On Writing: The Space Between

Bit of a repose for me.

Part of it was wanting to give "New Hooverville" some time at the top of the page [if you haven't read it yet, I'd really appreciate it if you'd go check it out]. It took roughly a year to get to this point, and the urge was pretty strong to let it ride as the first thing people see when they come to the blog, and I even contemplated just leaving it up all week, uninterrupted from any off-topic dithering from yours truly. But I've been getting a surge in visitors as of late, mostly thanks to Kimberly Kaye being kind enough to link me in the sidebar of her blog [for the rest of you who do this, know I appreciate it from you too -- Kaye's link, though, for some reason, has been keeping me in steady referrals for the past two weeks, many of them looking like return visits -- which is rare for me], and when being looked at there is naturally a pretty strong urge to perform and produce. Which is actually what I wanted to talk a bit about.

I'm in a strange place with my writing now. "New Hooverville" is resting as 25,000 word monster which I currently have no place for, and nothing to do with. I think, ideally, I'd just like it to get out there, into the world, and have as many people see it as possible, with or without my name attached to it. As much as I don't want to get into a topic of "what the artist really meant" since, whatever you do or don't take from the piece is perfectly valid, no matter what I wanted, "Hooverville" speaks to this phenomenon I see every day with my peers, a frustration between what they want to do artistically, and the pressure they feel to join up, and act as regular person - to be a part of the "real world." And to be a bit snotty about it, I just don't think regular people necessarily feel that pressure, or at least, not in the same way -- I think so many of them look at that real world, at the nine-to-five, the long-term drudgery of things like managing taxes and health insurance, like working out weddings and starting families, and see anything other than big, welcoming arms of responsibility and adulthood.

I think the rest of us see it, more likely, as a gaping maw. Even those who have learned to work it to their favor. And "New Hooverville" is just me wondering, I guess, why there isn't a louder objection to that. Why those who look at that system, look at that one definition of what responsibility and being an adult is, and say "bullshit!" -- but even more, why in the hell, when I know so many of us feel this way, we don't band together, we don't turn that "bullshit!" into a chorus, we don't just... check out. Try it another way. Do it together. There'd be strength in that.

I don't know the answer to any of that. "New Hooverville" was me trying to get at it, and I think I did, a little bit, I think after all that time I got closer to getting a handle on those feelings -- maybe just "that" feeling -- and I think, maybe, the next thing I work on will have that in it too. "A Change is Gonna Come" certainly did. Without stretching, I think maybe even "Nova," I think even the peep show script is all approaching that same topic, that same feeling, from various angles. So yes, the next thing will almost definitely be about that, but...

I just don't know what that next thing is.

The space between projects is one of the most annoying I've ever encountered. I know writers and creative-types, artists, dancers, actors, etc. who never experience that, who never slow down, who never have less than four things going at once, who think stopping is a privilege, and privilege is bad, so they just never stop. Inspiration flows from them like a fountain, and they are the luckiest of us. They're the reason most of us feel like we aren't writers, aren't artists, aren't creatives, because certainly, if we were, we'd never stop either. No, they must be the real deal, and we must just be playing at it. Because they never come to a full stop. And we do.

My experience is limited to no success and a very short time on this earth. Thanks to the internet, a thousand and one writing tutorials are a click away, ranging from people who've accomplished even less than I have [which would mean, I guess... they're not putting on pants anymore] to those we'd consider the most accomplished, and in some cases, our heroes. The Fitzgeralds, the Didions, the Roths, the Austins, the Johnsons, the Moores. All of them have some tip, some "absolute" - about how the writing on the hardest days is usually as good as those on the easiest days, or about how nothing you produce everyday to could possibly, consistently, be good so therefore expect to write everyday and delete most of it, or about... oy vey. The list is literally endless, and I for one a becoming less and less enthralled by these hard and fast rules about why what I'm not producing is my fault, or why what I am producing isn't any good. I'm not sure [and I'm saying this in a space meant to look at and catalog the process of producing work] that how you get there really matters any longer, and that even the suggestion that there is some way to become the best, to churn out good writing, or whatever you do, is at best merely subjective.

Finishing things, too, also bothers me. There's a great discomfort once you've achieved your goal, only to realize now you're in the margin, between the panels of whatever your next move is.

All of this, ultimately, contributes to my anxiety of not working, of not having a project. And right now, I feel very much like I do not have a project, like I am between work, and that because of that, I am less of [or not] a writer, and that because I am not forcing work out of myself like juice squeezed from an orange, that I'm just playing at being a writer. That I've no business being on the field. And none of this even works the other doubts -- about writers I admire who had already found so much more success long before they reached my age, about peers who have been working just as hard, and have already seen it pay dividends.

But this is not a race. And that stuff is no kind of game to play with yourself.

This kind of talk has been going on in my head for a week or two. I can't put an exact finger on it, but I became most aware of it around six days ago, when I stopped sleeping and letting the other anxieties of life really begin to work on me. I consider myself the king of no-structure, but without the structure of one, over-arching piece to work on, I apparently go to pieces with worry that not only am I failing at this... passion, profession, compulsion I've chosen, but that because of it I don't deserve to be on the field with my peers.

And "over-arching" is the important part to that. Because honestly, I have things I'm working on, things I'm doing. There's a bit of dialogue I scribbled down last week that I have plans to polish, and post here on Friday, time and motivation willing. There are also several unfinished things, some as old as this blog [re:Trendsetter], some older [re: The Familiar], and some almost complete [re: untitled peep show script] that I have re-read recently, think I could probably still do something with.

Nothing that feels like "the project" though. Not yet.

But there are other things. Though I'm not as involved at this stage, Ander and I am working on a new comic, "VHS Generation," and just because the artist is at it with pencil doesn't mean I can necessarily put mine down on the desk [the same is true for "Calamity Cash," which Justin tells me that, even with his intense work schedule, is still coming along]. Even if I could, talking with Ander over e-mail has left me with a great deal of other possible things to work with and look through [the dude sends me illustrated updates of how the work is going -- it's heavenly], including little prompts that have unintentionally but welcomely reminded me of old characters and old ideas, along with smaller projects that were almost forgotten about have begun working their way into a mini-mythology that I'd almost forgotten about [re: "White Trash Nation"]. It's all very exciting, and it, with the day-to-day upkeep around here and the fairly steady stream of books to review, well...

I'm not at a loss for things to do. And even if I were, I tend to like my free time. Luxury though that is.

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