Confessions of a Hank Moody Fan: Why I Write

Posted: September 20, 2009 in Writing
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I am, in general, not a nice guy.

I’m (probably) a moral guy*, but that almost never goes hand in hand with nice; not if you really mean it when you’re moralizing.

I believe I’m a good dad. Most of the time I’m a good husband-type-thing. I don’t cheat, steal, hit people or indulge in generally agreed upon antisocial behaviour.
But still, I cannot call myself a nice guy.

When out in public, I have a tendency to treat service industry peons who are bad at their jobs like people who are bad at their jobs. I say crass things in inappropriate venues, mostly to elicit honest reactions from people who spend most of their lives worrying about being idealized, mythological versions of people. I give advice as though I have a right to, even though I have no professional advice giving credentials hanging on my office wall. I flipped off the stack of new Dan Brown hardcovers at my local Indigo last night** and there were small children within eyeshot. I have left someone to be with someone else rather than cheating on them. I eat meat, sometimes litter and almost never put the toilet seat down. I expect people to live the way they say they do and I call them on it when they don’t. And, if all that weren’t bad enough, I smoke; which, according to every public service announcement aired on T.V., makes me a kitten killing baby eater. Not that it’s an addiction or anything.

What, you might be asking yourself***, does any of this have to do with the title of this piece? Why, for the love of Joss (or whatever deity you hold sacred) are you being subjected to my emotional colonic, when all you wanted was to either be titillated by or infuriated by me**** ? Did writing about Emos drive me to become their Dark Lord?

I’m explaining all this because I want you to believe me when I tell you; editing my own manuscript has not only convinced me that God exists, I now know that He is a sadist who hates me and wants me to experience a preview of Hell while I smoke myself into an ironically early grave. Writing a second draft has become my penance for being an asshole.

I love writing new stuff. These essays for example. I love figuring out my footnotes, trying to get words to play together like deadly toddlers from Planet X; I love the feeling of satisfaction that comes from figuring out how to end them in a way that makes sense and brings closure to my feverish pulsating brain. I truly dig writing short stories. They’re short, which means they usually require less time to polish then they did to write. I loved, loved, loved, writing the first draft of my book; it flowed out of me in a way that I can only hope both smelled and looked better than what happens when the afore mentioned Mr. Brown writes.

But I would rather listen to the Davinci Code being read aloud, in unison, by Gilbert Godfried and Paris Hilton, all the while choking down mouthfuls of spoiled sardines, then spend one more second of my writing time revising this manuscript.

You know why?

Because when I wrote, “The End,” on the last page, I fucking meant it.

What the hell was wrong with Past Julian? Could he not figure out how to write it perfectly the first time? Did he want me to suffer? Maybe he didn’t know that I now have a Word document open on my desktop with the plots and characters outlined for the twelve books I’d rather be writing; each one much shinier in its potential twists and turns than the ugly, “finished” thing I have to come home to each night.

So why don’t I just cheat on my bastard child of a novel? Why don’t I start seeing a sleeker, sexier model and relegate this mewling thing to the archives of my Documents folder?

Because I am a writer. And, being a writer, I know two things.

1) If I ever want a shot at actually writing for a living, first drafts are not going to cut it*5; unless I manage to find both an agent and a publisher on the downswings of alcoholic binges, who make their project selections based on games of blind darts, I’m going to have to do some polishing.

2) The twelve books I could be writing? The ones I fantasize about every day at work, with a frequency and intensity that would make my fiancé question the commitments she’s made to me if she knew? Eventually I’ll have to edit those too. If I don’t, by the time I’ve finished writing them, all the gleam will have morphed into sickly rust and I’ll have to hide them with their retarded half siblings in the attic of my hard drive.

And that’s the dirty truth of writing, at least for me. I write, because I want to tell stories. Not just make stories and then just hide them away. Tell stories. Create something that has to be shared with someone else. No one does this just for the artistry of it. We work at our craft; strive to get better, because we want to share what we create. If we didn’t we’d all just drool into our keyboards and churn out endless piles of Edward and Angel slash fic*6.

Is it worth it? Do the times when coming home bone tired and plunking down in front of my keyboard to discover I’ve got 3000 words in me make up for the nights spent trying to wrestle an angst ridden paragraph into submission while my daughter cries for me to come play with her? I hope, in the final analysis that I can answer yes. Because, ultimately, I don’t know what to do if I can’t do this.

When I write, I’m a little bit nicer when I go out in public. I’m less likely to berate complete strangers on the street for waving placards about whales at me. My work day goes by faster when I know I’ve got something to say that’ll actually sing when I type it out.

I’m good at this, and there’s a satisfaction in knowing that, that can’t be equalled by anything else I’ve ever done.

I write because, like it or hate it, it’s honest and if I’m honest on the page it’s easier to pretend to be a nice guy out there.

*If your definition of morality doesn’t include an objective, established from on-high, set of arbitrary and counter-intuitive rules. If it does, then I am uncategorically and unabashedly going to a hell of your choosing some day. So buck up, comeuppance is most definitely coming my way.
**To be fair though, walking into a bookstore with all the cozy expectations that are bundled into that act, and being confronted by 300 copies of English vomit which bored housewives are cooing over, is not entirely unlike walking into your house and finding your mother being raped by Santa Claus. Some reaction has to be warranted.
***Although, if you’re a Californication fan, probably not.
****My ego really is this big, I actually use footnotes instead of parentheses because that way I’m controlling you even while you’re reading. Mwah hah hah.
*5 The careers of Dan Brown and Nora Roberts notwithstanding.
*6 See my next article on the current state of book sales for more on this theme.

 

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