It’s hard out here for a blogger. I have so much to say, and yet, when I sit down at the blank page, I get to about “there once was a lady from Dallas” and I’m ready for the cooldown… maybe a beer or a cup of tea. Endurance is only partially my strong point. When I’m “in the zone,” I can concentrate for hours. It’s literally like Zeus giving birth to Athena- the words come out of my forehead and onto the page as if just pushing myself harder will move the writer’s block out of the way. Let me tell you, on the days when I’m not feeling inspired, that is a BIG DAMN BLOCK.
Writing is even harder when you’ve just read someone else’s work, and it’s as finely crafted a sentence as anything you’ve read in the last ten years. I subscribe to Esquire, because they tend to have a stable of writers (including David Sedaris) that knock my socks off. [Incidentally, you might want to pick up the July and August issues- they contain part 1 and part 2 of a novella written by Stephen King.] The July issue has a lot of fiction in it, and there’s one story called Ice by Colum McCann that literally made me lose my breath for a few seconds. Here are the haunting lines: The bed of their wagons was black with blood. It had fallen on the wheels too, so that their lives seemed to circle and turn beneath them.
Dear Jesus, how can I follow that? So succinct that the impact hits you like a 12 gauge kickback [RACK!]. Perfect synecdoche (naming the part for the whole, e.g. blood for life). It’s a grasp of the English language to which I aspire, so deeply and sincerely that it is my life’s work, no matter my daily occupation.
Speaking of which, my dad was the one who told me that… but he is not alone. So many poets and prose writers have worked in restaurants, sold insurance, anything to make ends meet… and they prefer it that way. Sitting in a locked tower with a typewriter is not being a writer. What do you possibly have to offer the world if there’s nothing to write about? To me, that’s the best take-home message that one writer can offer another.
Some of the best stories come from work, play, relationships… living life to the fullest. Of course, there are limits- don’t get fired for telling company secrets (like your hatred for the Asian Database Administrator). One of the best blogs I’ve ever read was called True Porn Clerk Stories- now available in paperback and Kindle editions. It’s the type of writing that will make you love your job more than anything in the world, because even if it’s bad, it’s not as bad (or at the very least, as weird) as this. What made Ali (TPCS author) so successful is that every word she wrote was absolutely true. She couldn’t have made it up if she tried.
So that’s where I am. Living life, collecting stories, and when I write, putting down Truth. What’s the difference between truth and Truth? Truth with a little t is something that’s true for you and you alone. Truth with a capital T is something that, when people read it, their hearts say to them, “I remember feeling like that!” Sometimes the reaction is more like, “I am sure that the writer is telling the truth, because there is nothing about him/her that screams “that never happened.”
Truth with a capital T also comes from the Deep South, because many of the stories we tell there have been so embellished that what really happened is long gone. But if the moral of the story is sound, it’s still true. In that way, truth and Truth are reactions, and neither of them are up to the writer. The writer is responsible for taking on the project and writing in such a way that whatever feeling they’re trying to elicit comes to the surface.