I don't know if I ever properly described why I do that. In the sidebar there you'll notice two widgets, one that is supposed to have nothing to do with me [the blog roll], and one that is supposed to have... well, at least 1/3, maybe half of nothing to do with me -- Twitter. The blog roll does its thing without me, but because of space restrictions, and because of how many avid bloggers I like to call attention to, there's a chance you might not see what I consider the really good stuff that I've read that day, unless you use the drop down menu, and I don't think many people do. So Twitter is sort of the back-up to that, if someone publishes something on their blog at nine one morning, and by six that evening there's been twenty or thirty other blog posts, then at least you can see there, on the right side, that thing which was posted at nine, and which was particularly awesome or interesting to me.
Some people do stuff worth posting every day -- John and Sarah both come to mind. Other people post more sporadically, like Ian, Hannah, Lauren, Eric, Dave, Zoe, CheriAnn, etc, etc, etc [I am only leaving people out because if I don't stop myself I'd list you all]. The list goes on and on. Hell, Glen's following is huge, he doesn't even need my publicity, and I pimp for him on Twitter. I don't do this for thanks, or for recognition [though I have at times been paid back with linkage in kind, which I appreciate], I do it because I like these things I post, I like these people, and I want to support them. I don't have much of a soapbox here... as a matter of fact, I hardly have one at all. But if I can lift one person up, if I can post one thing with the right hash tag to get it noticed by some person who is also going to like it and pass it on, well, that means something to me. Because I think that's how it should work -- mind you, I don't think that's how it does work -- but I think that is how it should work, that those of us who are really good, should raise up the rest of us that are really good too.
And, if I'm mistaken in including myself among those talented people I raise up, that I show off, then that is okay too. Because I honestly have enough ego left in me to believe that even if what I do is not worthwhile, at least what I like is, and that what I like is in some way transcendent, worthy of getting as much attention heaped upon it as possible, even if, in my limited capacity, all I can do is tell one person.
There is also a little more to it, which I hope doesn't offend anyone. Let me start with an anecdote. In college, I tackled my first real screenplay class, my first real shot at a 120 page monster of a script, to be done in one semester. By most industry standards [at least according to our professor, Steven Bach] the idea of finishing a screenplay in 4-5 months is a little ridiculous. Doing it is, in some circles, considered super-human [others scoff]. But with ten pages a week, it was doable. It would not be perfect. But it was achievable.
I was, happily, taking this course with a dear friend, and my roommate at the time. To say me and my roommate had different ways of working would be an understatement. I would consider him, to this day, to be my studious better, someone capable of working out a schedule and following through with it, all the while keeping realistic and achievable goals along the way. Someone with, I would hazard to say, a responsible eye for his deadline. He is to be admired for this, in my mind, because it is a way to work that is, at least partially, beyond me.
Look no further than who I named this blog for to see the truth in my statement. Though I have told friends, I don't believe I ever explicitly pointed out here that calling this site "The Mojo Wire" was not just because of a wealth of hero worship for the late Doctor of Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson. I named it this because of a parallel he and I shared in the manner in which we work; it is, I guess, gonzo legend now, that "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved," Thompson's breakout piece, was only ever published because of his half-mad dash at his deadline, feeding handwritten pages through the automated telecopier machine [the "mojo wire" he dubbed it], for his editor to cobble together the masterpiece hidden within the fatalist insanity of a writer's 11th hour last gasp to produce, to achieve, to meet his deadline.
That's me. I am a procrastinator. I even take pride, at times, that my best work is done when I am far behind, or staring down the barrel of a 9 am deadline at midnight the day before. And that's how I work, how I really work, on the things that matter, on the things that mean something to me. It is not, luckily, how I handle my freelance work -- but those are paychecks, and while those are important, those are important to the client, and are handled with care for someone else. Those things that mean the most to me are dashed through in a panic. And I love them for that.
So that was the situation for me and my roommate, both with the same deadline, both with the same number of pages to produce, and both in the same room. I did my expected dicking off, at first, watching my roommate plug away at his own script and make progress I saved for babbling all nighters, where after four pages were done I'd dash out into the hall way, to the bathroom, to pace, or piss, or brush my teeth. A strange reward for very little.
But time went by, and in my mind, things got strained. I became paranoid that may was not going to work, that my roommate was ahead of me, that he would finish first, and thus, have more to tweak, to fix, to get closer to that perfection that I only know we both were chasing because I know him so very well. And in my mind, he became the enemy -- not actually, not really; there were never thoughts to burn his manuscript, to wipe his hard drive, to lead him out into the woods and ditch him, and let exposure, or some species of Vermont Grizzly get to him. Still, I began looking at my roommate, my friend, as an adversary. I pushed myself. I attempted to fit myself into his box, his schedule, his routine. I failed at it, rather miserably, and flopped back and forth between his habits and mine. And for all my fear and anxiety, for all my strange hours and failures to work like the well-oiled machine I saw him as, it all came to naught.
Two weeks before our deadline, maybe more, maybe less, I was finished. Upon announcing this, my roommate looked at me with shock. I had beat him. He still had 10, 15 pages to go.
Ladies and gentleman, your winner...
I gloated a little, like the prick I was then. Like the prick I worry I might still be. But in all honesty, I didn't feel accomplished. I didn't feel good about my "victory." I more hated myself for looking at someone I considered a friend, whose work I respected even then, as a competitor.
