I have as much control as to what forms in my head that is supposed to come out as writing as I do what form my sweat takes when it arrives on my skin. Actually, I could stop working out, stop working in the yard, stop going to work, and stop being around women who move me, and I could stop sweating. That would be difficult and I would not like it. I’m not sure what I could do to make me stop writing but I am sure I would hate it.
At four thirty on Saturday morning I woke up, started writing, and about five thousand words later something that had arrived in my head just that very morning was down in text. I’ll rewrite it, edit the hell out it, rewrite it again, and then I am not going to show it to you because letting it out into the wild would make quite a number of people uneasy.
This is not my fault.
I did not sit down in the cold and dark on a Saturday morning and decide what I was going to write. I fueled up on coffee and began. It was there and I let it out. That you can blame me for if you wish, I really don’t care either way, but trust me when I say, this one, like most, was not planned. Most of what I write isn’t planned when it comes to this sort of thing but I usually have some warning. Usually, a few days before something gets here I can feel it. You’ve forgotten a name or forgotten where you put something and knew, really knew, you were on the verge of remembering, you’ve done that haven’t you? Well, usually, when something wants to be written it will start circling my mind like a lost noun and then suddenly I’ll start feeling an outline then I’ll know about what it is. When I start writing all becomes clear, mostly, but there are some cases where I get half way through and it just dries up. Then there is Saturday morning.
I never question anything that appears. I’m a doorman not a bouncer, Jim. I open the door and let an idea in and do my best to entertain it. The way I figure it is that even a bad idea might need a friend or, hell, it might have a friend, and that way I can meet a better idea. That does work. Sometimes, it doesn’t but hey! Who I am I to judge?
Let me put this another way; suppose you were in love with someone and they had been gone for a month and the night they came back you were all alone with them in a very nice, comfortable, bed. It isn’t likely you’d sit down with your partner and plot out some sort of strategy for the evening’s activities but rather you’d just go with the flow of whatever felt right and righteous in the moment. Later. Hopefully much, much, later, you would stagger to the refrigerator, holding onto the doorjamb as you tried to make your way into the kitchen for some water, and think, “Oh yeah, now that was fucking good” and you might not even realize there was a pun there, it was so very good.
Writing is like sex in that sometimes no plan is the plan and whatever happens is something that you just have to hang onto. Now, you might hesitate in walking into a conversation at your local coffee shop where your friends are hanging out and suddenly blurt out the details of what had happened the night before. And it is a shame, really. There are some people who desperately need to know what the human body can do under the right stimuli and some of them will die not knowing. That is a crime. All their lives they’ve lived off carrot sticks and celery stalks and they have no idea that sushi exists. No one has ever cooked them a roast with Rosemary for them and served hot apple pie for dessert.
The problem is there are Vegans out there who would be shocked and appalled by roast for dinner and they have every right on earth to be appalled. You’re supposed to know the person you’re with well enough to know whether to slap some meat on the table or go with some pomegranate. Most of the people who know me know me as someone who writes about dogs and coffee and the things I did in my past that are supposed to be sunny so when I drag out some of the darker stuff I’ve written it’s disconcerting. So I try not to scare people for this very reason.
Sometimes, when I’m editing, and yes, believe it or not, I do try editing, try not to faint, I’ll look at something and wonder if I should take it out, leave it in, modify it in some way, and the process of tweaking begins. If I was writing about an incident where hundreds and hundreds of people die horribly I might try to leave out the scenes of individual agony. After all, isn’t that just creepy as hell? Well, look at the movie, “Titanic” and the famous “Propeller Man scene”. Oh, but that’s different, huh?
Even with masses and masses of dead bodies floating around very few people stop to consider the carnage of “Titanic” but at the same time they cringe like hell at the opening twenty minutes of “Saving Private Ryan”
Even though both were stories that were written about actual events, the scenes themselves are fiction; someone wrote those scenes. Has anyone ever sat around and thought, “Gee, that guy who wrote “Titanic” must be truly sick and evil!”, no, because most people see beyond the floaters and the panic and dying, and even Celine Dion’s voice, to see a love story.
As someone who likes to write I struggle with what to show the audience in a story and what to leave to their imaginations. I try to have someone walk into a room, leave white as a sheet, yet not have any images in their mind to relate, and let the reader’s mind run rampant. But if you knew there was some guy in that room with a serial killer then you’d begin to have thoughts you’d rather not write down and share with your friends and family.
Or, if you are a writer, maybe you would.
This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you. I tell people who are just starting out that they are going to write outside the box, they are going to have stories that ought not be told, and they are going to edit their material so they won’t scare the hell out of whoever it is that sleeps with that writer at night. There are entire genres of writing based deeply on the darkside of human nature and most of the writers that write that stuff are as normal as white bread and peanut butter sandwiches with calamari on the side.
There are those who don’t write. You have a choice. You don’t write. Those of us who do write have fewer choices. For good or evil we have to pay homage to the Muse and sometimes it isn’t pretty. If you want to write, or you think you know someone who wants to write, you better understand that what you get and what you want might be two totally different animals. And they do not come with leashes.
For my part, I let them run.
Welcome to the darkside. We fucking have cookies.