I started a book over a year ago with ambition, ideas and a lot of goddamn momentum. Then, about six months ago, I lost hold of it—it went ripping off like a snapped guitar string or a busted fan belt, swinging at the flesh, hoping to break bone.
I don’t know how it happens, but sometimes projects just give you the finger. They leave you hard. They leave you stiff. They turn right when you turn left. They speed when you stop and you end up feeling like a seventeen year-old who’s been fucking a girl two numbers too hot for his face. They’re outta you’re league, the project and the girl. You’re left like a lonely snivelling pussy, wet from he rain; like fingers grasping to hold onto flat surfaces. All the time spent, dining and kissing showering just slides away and you’re left wondering what to do. You’re left wondering who you are, as if your identity had been taken from you and was now suddenly given back.
I could probably list all the ways that I tried to win the project back; all they ways I tried to seduce it into my head, but lets not get boring with details. Let’s not waste time.
I’m a grumpy angry, asshole when I’m not writing. The frustration permeates my entire personality. The last few months have been a lot like that. By now I’d probably be chewing on the furniture and shitting in pillowcases if it wasn’t for loud guitar and doodling; if wasn’t for those little cracks to seep the crazy out.
I wish I could explain how projects die, but I can’t. They just do. It’s like you become a different person and the two of you can no longer communicate. That’s why I’ve always completed everything as fast as possible. My first book was written in a week. The last short story I finished was done in one long 12 hour writing session. I’m writing this blog 10 minutes before I post it. But with this longer project that I was working on, I was discovering what it was like, for the first time, to work on something over long periods of time. I was discovering what it was like to let something live with you—inside you. I was learning how everything in your life can be filtered through a project and how it sifted out usable chunks and coughed out connections. I filled notebooks with ideas and drew maps of plot. I spent hours every day plugging away at it. It was the best goddamn time of my life. I was doing something that I thought was beyond me. I was evolving.
Then the son-of-a-bitch went and abandoned me. It left me on the side of the road. That was a tough bit of gravel to swallow. I’d look over at my desk every morning and it was like looking for a ghost in its old bed. I’d see the empty chair and remember the man that used to sit in it (me) and I’d feel overwhelmed with loss It’s hard to explain the gap that develops between a project and an artist; it’s hard to explain that you can want something so bad and still be incapable of getting yourself to do it. It’s hard to explain, unless you’ve been there; unless you’ve been blocked. It’s a lot like how someone with no artistic impulse feels in front of paints and brushes, pens and stencils: “where they hell do I begin?”
Writing a longer book, a more complicated book, a novel, a play, a movie that’s the dream. That’s my dream. Stepping up to the big league. Being a real fucking writing. Sitting on a shelf with Hemingway. Pissing on the magazines two shelves below. But writing a book is snow-capped mountain which requires a technical proficiency that you can’t learn until you’re climbing on it. When you’re on the mountain, it’s the goddamn greatest feeling in the world. You can feel the peak getting closer. You know that with every word you’re becoming the person you’ve always desired to be. You’re on the golden railing. You’re doing the thing that few will ever do. You’re hiking past the skeletons of wannabes and coulda-beens. And then BAM!—avalanche. You’re buried under snow. It’s too cold to spit. You can’t see the way that it will hang. Everything is white and you don’t know what is up. You don’t know which way to dig. You’re freezing to death and you’re only option is inaction.
I had to accept that I might not be capable of being the person that I wanted to be. It’s like euthanasia; a morphine drip to blot out the sting & the suffering. And when that dream is gasping its last labored breaths, it’s hard to not feel the loathing creep over you. It hard not to accept the shadow. You look at yourself and you feel weak. It’s the most cruel bit of torture that an artist can ever feel. It’s like slowly descending into some god-awful pit of misery.
Then yesterday, something weird happened. I put on Parts 1-3 (an album by the aptly named Elevator to Hell) and I pulled out my typewriter. I was gonna force myself to write. I was just gonna write one bad page for the runaway project, something I could crinkle up and throw at the headstone of hope. It wasn’t easy but I just tried and made my way through two grueling paragraphs, then two more and by the time I reached the end on the page, I knew I needed to load another just finish the last sentence. But that sentence led to two or three more paragraphs and then I had to pull the paper out and write the bottom in pen. I had to scribble fast. The ideas piling. And this jumbled ejaculation was a synopsis for what would come after the pages I had just written. I had more falling out of my face than I could write, like milk through the nostril of a laughing third-grader. And just like that, out of empty air, I was back in the project. All of a sudden it came back to me. It filled my guts but I walked away hungry. It came like a gun shot and the echo rattled in my head all night like a frenetic hi-hat.
I don’t know how long it’ll stay. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it. I don’t know if I yet have the capacity to live up to my own expectations, but if I’m dropping down into those flames; if I’m gonna burn in failure, then I’m taking this typewriter with me. I’m going down writing. That’s the magic of a typewriter, it forces you to keep moving forward. There’s no looking back. There’s no edit. No wasting time with perfection. This Smith-Corona is burning off the wheels and mashing up the pedals, and I’m barreling into oblivion with a crooked letter E and a half-used black ribbon.