Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Sure What it all Means, But Dont it all Mean Somethin'?

Brutal Fuckin Honesty Disclosure: This entry will have little or nothing to do with sports. It is much more likely to focus on personal, narcissistic concerns. File under "posts I write for myself, because the alternative would be for me to harp on them ceaselessly until my wife leaves me." Take it or leave it. Read it or don't.

I am really beginning to question whether I have it: whatever it is that allows one to make it from day-job desk jockey who writes on his own time, to someone who dedicates his life to the trade. I am not sure I have whatever Maurice Manning had when he sent away a chapbook of poetry to Southeastern MFA programs, hoping someone would take a chance on him, let alone whatever Jimmi Santiago Bacca had to make it from life-long failure, to poet icon; whatever Bill Simmons had that allowed him to struggle from an unemployed cult-web-hero to a writer so well revered that it has actually become popular now to hate him, or whatever Will Leitch had that allowed him to go from being a self-effacing so-pathetic-its-cute blogger, to being king of the Underworld, as ESPN would have it. It's not that this is the goal, per se, and in my own personal world, something more akin to what Maurice Manning has done with his life, sounds ultimately more fulfilling, and more in-line with my own goals, than watching hours of TiVo and writing about my favorite teams or finding compromising pictures of College Football QBs on the internet. In fact, I've been reading alot of Leitch's original blog and I'd venture to say if he had his druthers, he'd be doing something that requires a little more insightful creativity, and a little less rumor-milling, and humor-pandering. And judging by Simmons' recent hints at retiring from Page 2 for a career in film-writing, it seems that his aspirations reach for slightly more intellect as well. But I digress.

The thing is, I really cannot downplay the significant toll that the 9-5 takes on one's ability to create, to formulate thoughts, cohesively draw them together, and make something entirely original, or at least consciously aware of its precedents, and yet aiming for something unique. This is not to say it is impossible, nor is it to say that my job is particularly draining. It's not. There is no complaint here, but rather, perhaps unadultarated honesty. Perhaps I am just not that dedicated, or perhaps my well has been tapped. Perhaps--I am horrified to say--a reading of a prize-winning short story at an awards banquet in college, is as far as this alleyway goes. Perhaps I don't have what ever it takes to make it from that (fairly common) level of output, to the level to which I once aspired. Perhaps, I don't have what it takes to say, "sure I like my job, and sure, my office is a peaceful place, but I don't want to spend my life researching other people's accomplishments, or pretending to research other people's accomplishments while I putz around on friends' and acquaintances' blogs. I want other people to research my accomplishments." It is an ugly thing to admit, I suppose, and terribly narcissistic, that my goal is to know that I have left some kind of legacy. And I am not talking about 4 or 5 penguin classics on a shelf, or even one great poem read from obscure poetry collections by those in the know (though I wouldn't complain about these things.) Rather, I am talking about looking back at my work, or having others look back at my work, and feel that it was an actual contribution to an era of writing, that it was an origina; voice of that era, or that it at least was unique to its time, and honest to its author. I am not so sure I have what it takes to accomplish that task with sincerity. To write--and to make it a priority to write--honestly about what this is I am going through, whatever this is to be 24 in America, in this America, or at least my version of this America. To drive myself further into debt trying just to make it writing about an indebted generation. Or do I cut myself off from everything that is involved in a morning commute, a rushed cup of coffee, and headphones in the office, when really it is the commute, the coffee, and the headphones that define my entire experience in this universe right now?

I woke up today in my new condo, next to my new wife, and with my new dog. I went to my old job, stared at my old computer screen, and read through emails from old friends. I started the day within the same five minutes I start everyday, more-or-less (7:27-7:32) then checked my email for MFA info, and to see what friends had to say, and looked at the same 4 websites I look at each morning, in order: espn.com, cnn.com, popmatters.com, deadspin.com. I spent my day fluctuating between researching book entrants for my job (Brandon Webb, Bobby Knight, Manny Acta, Daisuke Matsuzaka) and checking my email, or looking at random websites. I ate a salad for lunch, alone. I left as soon as I could, drove home into the overcast city, walked my dog and came home to a quiet house. Wondered, what the fuck am I doing? I know. I know. I can't complain about the new house. I can't complain about being married to a woman who honestly I would have no business picking up at a bar in the city if we were strangers and met there this weekend. I have no right to complain about the dog, even though in a fit of temper he ran into the lot across the street, got a shard of glass in his foot, and is now running around with his feet in bandages and a giant cone on his head. Nah, I can't complain about all of that. And I can't really complain about my job, which at times is frustrating, but at the very least is an honest way to make a buck while reading about sports-related news half the time.

