Monday, May 02, 2005

Don't Bother Me, I'm Not Writing

Wife and I have had a guest the past week, which provides a great excuse for not writing, be it fiction, blog, e-mail, or in the journal. That’s why I haven’t posted anything here or surfed the Web fantastic to steal ideas from other blogs.

That the guest happens to be my mother-in-law is even a better excuse. No, I get along great with my in-laws, who are wonderful folk, but that our guest is family means that I'm supposed to be spending every free moment with her, even though, in this case, the guest happens to be parked in the kitchen, cooking non-stop (I'll explain another time).

Procrastination is the scribbler's eternal enemy. A writer was once asked for a magazine story what was his favorite means of procrastination. “Stupid magazine interviews like this one,” he said.

There aren’t any magazines asking for my opinions on procrastination, in-laws, or anything else of note. Still, I really should be writing more. It gnaws at my soul. I've been conditioned, you see. That's because, as a writer of fiction, you are told repeatedly the reason for your existence. That ethos one can be summed up in one sentence: If you don’t write every day, you’ll die.

The corollary to that rule is if you don’t feel that way, you’re not a real writer. Writers live to write, and that is all that should matter.

Couldn't agree more

This worldview took a serious hit a few years ago. I was at a writers' conference, and this blowhard teacher told the class that every single day he locks himself in his room for three hours to write. "I am not to be disturbed under any circumstance," he said, rather breathlessly. Why? Because he is a Serious Artist writing Serious Fiction to be Read Seriously. What about an emergency? Could he be bothered with the news that Junior got hit by a truck? No, he said. Don’t interrupt me, ever. I am writing Literature.

Nothing was going to stop this guy: not visiting in-laws, not family emergencies, not a tsunami wrecking his home. He will work undisturbed for three hours. Because. He. Is. A. Writer.

But I knew he’d stop writing when his dick fell off from gangrene, which happens when you beat off three hours a day.

I lack such discipline (for writing, that is). TV works its magic with an evil subtlety. Why write when there’s a Law & Order marathon on! Even though I’ve already seen each goddamn episode twice? Hey, is that MXC? South Park? WWE? And what about the VH1 “I Love the 70s80s90s” back-to-back-to –back-to-eternity-and-nihilism? The warmth of the blue glow beckons me like the sirens.

Then there’s the Web. Write that story that’s been nagging at me for 13 years? Hell no -- surf’s up! I’ll check out the Web for news, Cubs lowlights, N.Y. real prices, porn, you name it. Haven’t heard that Pat O’Brien phonesex voicemail. Gotta hear it. Haven't seen the "Dancing Baby" video in quite some time. Why the hell not? Just as long as I don't have to write.

And then there’s completely pointless computer work, the stupidest reason to procrastinate. This is what guys (like myself) who don’t own a car do instead of work on the car. I’ll install a few new programs, make sure that the RAM is OK and test out some new equipment, like a remote scanner on a network that I’ll never use. Hey, how about working on that iMovie of our vacation just a little more, even though nobody wants to see it?

Eventually, though, I go back to the pen. I go back to banging my head against the wall, pressing out line after line of stunted prose that sometimes add up into a story. I’ll write and rewrite and rewrite until I’ve just about lost all hope in humanity. Then I’ll send it to a lit mag, which will reject it. And then I start all over again.

But don’t feel sorry for me, really. It’s the life I’ve chosen, and it’s not all bad. I may not be a Serious Writer with Serious Ambition, but I have managed to craft a few choice paragraphs here and there. It's enough to be proud of, put on the tombstone.

In fact, Wife and her mother are in the living room right now, sitting on the couch, watching Judging Amy. Move over.