I know this was supposed to be a blog about writing, and my mutterings of things worldly and common might be considered an offense, but in a halfhearted apology for my ramblings, they are, oddly enough, the ramblings of a writer (lowercase w), and worthy of the same read as my creative endeavors. I hope in the end you will forgive me for sharing them. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you’ll have already found that the short stories are lessening in their frequency, and this site has more than a couple times been high jacked by this “Reno Show” that I’ve been involved with bringing to life. The podcasts have been wearing in their regularity, and they’ve been depressing and sometimes downright painful to listen to. You see, I find myself less and less interested in writing, but trust me, it wasn’t a gradual thing at all, it was a fucking lighting bolt that hit me square in the melon. It left me starry eyed and dazed and more than a little scared, because for me writing has always been an identity not an activity. It was how I explained my life, my inability to mingle, my depression, and my creative origins. It was my power, as real as flying or speed, and it was how I was comfortable with the world seeing me. I think my epiphany came when I attended this writer’s conference last summer, and it inspired me to enter contests, and concentrate more on my abilities, and what I had learned.

I wrote these amazing stories that didn’t even come close to winning anything, and I’d read the stories that did win and … well they sucked! And I know how this makes me sound like a sore loser, and for the most part I am. The one thing I’m continually confident about is my ability to write, communicate, and convey my deepest, darkest mantra of life. It is a gift I have worked on, and practiced at from the time my mother gave me a copy of Catcher in the Rye when I was home sick for a long period of time. She thought it was a book about baseball, which I wasn’t interested at all. It was a book, rather, about confusion, and teenaged angst that I wasn’t sure I should have been reading at 13, but I, like everyone who had read it before me, was Holden Caulfield. I was in pain, and I wandered through a city of confusion and came out the other end with no understanding; only description. It made me question the method I had been taught to write, and how writing descriptive essays about crap, or how my summer vacation went when I was poor and spent the summer swimming in the one and only indulgence my blue collar father could afford, an in-ground pool, was stupid and pointless. I have dyslexia and my teachers would bombard me with their fixations about spelling and neatness of handwriting and not on content of said essays. If they looked into the soul of my words they would have been in awe … alas they did not, they looked at the form and not the style. It is my deepest belief that if you diminish, in any way, another person’s soul, you diminish your own in the process. That is what they did. When I finally learned to type, the world opened up for me. I would sit in front of the screen for hours upon hours typing all the thoughts I had been unable to in the past. Writing all the scenarios and adventures that I had only been able to convey orally until then, and I lived for the day when I could show all those English teachers who said I couldn’t write for shit, that I was a writer. I dreamed of the day when they would be in a book store, and see my name on the cover of a book of literary short stories or any other such endeavor, riddled with raves from critics on the back. I would never see their faces, but I hoped that they would, from that time forward, see their students for what they are, and not for what they aren’t.

See for writers, as well as everything else in life, there are rules. They are rules I often choose not to follow, but they exist and they are real. There are set patterns and ideas that you need to follow in order to be accepted by the elite. There is a box and you must write to the edges, but no further. You cannot break the box, or write on the outside of it, because they need the box in tact or they are lost. I learned a long time ago that the world has no problem appreciating genius, but it has very little interest in identifying it. Identifying it takes bravery and courage, two things that followers take no solace in. We live in a world of the Emperors New Clothes, where something is handed to the elite, packaged in just the right way, following just the right form and method, and they are brilliant in finding ways to describe how exactly it is brilliant. They write pages upon pages about how the characters are deep and edgy when they’re not, they explain angles where there are none, and they tell us what is good. You, conversely, hand them something they had never seen before, and they are brilliant in telling you how awful it is. They are legions of followers and hangers on, and they form no opinion that isn’t expected and accepted by their superiors. They do not judge art on merit; they judge it on expectations and how closely your work meets those expectations.

I learned this first hand in a poetry class I took in college. I would be given these long and awful poems to read, and I would write endless passages on how I hated them and how they were just dribble meant to inspire, yet only annoyed me. I was given lower grades because I didn’t “get” why these poems were good. My papers were “wrong” not because of merit, but rather because I didn’t agree with the establishment. If I was writing about how I didn’t like the poem, no matter how articulate I was, and how many examples I gave, I was wrong because I didn’t write endlessly about how good the poem was … because after all, it was good, it was in a book. It wasn’t until I cheated and read other’s critiques of a poem, and formed into my own words what they found so appealing, even though I completely disagreed with them, was I given decent accolades for my efforts.

