I just found a box of my writing from 1998 to 2005. If I had any spare time I’d look through it. I’m not a great writer. I’m a fan, I suppose. I opened the box, read a syntactically tortured essay on Marxism, glanced at a masterfully wrought sestina about a civil war gun, saw a faded photocopy of an image of a bear digging in campground trash, read ” interviewer invited David to sit in the future employee lounge ” [emphasis mine] and closed it back up. There are stories in there. Histories. Glosses of journals I kept for years. The style I adopted during that period leaned heavily upon ideas of indeterminate natures. Taoism, non-locality, subatomic particle research, ideas which couldn’t be framed neatly within causal relationships. I was drinking a lot. I was drowning in ideas.
I got my first PC in 1996. I’d learned to program DOS-BIOS in 1983, and I liked to create D&D stuff on my old IBM PC II, pop vitamin C tablets like candy corn, and freak out in a world I equated with the arena of Tron. A heroic world of trials and travails that would bury me in volubility. I wanted to write. During the time I wrote these stories, I saw the inversely distributed reach of the author diminish, saw the usefulness of the craft evaporate in a DIY atmosphere where everyone had the chance to write and share. I saw my future dry up and blow away. So I drank. I watched the graduates march into department stores and clerking offices, resume the repose of the damned that would be joined within a decade by millions of other obsolete laborers, replaced by sleek algorithms. Replaced by numbers, synergistic bullshit.
I figured I would never make a living writing. My professors urged entire classrooms of undergraduate students quit writing, do something sane. They’d come in broken, half-dressed, speaking hoarsely, pale, shaking, and try to make the faces go away, make the crevasse retreat, beg of the flat and solid to give land to the drowning, and fields of lotus, at least, to the purgatories of literature to surely follow their demise. I witnessed three of them do this, beg the knaves mercy, warn them no less.
And then, unexpectedly, one would see that look in your eye, that glimmer of deeper understanding glow and animate a conversation of discovery about history, about art, desire, struggle in a way you can’t get outside of a book, they’d see the reason they were there, but recognize it on a more visceral, shared level of joy that made the pursuit of literary knowledge just that, a journey of discovery. So, grimly, the paupers, year after year, now with bytes instead of ink, now with LED instead of lamp oil, now with blogs instead of well-lit cafes, now with clouds instead of libraries, search engines instead of scribes, the paupers continue to assail the blank page, to quest, to wander, to reveal, to disappear quixotically into someone else’s book, codified at last in the warp and weft of a grand design, a deeper love embraced.
I once had to choose between typewriter ink and a can of vegetables. I hadn’t eaten that day, but I had music reviews to write, for free. I’d written for publications for free for a few years. There’s nothing awesome about being a starving anything, so why is it that people find the idea that being a “starving artist” is something heroic and necessary? People go crazy and kill themselves after living in the pale and forlorn reaches of their destitution for love and art. That’s not what love and art are for.
People need love and art so badly that writers have been beaten into the shape of tin cans, containers easily crushed, recycled, holding a modicum of nourishment in a recognizable brand for a brief period. A consumer good that is and isn’t there, something that fuels the fierce furnace of need, stokes desire – oh god here it comes again.
I wanted to quit writing because shit got way out of hand. There was one day where I knew if i wrote one more sentence, all hell would break loose, and it did. I wrote ” loud knocking at the door caused me to rush to the door”, and then jumped when someone started banging on my door. I never finished that story because federal marshals were there to arrest one of my flatmates, and someone’s dog escaped and would bite a child, and I would find myself homeless again by nightfall while the landlord threw my stuff out an attic window. I saw writing as a metaphorical form of suicide that was eroding the line between the metaphysical and the mundane. I was in the stories I pursued, but I wanted different stories, more exciting and exotic stories. I sought struggle and poverty, dissolution and pain, something you could feel, people you could understand toiling alongside you, something that bound people together, the sorrowful dirge that carries on the winds of centuries and such. I found all of that sleeping in my car, sleeping in abandoned houses, in the gutter. I worked, I had money, but no one would let me lease an apartment. I found misery, but I could not call it home. I used to go check my stuff in storage once a week. I felt free and doomed, forgotten.
We have a natural right to make use of our pens as of our tongue, at our peril, risk and hazard.
– James Joyce
Misery is no place to live. So, juxtaposed with this lunatic nihilism was a desire to escape, to find plateaus of understanding to unite vastly different strata of people, having found that the only thing that separate us are our access to capital, meditation, love and medicine, I found it quite curious that people were more afraid of learning to let go of the things that prevent greater unity and harmony, to live within illusion and constructs that benefit the rich assholes that have turned our civilizations into feudal profit farms (wallow in the live feed, let it inundate your every pore, you are here, it is good)to live in the sty instead of wandering the unknown, imperiled world itself.
The sty was calling. It never enchanted me. The promise of slops, of warmth, the constant thrum of movement and syncopated activity, of the occupation of consuming, it never moved me. When I found that box, it was like a veil lifted, and I saw myself fighting shadows of dreams still unrealized. I saw an avenue of escape that had been lost, a choice I’d been unable to make. I found a way inside again. This discovery comes at a time when I’ve just begin to get solid footing in my new job. I’m a month into a new occupation, a different career. I can breather. Sometimes I don’t feel like vomiting or eating my sad. Sometimes I do. The job yoked me to new struggles. I’d dropped painting and everything, spent the last month working and sleeping, though I dreamed of work. Having found what I’d lost and desperately needed to function in society and support my kids (money, income) I couldn’t unplug at all, not even while asleep. I worked ridiculous hours, trying to crest the largest wave of ignorance I possibly could. No training, nothing but wolves and anxiety. Ugh.
So I have the receding storm of employment, and I have a cardboard box full of desire. A part of me has been locked up in that box, lost to me in the course of years, somehow here but hidden after three crashed PCs, two states and a decade of living…pretty much how other people live. I wish other people had a box to rediscover, a trove of memory and wonderment.
I was just looking for a place to put the outline of a story I’ve been writing, a box of notes, binders, the promise of time in solitude calling from deep within the nascent ideas and budding characters, soils of tomorrow’s tale able to hold but absent of roots. And dirt and trees and birds and shit all up in my baby cries ringing in my ears merciful fuck.