I’m free. I’m already free?
Every time a white, able bodied, English-speaking person has an “adventure”, a kitten loses a toe.
I’m thinking of the writers of the “beat” generation, white men who said “fuck it all” and set off to be free. Leaving behind families, of course. Wives who had to raise children all by themselves. And all the copycats who came after them, falling away through the decades. Wealthy, able-bodied young white man rejects privilege, has adventure.
I keep writing, and what itches me is this- Who gives a fuck about my story? Isn’t that me, one of the assholes? Privileged, running around in my own personal sandbox, which happens to be the wealthiest nation on earth?
God I’m such an asshole.
Heavenly father, my ego is flagging.
My life: I keep sleeping late, going to bed late, waking up at night and coughing, coughing for an hour. It’s a respiratory infection that keeps coming back, it’s been coming and going for four months, ever since I got caught in the rain on that fateful North Dakota freight train last fall. My friend’s house where I live now is awesome and there’s no mold to speak of, nothing to be allergic to. So I don’t know why I cough, and I have no money to run to my natropath in Sellwood where there are cob benches and broken wine-bottle mosaics on the streetcorners and have her cure me with a tender hand on my chest, listening to my lungs.
I wake late and feel a dull sort of bummer. I miss the mornings. I bike in the cold wet mist as far as I reasonably can and then hole up and poke at my novel in its glowing box that grows more buggy with each passing day, I bought this cheap dammed thing one year ago with a one year warranty and what with planned obsolescence I think that my coach is turning into a pumpkin, with all my hopes and dreams shrunken down inside. My dreams are pumpkin seeds.
And I don’t know anything about computers. I wish Lark was here.
It just crashes now, when I try to do stuff like upload photos to myspace or make nice art out of my stories at wordle.
I sit in a hard chair and eat cold beans (not from a can, cooked myself, transported in a Tupperware) and poke at my story and my ego starts to flag like an old helium balloon without any good bright sunshine. But it’s not the sunshine, at least for me. It’s something like boredom, something wrong with my brain where it misinterprets boredom for some sort of tragedy and starts dropping little seed-ideas in the overgrown lots of my brain that I used to use to do shit jobs and the seeds grow into full-blown ideas about moving to Florida or New Mexico, even though I’ve thumbed that choose-your-own-adventure book with TRAVEL written on the spine until the cover fell off and there were no corners left and I know that there’s nowhere else I want to go. Because I’ve fucking checked, is why.
This is where I want to be. I KNOW that. So why can’t I just CHILL OUT for a few goddam months or maybe a year now and then?
What really happened is that I took the helium balloon of my ego by the string and the two of us interspersed working on my novel with long stints reading chapters from my new Guide To Literary Agents where it tells you that the world is hell and publishing is satan incarnate and nothing is sacred and your art is not your own unless you want to starve to death and how can you make art if you’re starving to death and it was like the one time I was hitch-hiking to Alaska sleeping in a tent in the muskeg and I figured it’d be a good idea to only read books of bear attack stories.
NOT A GOOD IDEA.
By the time I shut that book today in the warm florescent halls of a university I will never go to, my heart had broken. I could feel the helium balloon shrinking like a bike tire after you’d run over one two many broken beer bottles in the bike lane.
I NEEDED that ego to carry me through to the end. Keeping it up was exhausting, I had to carry a foot pump under my stonewash denim jacket and work it all day long.
I NEEDED those delusions of grandeur.
It’s the only way to be a writer. But god, keeping up an ego like that is exhausting.
I don’t know how hiphop stars do it. Maybe I should do cocaine? But won’t that mess up my perfect precious wonderful sleep? Maybe I should wear diamonds? Magic sparkling crystals of power?
Where would I get diamonds?
Truth is, in the cold light of afternoon I feel like the beat poet runaway-and-be-free god-the-road-is-crazy let-me-tell-you-about-this-one-time horse has been beat to death for about fifty years now. That’s how I feel.
And I feel like my stories are just stories, just as good as they are, stupid dumb stories about my stupid dumb first-person life that’s not a revolution. It’s just me dancing around on a lot of littler people I can’t see.
This is why only some people write books. This is the secret Last Test, where you stand between the tall stone pillars and the stone gargoyles way up high may open their eyes all the way and shoot you with lasers, or they may not. And if they do shoot you with lasers your ego is gone forever, Poof! Just like that! And you end up as a teacher. (no offense to teachers. They were the only parents I ever had.)
My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, at Baxter Elementary in Anchorage, AK, in 1991 (does she still exist? Can I use the powers of Google to summon her to this blog, just by typing her name? Do old people google themselves?): What do you want to be when you grow up?
Me, stacking chairs for her after school so she’ll give me candy: I want to be a writer.
Mrs. Robinson, handing me a piece of candy: I wanted to be a writer too. But I became a teacher instead.
I eat the candy.
Mrs. Robinson, looking at me, very serious: Be a writer. Don’t be a teacher. NEVER ever become a teacher.
Me, filing away for all eternity: Ok.
What do I do.
15 thoughts on “It’s FUN to write a thing like no-one is going to read it and then go ahead and post it on your blog”
I just finished “You Can’t Go Home Again” by Thomas Wolfe, and if you feel like slogging through occasional but vast tracts of stinking racist/misogynistic/homophobic mud to get to some really pretty amazing thoughts of an impassioned and driven writer, then I can, in good conscience, suggest the book to you.
Something I swear I read just this morning:
“When I tried hitch-hiking after reading Kerouac’s ‘On The Road,’ I got picked up and at gunpoint had to give someone a handjob.”
