SLOW. DOWN. PLEASE.
Before we set to ranting and cussing, above is a picture that speaks to me like no other. I would say, when you read this and other blogs, retain the image this beautifully succinct photo in the side-car of your consciousness. It is tatted to the inside of my eyelids and makes me both happy and so fucking sad. I had never connected with the phrase that ‘art speaks to me’ as I have never gushed over a rainbow or the fat feet of a baby.
This is a masterpiece of absurdity and is how I feel everyday, from the anxiety that wrenches my eyes open due to a blind need to ‘do shit’, all the way to the reflection of major victories and experiences that I feel I never quite took the time to cherish at the time of their execution.
Enjoy the following words, homies
Let me break down how and why I started writing, if anyone gives a damn or is new here or hasn’t been listening. Well, a few years back I was going through a difficult time in my personal, work and every other corner of my life. Shit was bleak. I was in a trying situation with a woman who I loved with all my bloody, veiny heart. I had a job that I felt was beneath me, to which only a serf with the ability to read could relate. I was in a funk that made me actually try to make sense of the brutal and vicious swing of the universe, as if I could control that son of a bitch.
Many years ago, before I could grow a beard, I wanted to write a story. I had a few scenes and a vague idea pinging around my dome piece like a marble in an oil drum, but that was it. I knew the vibe I wanted to evoke and said to myself: “Golly gee Papa Croft. You sure can think of stuff. One day when you’re good, ready, have all the time in the world, the financial security that comes with doing a cumbersome big boy job and maybe a family, you’ll write the great Canadian novel.”
What’s even funnier is that I didn’t hone in on that idea, which kept getting tangled in its near-biting of Fight Club and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Nah, son. I thought of another story that I wanted to tell; something about the crazy place I crawled out from. Yup, another story. That’s two stories if you’re counting. Oh man, I was going to write on the side and author deux great novels. Half-baked and unhatched ideas would magically transform into deep and profound literature in that fantasy.
Fuck that guy. Optimism is wasted on young idiots.
That guy changed. A lot. I blame it on the shrewd mallet of experience and age. I’d previously felt like a peach that was so goddamn ripe it tilted its tree. James could’ve rode my potential to whatever horrific dreamland that Dutch fella led him to. I can’t remember the details and I’m not going to research Roald Dahl. Spite wins again.
I went from having a fairly planned trajectory to watching the peach that was myself become infested with parasites, wither, decay and plop unceremoniously onto the sun-scorched grass to stink and rot. I sent out 1,500 CVs with individualized cover letters after grad school. I got one response. I moved across the country and back, but still felt the ennui of someone lost at sea.
I kept having flickering ideas for stories, however! I just needed time.
Dude, I wasted time. A lot of time. I was laid up at home in Montreal for months. I applied for jobs until my fingers lost their prints. I made a mess of every facet of my life. My expectations regarding what I could or was supposed to do were like a cancer. They ate this delicious peach from pit to fuzz. I was already naturally gifted with realism (some might say perverse pessimism) and well-steeped anxiety. Folks who believe in destiny might say that “it wasn’t time”.
A little secret… there’s no destiny or predetermined sequence of events. Money can alter reality to an extent, but life simply doesn’t have a steering wheel. Just try and control it, I bet a loved one will die unexpectedly. Or you’ll get the plague.
I moved again and soon found myself frustrated once more. When I say frustrated, I mean that my resting thought was “you’re a failure, a loser and you always will be.” You know, normal stuff.
One day off, I was on the couch at home watching one of those ‘this video is informative, you’re being smart’ YouTube videos. The cat said something that made me say “oh yeah, you have to write that great novel when you have time,” to myself, almost wistfully. A second me, an abstract, transparent me, hopped out of my body and pistol-whipped the lying, shirtless me on the couch. He grabbed me by the moss and sat me up with a burner in my mouth. “Pussy, motherfucker, bitch ass! You have time now!” What a prick.
Then, I knew it was time. It wasn’t only time to do something that I had always enriched myself with pretentious and affectatious day-dreaming, but something I now realize that I was mega scared to do. Remember, I hated myself at this point. I was Dr. Doom, but without the arrogance; a real-life Roquentin. I was so angry and on the verge of divorcing any stranger’s skull from their spine. I may have been the most dangerous person in the world not on meth. My mental state was effecting my relationships with every last person in my life. I was entranced by fury and became a depressed, loathsome cunt.
Tomorrow, you start. Tomorrow, you write 1,000 words. Do it for a month.
I fucking love routine and am very habit forming. Seriously, I can turn anything into a scheduled activity. I have a lust for structure; it’s almost an addiction.
