January 13, 2006

Gimme Shelter

I finally started going a little stir crazy yesterday. This week has been a window into my madness. I haven’t left the house for five days. I’ve talked on the phone a couple of times. I’m picking up the wife and daughter today at 11. I am very ready for them to come home. I sort of feel like when I was in Paris--I felt justified and elated in my exile because I couldn’t speak the language. As soon as I finished the novel ("God’s Wife") I felt totally alienated and directionless. I’ve recorded enough songs for a while and after I was done I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I discovered something this week--I might be a songwriter as much as a fiction writer. I enjoy it. Somehow though, it’s not as satisfying as writing fiction. That may be because I haven’t gotten as much feedback for it--and music needs an audience much more than fiction. There’s something even lonelier about recording music alone. Fiction is supposed to be written alone.

I even feel guilty for recording rather than using this time for starting a story. I don’t know, it’s just not what I wanted to do. My life is an endless guilt trip, even when I’m being productive.

I may also have a case of writer’s block. My desire to write is more about my ambition to find readers than it is about my will to express myself. This is because I have a kid and I have a pressing need for a career. Also, L.A. is an unliterary city--it’s just not in the air like it is in New York. That’s an excuse, but a walk through Central Park is a hell of a lot more romantic and literate than anything in this city. If I was surrounded by more prose writers, I might feel more competition to work on fiction.

I am having trouble separating my desire to write truthful self-expression from the ambition to be liked. But what is it to be liked? Most things that have been created have been both loved and hated. Someone out there has the opinion that Kerouac is a terrible writer. Someone out there has the opinion that John Updike is the best writer that ever lived. There is a general consensus though that they are both good writers. I guess I’d like to be part of a general consensus. My novel that will eventually come out will be liked by some people, but most likely it will not be taken seriously by high-literary people, the litblog co-op.

Sometimes I think, what’s the point of working so hard on fiction. I turn on the TV and there’s Kirstie Alley, looking like a he-she, dancing to "It’s Raining Men." It’s blindly, horribly dumb but it’s everywhere. Highly literary discussions seem almost pointless in the face of it--like supporting a third party. We live in a world of Hitler, child porn, religious war, and worse. In the face of that, an actress in an idiotic commercial looks saintly. Kirstie Alley has had an interesting life, despite the stupid shit she’s projecting in Weight Watcher’s commercials. What am I getting at exactly? I’m not entirely sure--maybe that I find the big, bad world stifling. Maybe that if you’re surviving and reasonably happy and not hurting anyone then you’re a success, so what does another book matter. Or maybe that’s another excuse to hide from something that’s really difficult--writing and then trying not to hate yourself even more when the result is not so great.

There’s another reason I haven’t been as inspired to write fiction. Right now, I’d much rather live my real life, meet people, learn about people, than invent people on paper--which has often been a substitution for the lack of a social life. In my seclusion, there’s so much I’m not experiencing. I’m becoming a sheltered person. This week has been good for getting some objectivity about my life. Normally, I have so many responsibilities, pressures, that I can’t get a hold on what’s actually bothering me.

This probably sounds very negative, but this was an important week for me. I didn’t solve everything--my desire to slack, and other problems, but I figured some things out. This entry and all the songs I’ve posted might just show that I’m writing for myself again.


exley said...

It took Keroauc 10 years to write "On the Road." He would sit and try to write and then give up and take off traveling around the US again. When he finally did write it he completed it in 3 weeks. Sometimes you're just not ready.

Is this an excuse to not write? Maybe. I haven't written anything in my novel in 5 weeks. I'm long past the point of excuses. But I'm hoping that soon I'll find the inspiration again.

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