Ah, the ego is a blessing in disguise, like a polytheistic/animalist voice producing insanity or divinity within the writer. It’s funny when you are in the in-between mind, the every day routine, allowing dreams to fall like acorns onto your tilled soil, just waiting for that thought, that energy. I want to be on fire or sleeping, I want to be revealing some kind of truth or escaping what truth is…?? I’ve tried to let loose of my mechanical rhythmic hand in an effort to write what’s real. You inspire me to just listen and observe the process, beautiful or not…
Jasper- We use commas the same way! I freakin love it.
Davka- That is so incredibly amazing. It’s true, it’s true! Kerouac was an idiot and a so-so writer, and I curse his stupid paperbacks!
Anon- It’s not so hard to break through to the writing place. It helps if you’re not worn to the bone by a full time job. Seriously. But even then, alot of folks manage it. Just practice writing secrets that you would never want anyone to know, and then publish them on your blog. That’s what I do when I run out of ideas.
Sequoia- I really appreciated your long-winded comment and I know what you’re trying to say but I had to delete it because in order to justify not feeling guilty about your privilege you used the same rant that my grandpa used to use when he was feeling particularly spiteful and racist. Hope you understand. And whether or not we “pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps”, we still benefit from being read as white every single minute of every single day of our lives. You know? That’s all I’m getting at. And actually, questioning my motives and taking these long hard sorts of looks at myself is a very healthy thing for me to do and will actually make it easier for me to use my powers for some sort of real good at some point, not just what I, in my naivety, perceive as good.
hey carrot, you can delete this comment too, its your blog your little bubble, the original comment was for you and not necessarily for everyone else anyways.
you don’t know me, but trust me, I’m not racist. My mom was friends with black panther activists, my mom learned Spanish and taught me so that we could communicate with our Costa Rican neighbors. My babysitters were all Indian and taught my mother how to sew her own saris. There are many other examples I could give you, but I don’t need to “prove” that I’m not racist. But lets just put it this way: I grew up the friendliest race relations household ever.
I think it depends on where you live to truly benefit from being read as white. I didn’t benefit from it when I was looking for gov’t programs as a runaway because I was told frankly that I was “the wrong color”. I didn’t benefit when was I was literally run off the school bus because I was the wrong color. I don’t benefit from it when I’m trying to connect with a culture from my heritage and I’m too white to do that. I didn’t benefit from it.
I thought my comment was pretty balanced when I also talked about the poor white folk in trailer parks. But I guess it wasn’t read that way.
Its good to take long hard looks at yourself, of course. All I was saying was that you have no reason to feel guilty.
lolz, ok don’t read the post I just made where I said I liked Kerouac.
In my defense, I’m too dumb to know good writing when I see it. I’m like someone trying to learn how to cook and watching Rachel Ray just because she’s famous and on TV 25 hours a day.
But I’m not dumb enough to get all riled up and go hitch-hiking just because I read about it in a book, that’s pretty hilarious.
Bad shit happens when you pretend to be someone you’re not.
“Love the moment. Flowers grow out of dark moments…” Corita Kent
“the revolution” happens every single day in our lives, slowly, over time. revolutions are personal and the sharing of stories is timeless and very valuable. you were born to be a story teller whether you like it or not, you can’t live without it. this right now is your venue. i understand everything you say about the ego, but i like healthy egos. i enjoy the egos of some hip hop stars, especially those that are confident in their subversiveness, however slight.
I love the self-obsessed of Frida Kahlo because she looks very deeply inward and shares with us a mirror to a very shattered body/soul and a vulnerable broken heart- the wounded healer.
your stories are very important and valid because they are yours. you’re a woman doing what only men get noticed for- like the movie Into The Wild. There are women who do that every year, but aren’t guys and don’t freeze You are a kind of Jack Kerouac but with a real voice who cares about something and actually says something. I loved Kerouac when I was younger. I would have loved you more. Give your story to all the little girls out there who are having male white hero journeys shoved down their throats and need to be told that mommy may be sick and the world may want to hurt you, but you can live differently. your voice is precious.
“live! and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.” -Gwendolyn Brooks
Have your blooming, your young ego, your journey, your authentic voice, your story telling. enjoy it.
carrot, we are so young- we can’t be too hard on ourselves. it’s ok for us to enjoy our gifts and our voices.
Roving- it’s not dumb to like Kerouac. I just have a personal vendetta against him, for hogging all the attention and being a misogynist.
Davka- I know my stories are important. I realized that today, after typing up an anti-Kerouac feminist adventure reading list (which I will post tomorrow) and then realizing how sparse it was. Yes, we are all better than Kerouac. But it’s so much fun to rip into him!
oh, yes, do rip into him, do!
Ah the ego… Nothing wrong with having it help you out a bit here and there… just know that it’s NOT you… the YOU that recognizes your ego is the true you.
And your stories are whatever they happen to be to the people that read them. You can keep them to yourself, or allow us to get something from them. It’s your choice. I hope you choose to let us experience them.
i find most ego talk and ego-bashing to be very disassociative and depersonalized. my ego is me! my body is me! my dreams and doings are me and it is all so real, real, real- abundance. not emptiness.
ok i’ll go write about this on my blog now. carrot, your blog is like a bathroom wall full of sharpie graffiti conversations and debates.
I used to feel guilty for hating Karouac.
Your stories are so important tho. Your writing is the way I imagine art in a healthy culture should be – it’s an adventure and you’re an awesome hero, and it reinforces healthy stuff and brings attention to stuff that needs attention brought to it. If everyone in middle class america read your blog it would change the world.
But, me too. Now that I don’t have daily blog compliments, my writing ego is having an identity crisis.
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