The one thing I’ve always been able to count on is the ability to write. Even if it wasn’t the greatest writing on earth or even if it wasn’t as good as something things I had written in the past, the creative part of my soul has always hung with me. There was an interview with some guy who was once famous, very famous, and one day he just stopped writing. It was gone and it never came back, as if it was never there at all. He’s made a decent living reliving the past with old hits and wearing the same haircut he had when he was twenty, but he’s pushed over fifty now and the realization that it’s over has settled in. He talks about it. He talks about it far too much. I think he ought to get off his ass and get a life.
I don’t write for money and I’m not sure I could. This is what I do when I’m doing what I want to do. This is what I want to do whenever I’m doing anything else. I spend as much time writing as I do anything else except work and if they aren’t watching very closely I’ll crank up a computer at work and write until I have to stop. I certainly write more than I sleep and I wonder if I would sleep better if I didn’t write as much or if I stopped wanting to write as much as I do.
It’s 0051 right now, the dogs started barking and I knew sleep wasn’t going to happen so I got up to write what you are reading right now. I suspect very strongly that no matter what happens in my life there will be a moment when I sit down and write about it, “…that damn tree fell right on top of me and it’s hard as hell to write with one hand while being pinned to the ground waiting for someone with a chainsaw to happen along.” Yes, I fully expect something like that to happen. I’m like one of those people tweeting every moment of their lives but I use a thousand word essay instead.
The idea of being famous through creativity has taken down some good writers and good artists. There’s a very short period of time fame and glory lasts in today’s world. I remember a very young woman exclaiming her love for a boy band that was totally forgotten in less than two albums. One of the reoccurring signs of death in the career of a singer is to remake some old tune from some artist that has already stopped producing. It’s like getting milk from an old cow twice, as it were. I remember when Sheryl Crow sang ‘The First Cut is the Deepest” and the first thing I thought it was a sign of a decline. I’m willing to bet there are people twenty years old who have never heard of her.
Crow was one of those pop singers who tried to go country and didn’t make it. Michelle Branch’s country CD made me cringe. Then again, country music makes me cringe anyway. Oddly, it’s as formula driven as hip-hop and the fusion of the two, hick-hop, is surely one of the signs of a civilization in a serious decline.
So I wonder what will happen the first time I sit down to write about my latest bout with insomnia and nothing at all appears in front of me on the screen. Hemingway was driven mad by the idea that he was done, oh, and the fact he drank all the damn time. Papa was one of the best pure writers ever born and I really liked his work even if he was famous. I think Stephen King is a good writer but I don’t think he’s great. “The Stand” was his best work, arguably, but after that it was one thing after another that was the same thing. I’ve known people who think writers like King are evil because of all the weirdness that pours out of this minds but I think it’s fairly common for people to be drawn to the kind of horror King writes about. I’m writing a story right now about a man and his wife who gets talked into helping a serial killer escape from Death Row because the killer knows they killed the wife’s lover.
How many people would do something terrible to preserve their lives as they know it? If everyone was getting on the life boats in an orderly fashion and no one was freaking out, most people would just follow along. But let there be some sort of panic going on and it’s every man for himself. At the same time, let’s say a guy finds his wife in bed with her lover. In a moment of rage he hits the guy knocking him out. Then he pulls a gun, his wife tries to take it away from him, the gun accidently is fired and the lover is dead. Going to the police means jail time for someone, right? And the guy is already dead. So what to do? Hide the body and life goes on or come clean and hope for the best?
That’s the thing that drives good fiction; putting a character in a position where there’s no easy way out and all roads lead to Hell. It might be hard to stand with a woman who cheated on you but staying with a woman who helped you hide a body might be the beginning of something that made the both of you make it work out.
I think I will write all of this out a little more clearly in the lighter parts of the day. There’s a compulsion for me to write that has nothing to do with fortune or fame. If nothing else, there’s something inside that wants out, and as long as I have that I know there’s something there.