But, to borrow a phrase from 34% of broadcasted sporting events, this "wasn't the way I drew it up." I can't recall the last time I sat with a cup of coffee, or a cold beer, a pen and a journal and just threw my thoughts onto paper. In fact, most of my writing these days is done in moments of random inspiration, rushed into Word format or onto my blog (usually just depending on whether the creative output is sports-related, or intellectual) while looking over my shoulder in the office. This is the first moment I have spent on my own writing, and all I can think about is how hard it has become to write, to find inspiration, to feel the need to purge something haunting, sick, vile, wonderful, or inspiring. How--if I could just afford to, mentally, and financially, stop working--maybe I would have that time...but then what would there be to write about? I have looked to every corner for inspiration, to poetry, to music, to film. And then I found myself putzing around on Leitch's old site and came across this. First of all, it is refreshing to see someone who has made it, speaking in a voice totally lacking in confidence. I am not sure how close Leitch's mindset was when he wrote this to that of my own right now, but it sure seems like he is questioning his own motivation and determination. Secondly, it points to a much larger reality here: there are thousands, no, probably millions of people out there trying to make it in one artisistic fashion or another, and finding themselves increasingly frustrated with failed attempts at recognition, or worse: the paralysis of self-consciousness, which tells us we aren't worthy of aiming for such lofty goals. "Not quite good enough. Haven't quite got it. Try the 9-5." But what I love most about Leitch's post, is, he is willing to admit that for him the goal is a legacy, in his case, some kind of notereity, and he is willing to expose himself to all of the cynicism that is certain to garner. And yet, he doesn't give a shit, because he knows the trial he is going through is one that pushes his limits, and he wants a reward for that. And sure, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it is easy to see how this youthful arrogance is now obfuscated by his success, and these proclomations come across as noble determination as opposed to idealism at best, and self-seriousness at worst. But who cares if that is one of Leitch's faults, and who cares if Leitch exposes a desire in this post that is dangerous for the creative mind to expose. I find it hard to believe that anyone creating ANYTHING doesn't hope in their deepest heart-of-hearts, that they garnish some recognition for it. I don't think anyone writes, or paints, or creates music, for their creation to be blown away in the wind, or burned, and sent heavenwards, as some type of spiritual connection to be made eternally with and for themselves, and never for others.

I don't know what is going to become of my writing. I don't know if it is even good enough to get me into an MFA, if it is orginal enough for me to make it as a viable published writer, or if it is just crap meant to fill journals, be hashed out at my kids birthdays and weddings, read at my funeral when I die toiling away in futility. I don't pretend that my writing is anything spectacularly unique, or that I don't need a hell of alot more focus, time, and probably luck to make whatever I write any more worthy of critical success than the shit you find scribbled in any other 20-somethings journals, or on any one's blog. I also refuse pretend that I don't want it to be something bigger than it is, that publishing once or twice every few months in small-circulation poetry journals is satisfaction enough for me. I know for sure I have the stubborn pererverance it takes to try, and try, and fail, and try again. I just don't know that I necessarily have within my writers' soul whatever it is that all that trying is aiming to accomplish. I don't care in the end if I look back and say, "well I did my best and failed" because I don't want to ever admit my best is a failure. But maybe it is. Still, I don't care if it makes me cocky, brash, or a downright self-obsessed prick to believe that this can't be so. And I don't give a shit if it makes me narcisstic to want to want to end this post right now, and write something that isn't written entirely for me (and the five other people who started reading this...and perhaps two or three who have made it this far.) I don't care what it makes me, that I take it upon myself to pour a cup of coffee, find somewhere quiet and write. I don't care at all what you think about me, and what I write. Only I do care...tremendously.


At 9:08 AM, Blogger jake said...

This was a great blog.

My thoughts parallel yours almost exactly, about the writing, the meaningless job (grad school for me), the feeling that you're wasting away...all of it.

My biggest fear is that I keep going with what i'm doing, knowing it's not what I really want to be doing at all, and come down with some terminal illness/lay dying in the street after getting hit by a bus and completely regretting this aspect of my life.

I cannot think of a worse feeling.

Am I too much of a pussy to do anything about it?

I hope not.


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