Hi, how are you? It’s late here, very dark. It’s the kind of moment that when you blog makes you feel as if no one will ever read it, so you could write anything and it wouldn’t matter, but of course this is both true and not true. More people will read it than you think, and less than you want. But this is just true for all writers, in every situation. For me, one great relief in meeting so many writers at this point in my life is discovering that there is no amount of fame and success that will make you a secure, emotionally whole human being who doesn’t need some kind of attention if you don’t enter the game like that already. And especially not when it comes to your work.
I no longer, that is to say, hold their antics against them. When people complain of this or that writer’s ego, I listen, amused, and I think, Just you wait.
So much of the trick to being a writer is being able to survive what your ego thinks ought to be happening for you. And remembering to write as if…it is the middle of the night, and you believe no will ever read it and so you could say anything. Because it will matter, both more and less than you want it to, and the only protection you have is to engage with it as a free person.
I’ve been listening to this song about ten times tonight. I remember I used to listen to the album—The Throwing Muses’ Real Ramona—when I lived in San Francisco. It was my personal soundtrack. I was just out of college, working at a bookstore in the Castro, I had a motorcycle I rode when I wasn’t walking everywhere. I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know how else to do it except to go to cafes and write in my notebooks. I wanted to do something daring and profane and beautiful. It felt like the end of the world. We were at war. George Bush the senior, the one we’d come to think of as “the first” was president and it felt like the world was going to end, so, why not do something truly beautiful and sacrilegious? It was impossible to imagine then it would be worse. That he would have a son who would look like him but sound like a less educated, less intelligent, less compassionate version of him, as like him as a donkey is to a mule, the son a bad dream about the father that went on for 8 years.
Lately I remember being in a yoga class in the late 90s, and the teacher saying “Yoga is meant to help us endure the Kaliyuga, the worst of times, the era we are entering.” If, after getting up after that class, you’d said to me, “You’ll remember that remark for at least a decade”, I would have laughed.
I have a theory about apocalypses. That they are negative fantasies. That we think about them, imagine them, because it relieves us of responsibility. It appeals to the part of us that relishes horror, that luxuriates in paralysis. Back then I was reading Galeano’s Memory of Fire and it was blowing my mind. From it came another thought I’ve had for decades: the story in that book, of the town waiting for the end of the world and then it didn’t happen. There’s a line I remember, about how the end of the century often brought with it the idea that the world would end.
So we are approaching an announced apocalypse again, this time 2012 per the Mayan Calendar, and at the same time in the US, incredibly, we have fundamentalist Christians who are trying to rush the end times, to make the predictions of Revelations come true—and who scoff at the idea that we even need to take care of the planet, because after the return of the Lord, those who are taken won’t be here anymore and they are the ones that matter, per their beliefs. They want to set the house on fire as they leave.
And I’m no preacher, but I think, if Jesus is real, if he really is the Messiah and the Christ… do you really think you can get him to hurry back? And by tricking him?
I think if you think you know God this way, you don’t know God.
Plan to still be here. To live with what happens between now and then. And after.
Beautiful thoughts. About writers and ego, apocalypses … not much else to say. Just that I love it.
Thanks, Julie. Great to hear from you!
My eyes are half-open, too early on a morning that is half-light, half-dark, the time of year when you cannot predict what time it is from the light outside. I roll over to check the time on my phone, 5:40, too early. While I am here I check my email. Scroll through the junk I received during the night. In the midst of sales and iPad announcements, a Koreanish post. Click open. Scroll and read. Put phone down. Try to fall asleep. Pick phone up and read again. I doze off for twenty minutes with your words in swimming my head.
I’m sure not enough people read your words, many, many more should. But your words deeply affect the people who do read them. Your end of the night post made the beginning of my day. Thank you.
Thanks. I’m glad it spoke to you.
You write in the freedom of the darkness and manage to shine so bright it burns.
Thank you for this, today:
“…Because it will matter, both more and less than you want it to, and the only protection you have is to engage with it as a free person.”
I will tell it to the voices I’ve let into my head and the narrowed-eyes through which I read my own work. Can you picture it–orthodox hands and legs pushing through the door as I try to wedge it shut.
Thanks, JA. I clicked on your site—your novel sounds very interesting, and I wish you luck with your work.
This was amazing. I love your honesty. The piece comes at a very opportune time in my life. I love the bits about writing as if no one were watching and being able endure all the consequences in life. Thank you for this, and I wish you the best with wrapping up the 2nd novel.
Thanks, Victoria. I’m 16 pages from the end of the revision. It feels almost ready to go out the door.
Thanks, Alex, for being such good, thoughtful, soulful company during the worst of times.
Judy, thanks. I could say the same of you. XO
Absolutely awesome, Alex. Now i have to go listen to Ellen West…