Friday, April 13, 2012


I haven't thought about writing anything of length for some time. I wrote a novel then put it in a drawer-- I am glad it has stayed there, as I can't identify with it anymore, and I feel its existence is akin to what The Onion AV Club writer Steven Hyden wrote concerning the legacy of Metallica's St. Anger: "[It] can be likened to a bucket of vomit: It came out of a sick organism, it is composed of unsavory materials, and seemingly had to expunged for the good of the organism...The end result is a necessary byproduct of a healthy process, but that doesn’t mean you want to be near it. After all, this is a bucket of vomit we’re talking about here."

I wouldn't say that that the product of my first concentrated creative effort is particularly vomitous, or that it deserves to be lumped in with Metallica's most notorious sonic turd-- after all, my book is in a metaphorical drawer. Like three people have seen it, one of whom I believe discovered it on the back of a toilet in an apartment in London, of all places, courtesy of my old college roommate. Furthermore, as an artifact of a creative entity attempting to rediscover its relevance and artistic fire, St. Anger is actually fairly compelling. On paper. Keep that shit out of my ears.

My first novel was a necessary expulsion of thoughts and ideas that needed to occur before I could make an attempt at "crafting" a story. That would happen in my second book. Of course, the writing of my second book ended at about 80 pages or so with the commencement of my third book, which itself lasted for about 20 pages until the start of that year's NaNo, which saw the start of a fourth book.

What the hell was I doing? In seems in having vomited out my first novel I also expelled my hunger to tell a complete story-- I was more interested in the journey. I apparently took Ann Lamott's advice a little too literally:

"E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."

I loved this. This gave me license to be aimless. Indeed, I enjoyed every sight along the way, but at some point I ran out of gas, and my cellphone was dead so I couldn't call for a ride, and so I had to hoof it to the nearest gas station which was like ten miles away but when I got there the girl at the counter was a bitch and wouldn't let me use the phone because it would be a long distance call and she'd get in trouble so I had to keep walking. Now, I'm where? Still walking.

The thing about walking is you pass things so much more slowly. If you see an interesting tree while driving, you have just a few seconds to make sense of it. If you pass a tree walking, you are free to observe. You can see people's lawns with a clarity those lawns are largely unsuited for-- people do really weird things to their lawns. One house I pass on my way to work has so much shit in the yard that I see something new every time I pass-- was that a pinball machine?-- and can never get a full sense of it. Coming at it on foot at long last, I know I am in for a mental adventure. It may not entertain anyone to hear the story of the few minutes I spent staring at this lady's crazy lawn; but it nonetheless became a story that felt valuable.

What is life like post-vomit?

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