Great American Bullshit

Posted 6/27/2009 by WHayes in Labels: , , , , , , , , ,
So here's the skinny: for the past 40 days, I've been holed up in my fathers house in Houston, TX, counting down until I leave for Los Angeles, trying to pen outlines and draft chapters to what I hope would be my best "early works," four "great American stories" about love, loss, lust, and lots of murder.

I'd like to think the ideas themselves are pretty unique. As an unabashed nerd, in love with blue-collar science fiction and theoretical physics (but lacking the math skills to be a physicist), I nurtured story concepts rooted in a second Civil War, stem-cell re-grown limbs for sports stars, a teenage runaway who sweats LSD, and a boy who loves a girl he's never met, but whose mind he can read like watching shadow puppets on a wall (the magic of quantum entanglement -- yes these ideas have been copyrighted). I aim to infuse each project with enough originality and artistry and even personality (mine) so that at the end of the day, I'll create a product I'm not only proud of, but one which will be enjoyed by the likes of you too. As I told a girlfriend once, "I really want to be a great writer." (I may have used some phrasing like "literary mind" or "literary genius," but the point is the same)

The truth, and the problem, lies in her succinct answer to my fantasy, "but you aren't." If this is the case, and I have no idea how valid either her criticism or my confidence is, then I only have two questions to ask myself: 1) why do I care? and 2) how do I achieve this goal?

What makes me want to be a great writer is best summed up as a combination of childhood aspiration (some form of which all of us still feel), admiration for a number of authors I admire, and good, old-fashioned human envy: we all want to be what we desire; a drive which increases in concord to the amount of opposition we face impeding our transformation into that goal. The more we perceive people telling us we cannot be, we look to the people who are doing and casually mumble "fuck you guys" in their direction while trying to unseat them even harder.

Here we'll pause for a tangential, but connected anecdote. A weekend ago, Darryl Ratcliff took me on a 36 hour grand tour of Dallas, TX and its surrounding counties. It was a booze-soaked art-orgy full of interesting people, brotherly charity, amazing conversation, and beautiful women. Many of these women happened to be artists, and at one point I found myself in a house full of creative minds, all there to celebrate a daughters admission into a rather good graduate program somewhere up North. There was something hilarious and even fatalist about being in a room full of artists. Its effectively the same feeling you'd get on the first day of 7th grade gym class, within 24 hours of class time at Davidson College, or when finally realizing that, yes, that other guy can make her cum too: suddenly, you feel somewhat hopeful that others like you exist, but mostly just shitty, because now you know you aren't nearly as special as you imagined. This is a problem with Gen-Y babies: we caught the waning end of the "you can do anything" brand of parenting, and the beginning of the paranoid-about-the-probables 90's. Case in point? Cookie "Sometimes" Cookie Monster. We were no longer told "yes you can," but instead "yeah, you could, but Joe Institution might sue/expel/harm/rape you." This is part of why I can walk into a social situation which would infuse Darryl with drive and confidence, and instead feel out of place, and as though I should search out a convenient cubicle instead of expressive celluloid: we're the diverse products of an evolving American mentality, and throughout my development, I've always psyched myself into assimilating a lot of mixed messages. Sometimes I don't perceive moments as being as special and unique as they truly are.

So, if the above paragraph examines why, then what about how? Well clearly, there's a reason why, with anyone who produces (not in the Hollywood sense), the first chapters of their life are called "early works." They're precisely that: early, imperfect, and maybe even just plain bad. Even William Faulkner wrote some pure bullshit before strapping in to write Absalom, Absalom! The daughter benefiting from the above party displayed a few of her best pieces in a mini-gallery attached to the event, but as a whole, my general reaction to her work was simply "meh." This does not mean she isn't, or won't be a talented artist, just as my Gen-Y, Yorrick Brown-esque (if you get that one, I'll marry you) anxiety doesn't mean I can't become the writer I want to be. Early works stay early if you stop practicing, stop growing.

To either side of me lay copies of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and Charles Bukowski's Septuagenarian Stew. Chuck Klosterman's IV is in my Amazon wishlist, and I just finished Paul Pope's complete bibliography. "Fuck you guys," I'll say. "I need to go write."

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