March 26, 2007

Self Help

We’ve been doing a lot of self-help around here lately. My wife had a huge hang-up about our couch, thought it was the epicenter of sloth in our house. Turns out she was right because we got a new couch and our apartment doesn’t seem so dead. Rearranged some other stuff to, got rid of some clutter, which really does do a lot for the head.

I also read the first self-help book I’ve ever read in my life, 100 pages of it at least. It was actually helpful:

feeling good

The most basic thing he hammers over and over is the problem with overgeneralization. Making absolute statements. Like the other week I was walking to pick up my daughter at preschool, as I do every day. As I crossed the crosswalk a schmuck in a convertible Porsche took a left turn right behind me so I could feel the wind, then revved his engine, speeding away, basically saying to me, “Fuck you for walking.” My first instinct is to think, Man people are materialistic, soul-raping pricks, no wonder the earth is dying. But no, not everyone is materialistic, and that guy’s probably not all bad, might be nice to his mother, might be having a bad day, there’s layers of meaning to everything and my interpretation is only based on half the story. Even if, as a writer, I need to believe my fictions to be true—still wrong, an overgeneralization.

Sounds incredibly simplistic, but overgeneralization is something I fall into. It’s not just psychobabble, it’s an actual useful bit of psychiatry. My main problem is crazed criticism of other people, a projection of self-hatred—none of which is accurate. So the book did some good.

More self-help. A couple of weeks ago there was an author night for graduates of my high school. People in the last 25 years who’ve published a book. I haven’t seen a lot of them in 15 years. Never been to a class reunion. Click that link to see where I’m coming from. I was worried that everyone, and I, would regress to high school years. Stupid of me, people are adults. The reading went over very well. People liked it—a section of NoS in which a paparazzi photographer talks about how much he hated high school:

Hollywood was like high school all over again. A place where the pretty and comfortable persevered, and the ugly watched. There was a certain youthful pride that existed in Hollywood, a center-of-the-world, sun-drenched, almost chosen, pride. Just like teenagers who thought nothing could hurt them. The main difference between Hollywood and high school was that in Hollywood they didn’t just think they were in the center of the world, they were in the center of the world.

High school’s defined me in a number of ways, and a number of ways it shouldn’t anymore. It was like 10 years of therapy in a night.

Then today I received a letter that my agent is not sending out my novel anymore. Believe it or not, I’m sort of relieved. It’s no longer a crutch, a reason to think “Life will be better when…” I can be more active, writing and otherwise. I could also be a lot more active if I got a $500,000 book deal. Life is complicated.


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