I’ve always been the guy who turns left at the “Right Turn Only” sign. I’m not a sociopath; I just don’t recognize the authority of other people’s lessons for my life. If I only walk the path you’ve gone, I can only end up where you’re going.
Sometimes the few people who discuss writing with me in person ask why I write. They never understand my answer, which is writing is irrelevant. It’s more that this is a valve I can open and let all the bad humours out. You artists know what I mean, right? Write, sketch, photograph, paint … whatever. The point is to get the stuff that’s in to look the same when it’s out. I know that I see the world differently than everyone else. I’ve been told that enough. One ex-girlfriend (and still friend) likes to remind me my “brain is in sideways.” I don’t try to be different any more than I try to be male. I just am.
What I mean by all of this is that I’ve always read that a writer’s website should be professional, polished, and show his/her best stuff. Most writers I’ve seen keep to that mantra in some way, whether they are writing about their work, writing reviews, or just instructing scores of other writers how to write. Shit, how the hell do I know how to write? You sit down in front of the computer, find the characters, know where they are, and then try like hell to get out of the way. If at some point you find your self interested and wondering what the heck they’re going to do next, you’ve done your job. If you find yourself leading the action, you’re probably stomping all over your story’s furniture.
So what I do here is really different. Most of the stuff I post, I edit after I post it. Some of the work – the excerpts, some poems, have been finished and polished. The stuff people respond to, however, isn’t. I just — and you can quote me here on the process — make shit up. That’s it. When I’m in photography mode, I aim my camera at stuff and push the button. People ask me what I shoot. My answer, “Whatever’s there.” It works that way with writing and poetry too. I encounter things every day that put ideas in my head. Sometimes they are videos (which have led to books), sometimes photos (which have become stories). Other times they are bits of conversation or just wild ideas. They go in, and when you start to write, this grand milieu begins to take shape. Like photography, the real magic begins after you’ve gotten it down, during editing. That’s when you keep tweaking it until it looks on the computer like it did in your subconscious.
Don’t worry that you don’t know how it looked in your head. You aren’t supposed to. But trust that you’ll know it when you see it. Then be prepared to be surprised when people like the things you hated and ignore the stuff you thought was genius. That’s the fun part; it’s how you learn what you’re good at. Rarely, if you’re lucky, you begin to be good at what you hoped. I think this is how it works anyway.
I am just reaching that stage, after writing over half a million words of fiction over the last 3 1/2 years. People are coming to me asking about my characters. That is all I wanted to get out of writing – to create characters people care about. (That and maybe to see myself quoted one day before I die, so I can see what I said that made a difference.)
So, with that in mind, I will continue to throw unfinished and unpolished work here, in the hopes that some people are encouraged to see it’s a journey. Genius is a fiction written by those who didn’t want to do the work. The real mastery is in repetition of a single task – getting out of yourself what needs to be out, and keeping inside what doesn’t belong in the work.
See? This post was supposed to be a poem. Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow, if I don’t delete it tonight.