That is why they are dying: the literary fictionists. Oh yeah, they blame it on a dumbing down of society, and the notion that they are smarter than the rest of us, and they will provide material that we won’t read for our own good. They try to find the next “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” or “Grapes of Wrath,” but what they don’t remember was that those two novels, as well as hundreds of them before, were popular in their time. They were the “Da Vinci Code” of their age. They flew off shelves because of their content, not because of their now famed multileveled characters and deep seated symbolism, but because they were easy to read and their context compelled and entertained. Now, however, they are dying because they believe art looks like something they’ve seen before. They are dying because they turn their nose up on things that make them smile or even laugh because those things are not worthy of note. They are dying because they believe entertainment is something complicated and a puzzle only they and their smarty friends can appreciate. They sit at dinner parties and discuss the complexities of plots and character development of naked emperors, and pat themselves on the back for getting it right. They turn their attention away from people who disagree with them, and they surround themselves with people who fear risk, and avoid limbs.

When I was at this writer’s conference I was told that Dan Brown was a “guilty pleasure.” I was never told in any public forum that my stories were fun to read; that was something left for the walks to Starbucks, or after a couple glasses of wine at dinner. I was told months later that my story was enjoyed, and that I had a level of talent that was deep and worthy of honing. None of this was discussed in the workshop. The stories which were praised were those that I though boring and uninspired. There is a formula, make no mistake, and if you don’t follow it, you’re dead. The stories which win awards are the topics of endless discussions regarding their genius, and the stories which don’t are fodder for criticism and backbiting which is designed to render the critic thoughtful.

So what’s the answer? I would suggest to you, the writer, close up that tear you made to their little box, and write to the edges they (the contest judges and the publishers) are comfortable with. You cannot write outside the box until they judge your talent genius rather than just the work; you must lull them with things they are used to so that you can make them accept anything you write as art. And trust me you will. If you manage to convince the elite that you are a genius, then any piece of shit you write will dazzle them. Any dribble you put on a page will wow them into publication. It is a road worthy of the effort if all you want to do is be a writer. If you lie a awake at nights dreaming of the cocktail parties, and the long vivid conversations over non-corporate coffee at obscure coffee houses that smell like patchouli oil and body odor, then point your nose down the road to conformity and never look back. It is a road I recommend.

If you’re me, however, it is not so easy. I cannot write inside the box. I cannot feel around for the edges of mediocrity and find a warm place to hide and type. My only option is to sit around my house and feel sorry for myself, and bask in the comfort that depression provides me, and ramble on about how unfair the system is. I can only be consoled by deep thought, and depriving myself of the only thing that provides any real joy for me, and live my life alone and without hope.

My only option is to figure out what I am. Am I a Writer, with a capital “W,” which I associate with people who write for a living or write as a profession, or am I a writer with a lower case “w” which is someone I feel writes because he loves the sounds of the keys, and the notion that he is creating his friends by typing the words? I’m that guy. I’m the guy who forms relationships with his words, and becomes loyal and faithful to their spirits. I’m the guy who thinks that everything I write is an entity onto itself. I’m loyal to me, not to the endless parade of intellects who follow my high school English teachers in demeaning my endeavors. I write in two dimensions to show the complexities of those characters, not because I’m lazy. I write, conversely, in four dimensions to show how simple and pointless those characters are. I write about things that can never happen, or things that happen everyday, which aren’t interesting yet are in a weird obsession with reality TV kind of way.

My advice to you is to be loyal to who you want to be; be loyal to your future not your past. Decide what you want to do and be okay with what that means. I think you need to focus on who you want to be rather than where you want to be, but that’s just me trying to take a simple topic and screw with your brain. If you’ve been reading you’ve read the Matt and Ben story, I love it, and in the coming weeks it will be longer and more detailed. I love to write stories I enjoy reading, I hope that in the end, that will be something I can give rather than receive.

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