’s just about that simple.

As I was seaching through pics to post on social media, because I figure why the hell not. Our society is coming apart at the seams. The world is turning upside down. I’ve been polishing brass on the Titanic for a while, so why not?

There is that book about Love Languages everyone tells you to read. At the top of my list is time and physical touch. At the bottom of my list is gifts. I think a big reason for this is even now I struggle with seeing a lot of gifts and the people who gave them to me are gone. The gift has outlived the relationship. So now I have a bunch of stuff around the house to remind me of what I’ve lost every single day.

I’m not a fan of gifts. I would rather have experiences. At least they get to live on in my memories, as bittersweet as those might be. Even if you crossed paths with someone who meant the world to you, you know the reality of it is you would never be able to trust them again.

In my photos, I kept running into pictures of her. I kept getting those reminders of how things were. How amazing it all was. I wondered if she even thinks of me anymore, or even considers what any of it meant. Or how bad it hurt when she left. I used to ask her where she had been all my life, and she would say, “Making sad choices.” Well, I had hoped that was all past tense. But I think she stuck with what she knew.

I might have friends who are yelling at the screen right now, “Just move on!” Well, this isn’t your grief! If you don’t like it, don’t read any further! I’m tired of writing things in hopes that people will like it or agree with it. I’m not writing for you anymore!

I don’t do happy endings. LIFE isn’t expected to, so why the hell should I?

I’m not just grieving the end of a relationship. I’m grieving the loss of myself. The end of an era. I’m not rioting or wearing facemasks and obsessively checking statistics on the CDC site in disbelief. No. I’m comfortable in my pain because it is familiar. I’m bored with it at this point. And I’m bored with trying to make anyone else happy.

When I think about the story I want to write, the words of Joe Lansdale come to mind. “Write like everyone you know is dead.” Now I know why Hemingway said writing is the loneliest profession. All your pals, all you family, lost loves…you can’t write like they are ever going to read it. Why? Because they are all dead.

I posited this question on Facebook today: I have an idea that would make for a great story. My only problem is I think it might make a lot of people hate me. Any suggestions? And if you are reading this, no it’s not about you.

The support was overwhelming. But I have to admit, that last sentence was a lie. It is about you. How could it not be? It’s about you because it’s about me and the rest of you get dragged along for the ride. Sorry about that.

I’m not writing this to give anyone else a happy ending. I write for me. If you need a happy ending, go pick up a Nicholas Sparks book. It’s pornography. If that makes me lonely and bitter, then you haven’t been paying attention for the last six years. I think all of that horseshit was prelude to this. I’m just tired. The world is falling apart, burning down, and I am lighting a cigar off the smolering wreckage–even though my doctor strongly advises against doing so. I’m tired of having to lie because it fits with the narrative everyone else bullshits themselves with, just to keep from putting a gun to their temples.

I don’t wear a mask in the grocery store, so why the hell am I wearing one when I write?!

I have been holding back a lot of pain these days because I try to fake that smile until it sticks. I have a few friends who have heard the story backwards and forwards. They’ve been there, and I appreciate them. But even I am starting to sound like a broken record. I hold back on the off chance that I don’t say the wrong thing and someone will hate me. Maybe a lost love will wake up and say, “I really miss him. What a mistake I made! Wow!” It hasn’t happened ever and it won’t. Once I’m out of someone’s life, I doubt they think of me at all. I still think about friends I had in Kindergarten, for fuck’s sake. I am cursed with a long memory and a sentimental heart. Well folks, bridges will be burned for good. But not for lack of trying on my part. Between my own kids and significant others, friends, and now my job, just let me make this perfectly fucking clear:

I didn’t leave. YOU did.

Maybe if I were more of an asshole, some of them would still be around. Because I tried…really fucking tried to use those rules. Or the one big one at least: Treat Others How You Would be Treated. Yeah, leaving somebody up shit creek isn’t my style, but I guess it was theirs. I’m tired of writing things in hopes that it will change anything. I’m tired of saying the right words so that other people will like me. Here’s two words on that matter:

I’m done.

Would you rather be rich and famous or well liked? Well, I’ve been liked and I’ve been poor and miserable. I’m not saying my writing is going to make me rich and famous, but if it did, I could at least see the difference for myself. Maybe it’s time to say fuck it and just get the words down. You see, all these years, I’ve had my ears and eyes open. Like a sponge, I’ve been taking it all in. Only it was as volatile as gasoline.

Now I’ve got a big old can full of gasoline in one hand, a lighter in the other, and a shit-load of bridges as far as the eye can see. Tomorrow, I will write with a pen dipped in hell. Tomorrow, it’s time to be fearless. Let’s see where the road leads.

Maybe the world isn’t ending, but it sure as fuck feels like mine has been. Now it’s time to write fearlessly–write like the world has ended.