The Road

As the road opens up in front of my eyes

The only limitation is in my mind

From the song, ‘The Road’ by The Alarm (songwriters Harry Macdonald / Jack Mc Allister)

Over the last week or so, I felt like I was sitting at the starting line waiting to take off and write but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t because the third book in my non-fiction trilogy didn’t have a title I liked (the one I had was too wordy though that’s now the subtitle) and I couldn’t think of anything shorter that would fit. Then the term ‘The Road’ came to me.

The Road is like the blank page writers face every day. It’s full of possibilities both good and bad. But the reason I needed a title for my writing book that I could use in a shorthand way was to put a lot of big ideas into one place.

My relationship to writing is complicated and that’s how the idea for my writing book began a couple of years ago. It’s a long story with twists and turns and a lot of knowledge that was acquired through a lot of hard work and struggle. Also, writing has been a form of therapy and recovery for me and that’s not an easy story to tell either.

But I think the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome is shutting out the dumb-ass voices and echoes of people wanting to berate me for making something much more complicated than it really is. These voices are dumb-asses because they haven’t done the work I have and put in the time and effort. I know not those shit-heads rule my life but like my other two projects in this trilogy of mine, I also know how hard it is to reduce those voices to just faint echoes.

I’ve been writing seriously since I was ten years old. That’s thirty-six years and a lot of things have happened writing-wise. I’ve seen the publishing side of the business go from print to digital and beyond. I’ve seen writing styles change and trends come and go. And in just the last four years alone, I’ve seen a reckoning among writers in real-time and in public. There’s quite a story to tell even from my tiny perspective.

I know I’ll have to work my ass off to tell this story in my own way and hope that it will work for both writers and people who don’t write more than a Facebook post or a grocery list. And I know there are people who won’t sneer at me for writing in depth like I will be doing. These are the people who are interested, and at times fascinated by the writing process. I wish it was all magical fairy tales but my writing experiences are more often than not like Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

The last eight months or so would have been impossible to endure for many people without creative outlets like books, movies, tv shows, and other forms of art and media. We’ve all struggled to get a hold of our racing thoughts and raging anxiety and if we’re lucky enough, we find a book or something creative that we can grab onto and use to pull ourselves out of the storm. I’ve wanted to be a part of that world of creative endeavors all my life and have had to fight the asshole-voices who said I couldn’t do it and was a fool to do so. I have to remember that those voices are in the minority and not in my daily life.

Today I will set out to re-outline the writing book and hopefully get a start on the introduction. With this writing book I hope to be able to explain what writing is really like when you commit yourself to it, what kind of work it takes to make something come together on a page, and what writing can reveal to you about yourself and the world you live in. Since this was the last of the trilogy I came up with, it’s fitting that it’s the last book to come together.

I do want to say this: if anyone reading this thinks that writing is easy… piss off. I don’t just dash stuff off here, proofread for typos, then go out and dance like an idiot or something. I care about what I write and how I write it, and I will not take any kind of shit for that. And for any writer reading this, don’t take shit for doing something you want to do, and love on occasion.

Like the song lyric I quoted above, the blank page is the road I take daily even though I haven’t always been able to put words onto the page itself. But like the song lyric also says, the only limitations are in your mind, voices and echoes and all. Those voices and echoes can fade if you get on the road and get those wheels turning, or face the blank page and get words on there.  

The Lack of Joy In Writing

Writing doesn’t bring me a lot of joy these days. There is no joy in me when I write about pain, suffering, and cruelty. I don’t get any joy from writing things that are painful and true.

So why do I write like this?

Because I have to is the first thought that comes to my mind. Because for me, not writing about what’s eating at me and occupying so much of my mental and emotional energy is like leaving an open wound to fester and grow infected. I used to try and bury stuff like this but I can’t do that anymore.

When I first started writing back in the era of MTV and leg-warmers, I did feel joy at putting words onto the page. I loved the feeling of those words pouring out of me, of being able to escape into my imaginary worlds. But as the MTV-and-leg-warmers era began to wane into Total Request Live and boy-bands, I wanted to do more with my writing. And that dear readers, is when writing started to get hard, and a lot of joy got lost that still hasn’t been found.

It was okay for me to piddle about writing fiction but wanting to write about political and social issues, or just any type of non-fiction writing… well I’d been told I couldn’t talk about politics and issues at all because I was an idiot, and that I was only good enough to write non-fiction that was sweet a bit clever. I have since come tor realize all this negative talk was total fucking bullshit. It was just people being loud-mouthed assholes because they knew what I wrote might be different from what they thought and felt and that was a bad thing.

I have never, ever wrote with the intent of using my writing as an axe to grind, win arguments, or prove a point. That’s never been my intent and it never will be. I write to express my thoughts and feelings, to share my observations of the world, and to tell stories both true and not-so-true (fiction). If anyone thinks otherwise, keep reading.

That loss of joy is not a bad thing. What I get in return is a feeling of accomplishment, of knowing I did the work myself and will continue to do so. Now I know with some people in this world who can’t see past the end of their own noses this is not a popular or acceptable feeling. To some people, this is a hard smack of selfishness and ego. It’s selfishness and ego if that’s the intent behind it, meaning writing is done just to deliberately inflict pain onto someone or the world in general. Hate speech and spin-bullshit-lying of right-wing disinformation campaigns is a shitty example of the ego and selfishness of its’ creators. But if that’s not your intent, and it’s sure as hell not my intent, then I reject that accusation of my writing as just an expression of selfish ego.

Did I know my writing life would come to this all those years ago? No. I knew it would be a lot of hard work to learn my craft as I’d been told from day one. What I didn’t know then, and what can only be learned with time and living, is how I could use writing to work through my own emotions, my own experiences, and yes, my pain. I’m not the first writer ever to use writing to sort out my own emotional and mental stuff. But I sure as hell won’t be the last.

This is why I don’t take it very well at all when someone says writing is easy, or worse, that’s it nothing but a public ego-stroke. If you think all these words came out perfectly as I typed them with no need for correction or revision, or that I didn’t think about them all… then you’re wrong because of what I’ve told you about the process here. To readers who make demands on writers to be a certain way or write in just a certain way… well I think Nora Roberts gave the best response to that: “Bite me.”

Now I’m sure someone might ask me, what gives me the right to make demands of my readers to examine their conscience, their thoughts and beliefs? No right, really. But I’m not asking anyone to conform to a certain way of thinking. I’m asking people to think of their own responses to my work as I have thought about mine and put them out there in my writing. It’s been demanded of me as a reader, and as a person and I have examined my conscience, and my thoughts and beliefs and come out a better person from what I’ve learned. I think the only real thing we can do is accept our differences without forcing someone to conform, or trying to diminish them as a person for being different to begin with.

Whenever someone decides to pursue something with all of their energy, whether it be writing, music, auto racing, or any activity really, they will be seen as different by some people. And sadly, some of those people will be complete and total fucking assholes. But as my later father was fond of saying, don’t the let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you. I’ve spent too much time and energy worrying about what some lame-brained ego-centric idiot might think instead of just doing something.

Not anymore.