And as for my piece? Well, it sucked. In fairness, most people's work in that class sucked, as we were mostly first timers, with flashes of brilliance wrapped up in a rushed sense of fear as we tried to make narrative arcs function in ways that real screenwriters sometimes took years to work out. But that wasn't the only reason I was dissatisfied with what I'd done -- I'd rushed myself even more, I'd tortured myself because I'd turned myself against my peers. Placed myself in an adversarial position where even the thought of another person's triumph cut into me, not just that they were producing, and I wasn't, but that they might be producing, that they might be succeeding, and I knew for sure that I was not.
I suppose some people would look at that as some sort of brilliance. As some sort of motivation.
But I have friends. I have one friend, a writer I respect more than... well, anyone, who produces constantly. Who strives to be published. Who does impeccable, unapproachable work. He will be called prolific one day. I have another friend who manages to do what I have not been the best at, balancing responsibility, and writing, and depression together, to make time to get it all done, or as much as he can, and have as much if not more to show for it than I do, as I stumble along trying to hold everything together. I have another with a television show, who has went the farthest, and got the most recognition of all of us.
I have more friends, some artists, who work constantly, bent over a drawing desk, seeing success for their efforts, being rewarded for not just who they know, but what they do. I have others who have seen success in fields that I would not begin to know how to penetrate, and who have left those successes behind, to find something to make them happier. I know hot-shot kids, younger than me, with my same goals, who have gone farther than I in much less time. I know brilliant bloggers, who have self-financed books, and brilliant journalists, who are going to school and know exactly what their future holds, and are happy in that knowledge [this is rarer than you might think]. And others who are just not setting themselves on paths, with dream jobs they never really dreamed about, or science classes they're not sure they're ready for but they're going to beat down anyway, with paintings or screenplays that they are just sure need finished because dammit, they're artists, and artists finish things.
My friends. My peers. Or, if I flatter myself the least, people whose work I admire. And I know it would be easy for me to be bitter. For me to gnash my teeth, and turn it all inward and say "What about me? Why not me?" It's in there. It's a part of myself I'm not proud of. It sours me, sometimes. And it doesn't even have to be about friends, or people you know. Sometimes, I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night [when I sleep], with this voice in my head just screaming at me that "JOHN DARNIELLE HAS 17 STUDIO ALBUMS!! WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR EXCUSE?" It's enough to get you up and staring at the blinking cursor for hours.
But let me pause, and share another anecdote for a minute. About a girl I once knew, whose way of looking at the world I valued greatly. I still do. She had this thing about deformities. They freaked her out, naturally. But she could deal with it, if she could just have a minute, to look at this thing that had gone wrong, that wasn't right. And then, she could deal with it. She could acknowledge it for what it was, and say "there is nothing wrong with what is wrong with this."
I'm not saying that's what this is. I do not show off the achievements of those I love, respect, or admire just so I can have a moment where I can look at the ugly, deformed part of me that gets green-eyed and jealous and come to terms. I'm just saying it crossed my mind. For now, and for some time, or at least most of the time, I feel more like a child, who has found some treasure, and who is content to tug on skirts and hold that treasure up and say "See? This is cool," or perhaps, more maturely "I have friends. Aren't they brilliant?" And I think of this, and I think of the only bad thing I'll ever really say about my college, how were we ever going to raise each other up, when all our insecurities just made us want to cut the other guy off at the knees. It wasn't until late in my education that got up the courage to tell another writer, someone I was in a class with, how much I sincerely enjoyed the work they were doing. They looked at me with surprise. And then they smiled.
I have friends that are amazing at what they do, and that is no reason for me to look at them as adversaries, for me to try and force myself into some box that works for them, but I should really have no reason to think will work for me. It drove me crazy, trying to get just what I wanted -- and you know what? Now, when I'm honest with myself, "just what I wanted" isn't only my success, it's all of theirs too.
I'm not going to lie... I've been having trouble lately when it comes to focusing inward, which is how I come up with new ideas, or figure out how to finish old ones, or even decide what it is I want to commit to, write, or in the longer term, do. So while I will admit that this started as me trying to explain why it's so important to me to link the things on Twitter the way I do, I guess this is also thank you. To all of you.
For giving me something good on the outside. Until I get back to that place where I'm looking in.
Now I'm going to get really vague for a minute. And what follows has absolutely nothing to do with what I was talking about above. I just need to get it off my chest, and this half-speak is the only way I can think to do it.
I have friends who look at the big picture, and when they see one thing wrong, they fixate on that. That is the part of this that did not work out. Why? How? There is no enjoyment for them, in the things that did work, because of that which did not. I sympathize.
I have also have friends who, lately, have reflected on what being an adult means to them. Life lessons they have now picked up in their 20s, which they believe are somehow indicative of the way life works. I, personally, think anytime something looks that much like a life lesson, it probably isn't. But in this case, I will make an exception.
Sometimes, you have to work awfully hard to get nothing done. Sometimes, just the fact that you worked hard, you did what you were supposed to -- that is the accomplishment. Sometimes there is no reward, sometimes there are just the principles of the thing, and sometimes you only break even. Sometimes, all you do is get back to regular. This is not a failure. In many things, it is achievement, it is the nature of having responsibilities.
And sometimes you have to be okay with that. But you should never be satisfied with it.
Anyway, I have a fairly full weekend coming up, and a review to do. After that, it's my plan to write no less than three letters, put my thinking cap on hard for something awesome to do for Eric's zine, and if the rumblings in my head have anything to say about it, take another crack at an old favorite of mine called "White Trash Nation."