When done well, personal writing—fiction or nonfiction—requires death.
Its origins lie in finality; in confrontation with those things that ought to remain hidden, that have been painstakingly buried, written out of history. It’s not that in writing they mst be resurrected, but rather that in writing they return victorious, sneering, not the undead but the ever-living, the uncanny, malicious others that populate a frightening universe of strangers, foreigners, spies, and assassins.
There is one time and one time only when consequences no longer exist; that time is death. Writing comes in all shapes and sizes, but when the most real and important forms of writing are happening, it is consequences instead that are buried, written out of history entirely, as a matter of expedience.
Some say that good writing requires suffering, or sacrifice, or courage. Not true. It requires something both easier and more difficult: that you find—or allow yourself to find—the entrance to yourself, the one that you have not—despite everything—yet managed to completely and permanently close, but have at least managed to push to the farthest and most final reaches of life.
— § —
Thanks to NaNoWriMo and a collection of fortuitous circumtances, I had begun to approach that entrance, to wind my way toward it, throughout November.
I was nominally productive on everey writing front of my life, and what I wrote had begun, happily, to frighten me in some way—to give me pause.
But the Thanksgiving holidays came, and were a convenient excuse to save myself from things unknown, and my progress was interrupted. I slyly set up camp and bided time, “waiting” for a break in the storm of quotidia in which (I told myself) I would reclaim the path.
But with the break here, the path is lost, and I realize that I have been a liar.
I am back to where I started; as lost and far away from good writing as I was in October. The work must be redone. And, once again, the emotional mountains challenged.
— § —
There’s no time for good writing in the world anyway.
And it’s not clear that I could ever do it if there were.
And there’s no value in it anyway; it’s a narcissistic (or perhaps nihilistic) exercise.
But no doubt I’ll try again. That is, regrettably or fortuitously, where I am in life.
— § —
I suspect that if I’m to find my way again, it will involve music.
If there’s one thing missing from my life, it’s music. The reason is simple: the music that I have I have because it is true. But the father in me cannot face any truth. Those things that I know about the world are the things that I cannot bear, any longer, to know.
Music, of all things, takes me back.
But I cannot afford to go back.
And yet, at the same time, I will continue to try.
There is a paradox here that can’t be resolved. It’s not a moral riddle. It’s an insignificant tragedy.
— § —
Any innocence lost once must be lost again and again and again, the cycle repeated in perpetuity.
That is the nature of things.
If it weren’t, life would have no meaning. Since it is, meaning forever threatens life.
— § —
My daughter said tonight, suddenly, amidst bouts of wordless, unexplained tears: “I hate Christmas.”
All that is required to understand is the removal of the words. Take away the “I.” Take away the “hate.” Take away “Christmas.” Let the rest remain.
It pains me that she has felt it already. Everyone comes to parenthood convinced that they can hold off the storm forever, preserve something ineffable and invaluable ahead of its ever-raging front. But that which was not there to begin with can never hope to be preserved.
— § —
The equivalent adult line, thanks to Chris Cornell, goes:
There must be something good—far away, far away from here, far away…
— § —
You can turn out the lights, drink, smoke, wait until the wee hours, turn out page after page of nothing in particular. None of it helps you to write what you think. Because you must never, ever, ever admit to yourself what it is that you think.
Until you do.
And those of us with aspirations will continue to press on toward that day with all the naivete and resignation that the journey demands.
— § —
What can I say?
I grew up here.
Wanna go for a ride?