So, I did it. It was hard because I’m not good at opening lines in spite of having this great fucking idea. I’ve since learned that I’m a slow-burn starter. That’s a nice way of saying that my editors have no faith that new readers will stay with me past the first two pages of my books. I will touch on this another time, but I do present my readers with laggard openings.
Not only was the opening sentence of my potential book being a fuck, I didn’t actually have a good idea. I had no plot, one character and a loose idea of what I sorta, kinda, maybe wanted to say. I had nothing. All those years of lying in an onsen of pushing non-thoughts to worry about later had lied to me!
My expectations were mad low.
But, I pressed on, because I’m stubborn as a long winter. 1,000 words. That’s it. And they came with effort, man. It wasn’t easy at first. I was counting those little bastards sometimes, stretching out descriptions and giving my homie Syd (my editor for this book) a jungle of razorblades to navigate through. Fucking trooper. Shout out to Sydney Triggs. We have matching tattoos.
One night, I got baked and thought about the story in a different way. The story was driving towards some kind of narrative, but it was dragging, repeating itself and moving in narrowing circlets. So, I made a plan. Instead of 1,000 words per diem, it was now about making a bomb ass tale.
I changed the scope to crafting a quality story. Moreover, I pledged to see it out to the end and finish it.
I did it. Yay.
Then I kept it close to my chest, cause that motherfucker was personal. I decided that I needed a reader and got a well-read friend of mine to take a look at it. In spite of some glaring issues, and there were a lot, she liked it.
Ok. You made a book and someone was kind enough to read it. But, hey. Didn’t you have another story in your head?
And I set to a more professional manner of building the foundation: characters, arcs, scenes, and the rest of the tale with the necessary and soon-to-be classic wiggle-room I leave myself to fuck about. I finished it. I got more people to read it. Again, it had massive areas that needed improvement. But, people liked it.
I went travelling and thought about the likelihood of getting my most recent story fixed up for publishing. Why not? I had the loot, I had the resources. I hadn’t thought about applying for jobs in a minute and this hobby was evolving into my very first passion beyond the opposite sex. Why the fuck not?
I won’t go into the brutal editing process that led me to fire the first broad, but I will say that eventually, I was getting traction with a dope editor for my third book. It’s a long story and I will get into it another time.
She gave me two options. One included major rewrites and cleaning up of the irreverent nature of the book to market to publishers, secure an agent and enjoy the fun of rejection over and over and over and…. The second option was to self-publish and retain the folksy sociopathy that is my style of dark fiction anti-novels.
What’s my company’s tagline brothers and sisters?
So, let’s recap. We raised our expectations from nothing, to writing 1,000 words, to finishing a story (this one was already big), to allowing someone to see my well-guarded brain’s thoughts, to thinking about letting the world see the shit, to getting an editor, to seeing the process through, to publication!
It’s mega easy to lose focus when things become difficult down the road. When I initially thought about publishing, I wanted to do it the easy way; put it on Amazon and let my acquaintances and whoever else take a gander. Little risk for a possibly moderate reward.
Then, I lost my job. My routine was obliterated. I put all the books in editing. I opened the company. Then, then…
At this point, I’m consumed with trying to market as a shy malcontent with meh people skills. I’m trying to start a fucking site on WordPress of all things with no computer skills. I spent long ducats on all of this (editing ain’t cheap, son) and now my expectations are so far form the original ones that if I don’t take a step to the side, it feels like I’m trying to see an ant from space.
I don’t know how to set my expectations now, and that’s terrifying. Do I set them as though I’m trying to sell my own 36 chambers without reasonable distribution? Do I feel happy that soon people won’t just see a murdered transgendered cat in Australia when they Google my name? Should I be glad that I’ve avoided searching for a big boy job for about three years while treating this writing shit like university, always pushing the notion that things will just work out when they’re done?
Who knows, man.
I guess that I (or you, if you’re in a similar position) should take a second to look back and think that a few years ago, I wasn’t trying to brainstorm collaboration efforts, hire random Indians to put the wrenches my bogus site, design book covers, get a headshot-haircut for a rear cover bio, or any of the things that wrack my little brain meow. It’s already been an arduous-ass journey, and if you’d told me then that this would be my life now, I’d have probably detached your melon from the stem.
Your expectations should always be changing, and passion is a fuel that works just as well as spite, if not better. Not always, mind you. Aim high or put down the fucking rifle. If all this fails and nothing works out, well, I’ve been there before. I’m a veteran, and underachieving has become a womb-like place for my oft-disconsolate brow.
I’m rambling now. You’ve got to shut him up. He gets excited when he talks about writing and that shit.
Sorry for cussin’,
Fly you motherfucking Pelican, fly.