Like Edna Ferber, I also think that life itself is my partner and everyone else is a mistress, because we’re both writers. Here is what every writer in the world has in common, whether it’s keeping a journal and writing for yourself, or inviting the world into your crazy. It isn’t something we do. It is a comprehensive response to life. Therefore, I live just as much on the Internet as I do in front of actual people, just in different ways.

I am not just a great writer when I’m thinking in longhand to all of you. I make people laugh with my letters as well, and it brings us closer. Even well-timed jokes on someone’s Facebook post count if you get the desired reaction.

“Great writer” is relative. When people don’t understand you, it’s devastating. When you hurt someone meaning to help them, you bleed. I have a tattoo of a quill on my forearm dripping blood. It’s the idea that when I write, I cut myself open and look at it. We all do, even in fiction.

I do not feel like a great writer today, and that is not an uncommon occurrence. Dorothy Parker rescues me when I need her, as does Ernest Hemingway. I look back over my entries and say “that wasn’t terrible. That was fancy terrible. With raisins in it.” I also have a button that says “the first draft of everything is shit.”

I’m sorry you get all my rough drafts. I look forward to releasing something that will show you why I got As on every paper I ever wrote except my own senior thesis, but I got an A on my girlfriend’s that year… from the same teacher. How in the hell she couldn’t tell that someone went from constant misspellings to referencing books that her student couldn’t possibly have read and didn’t notice that the style didn’t change from one kid to the one she was, um.

The tragedy is how much I didn’t care that I got a C on mine.

I went to college, but I didn’t graduate. It was a mistake, and maybe one day I’ll rectify that if I actually need letters for something. I’m not one of those people that relies on a degree when by now I have 20 years of experience, including IT if I wanted to go back. I just don’t. I can’t handle the pressure of a full-time job and tuition because my ADHD is so bad that I know it from experience. It makes me terrible at both, except Constitutional Law because it blew my mind and my friends were also into it, trying to exceed all expectations of us as we navigated it together.

I won by only half paying attention and half recording every word the professor said and giving my group members a transcript of every lecture. I wish I still had them, because it was full of great lines like “the Supreme Court is nothing but nine guys in robes.” He was talking about how there are no standards, not even a high school diploma about being a judge who sits on it. I would have chosen a few doctors by now, but that’s just me. You can’t tell me that Michael Chrichton wouldn’t have been the greatest Supreme Court judge who ever lived, that we wouldn’t all hang on his decisions like they were coke. So many more people would have gotten into it, especially if he’d been able to publish his opinions on the Internet. You could say the same about John Grisham. No one can tell me that we as a country wouldn’t be collectively obsessed with opinion crack because of the way they were written.

It was a mistake because I was a second semester junior and would have started my senior year when Kathleen and I moved to Alexandria. I have so many good memories of being in Virginia, but Kat wasn’t one of them. Because I had a full time job, I paid her rent the entire time we lived in Houston. She promised me that when we got to Virginia, I could start at George Mason, basically across the street from her office. You can’t believe how fast that didn’t pan out.

I then proceeded to upend my entire life in a bad way, because I hadn’t really been in the DC area long enough to put down deep roots, and I definitely couldn’t afford to live in DC on my own and couldn’t find a roommate that fast, so I just went back to Houston.

I was writing on Clever Title the whole time, and I never bothered to tell her how big it was. I don’t mean that she didn’t understand why it was important to me, although she didn’t understand that, either. She didn’t realize that real writers knew who I was. She would absolutely freak the fuck out to know that Margaret Cho retweeted my marriage article and sent me hearts when I told her thank you, that her reading me was Goliath reading David.

It’s only her favorite comedian in the world.

If you’ll allow me a second of schadenfreude, her favorite comedian also knows that my reaction to Dana was joy, and my reaction to her was not. 😛 She was the relationship you get when you want your feelings about yourself reflected back to you. When you feel the most worthless, they’re standing by to reinforce it………………

It’s just a blessing that this is all that’s left of her in my memory. DC mattered. She didn’t. End of story.

I’m just in a better place all around. I’ve lived in the same house since I got here because I figured I could live anywhere for a month if it didn’t work out, and joke that I’m glad that Hayat picked me up at the Metro because if she hadn’t, I’d still be there. It has allowed me to breathe, this staying in one place until my emotional support was strong.

Sometimes I have problems being emotionally strong, but I am the type of person that if you agree to safety net me, you can ask me for anything, even in the middle of the night. It is a two-way street, always, and in no way have I ever expected that of anyone. If someone says they don’t have the bandwidth, I turn my energy to someone else who does. What I do expect is that I will take on all your emotions when you’re the one who’s having a moment. I will just want to relieve you of everything so that you have the courage to say what you need to say.

One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever gotten from anyone came from my beautiful girl, “looking inside yourself isn’t for sissies.” No, it is not. I cry and shake and feel tormented just like painters and actors. I am not certain that it comes across as art, blogging, but that’s what it is. It’s my way of reflecting the world, and letting the world shine through me.

Writers also tell secrets without telling them because they aren’t aware of it at the time. You can make up a million different characters, but your life story will be told with them. John Le Carre revealed so much more than technical data writing George Smiley. Jonna Mendez leaves breadcrumbs for those who are ready to hear it.

The difference between them and me is that I write about my real life, and they do, too, with caveats. One does it through the emotions of a fictional operative, and the other does it by talking about the real world and if you’ve read media accounts, you can also pick up what she’s not saying. For instance, in the latest Spy Support video, she talks about how you have a choice to make whether you tell people you work for CIA or not, so generally you tell your family because it’s hard managing your cover(s) at home.

Then, she looks at the camera and says, “it’s your friends who are the problem.”

The way she looked at the camera made her pain so evident and real, and I thought, “there’s a story there.”

It made me want to double down on not talking about Zac at all, and then I realized that there were going to be things I’d mention that had nothing to do with that life, that I was never going to say which agency he worked for except that he knows things about every agency because he sees that data and makes sure it gets to the right people. I also misspoke the other day when I said that his job had been intelligence “since the Navy.” He’s a reservist. What I meant was since he enlisted at 18, he’s been in that world. We talk around many things because I am naturally curious about the current chessboard. It makes me excited to hear even the thing around the thing so I can research it on my own.

“The thing around the thing” is large, no matter what area of the world we’re talking about. Conversations that are truly exciting because we’re not talking about something micro. It’s macro, both in economic terms and world view. It gets me out of my head.

It also makes me a better writer, getting out of my head. I tend to navel-gaze because that’s what my personality does. We are hard-wired to look at the world because we are driven to improve it… but we know we can’t, so we lead by example.

It’s how I know I have the ability to be a great writer someday, as long as I keep practicing my art.


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