I don’t suppose to speak for all who bear this tribal mark of being a ‘writer.’ The kinship of those troubled and tortured souls. No, in this forum I merely seek to speak of my own troubled and tortured soul. To lay bare for you some of the reasons that I turn to the written word to find a solace that your ‘real world’ cannot give me. A solace it has never been able to provide.
Failed relationships. Failed marriages. Strained and abandoned friendships. All fall out from this otherworldly possession.
I don’t blame the writing for the failure. Quite the opposite. I praise it for giving me release. Relief. A purpose. A method to the madness. The words soothe. The worlds created are many times more real than the menagerie I drift through on a daily basis. You see a person. Living. Doing his job. Doing what normal people do. I assure you, my life is anything but. It is a duality that only makes sense when I am in front of the keyboard. Or my journal. Pen in hand. Fingers dancing across the keyboard in some untaught, yet completely familiar pattern. A meter and timbre heard only to me. And to others of my tribe.
This dual existence isn’t limited to just writers. I know musicians, photographers, filmmakers, all manner of creative types that feel this. Feel as though there is some higher purpose. Bringing something beautiful or different or unique in to this plane of existence.
But matter can neither be created nor destroyed. So for us to create, something has to die.
For me it was the notion that I was ‘normal.’ That I was ever going to live a ‘normal’ life. What the fuck is normal about a 45 year old man, twice divorced living in an apartment among neighbors that know only that he is a deep dude. Weird. But he always has beer in his fridge and is mostly ok to hang out with because he makes people laugh.
That may be normal. I tend to think that it isn’t.
The part of me that dies every time I create is the part that I’m quite sure I never had. When I was a child, I would not ask my mother to peel (or unpeel) an orange. I would instead ask her to ‘wrap one off for me.’ I would not ask for the light to be turned on. I would ask her to turn off the dark.
The dark was my unit of measure. It still is, in many cases. The light has no defining feature for me without the shadows.
Trust me, that is but the tip of the iceberg that is my inner sanctum.
This weekend, it is particularly at the front of my noggin. For a couple of reasons.
I was getting out of my car Thursday morning at work and heard a snippet of a radio interview with someone who I could only assume was a consultant on a criminal show, a police procedural of some sort. And he said that the single underlying thread connecting almost all homocides was emotion. In almost all instances, the emotion of the perpetrator was at such an elevated level that it prevented them from actually thinking the action through to its natural conclusion. To where the consequences were not even a factor. The anger or other emotion (usually anger) was so high that it bypassed that pre-thought and went straight to action without thought of consequence.
So. That seed is there in the soil of my fertile imagination. Will it take root? Who knows? But it’s there.
Add to that, the 24 hour day. After leaving work Thursday evening, i was called back in to work and was there until about 5-5:30 in the morning. It was a 24 hour day in which 17 of those hours were spent at work. It was a long day and I was tired.
Having already scheduled a 1/2 day of PTO Friday, my boss graciously told me to sleep and report to to work bright and smiley on Monday.
Friday afternoon was a time I had scheduled my car’s oil change. Elliot, my car, was a bit overdue and she was getting a little cranky. Not to mention there was some recall regarding a key chime warning. The visit could take at least two hours I was told.
I had planned to do some writing, but the impromptu full day off meant that I would be using my down time in the service center waiting room to dial in and work on emails for work. Fine. No biggie.
The visit went quickly. Too quickly. I had specifically asked about the tire pressure. It was supposed to be 35PSI. They always set it to 32 and reprogrammed my tire pressure monitors so any attempt to put the correct pressure mucked with the sensors. The paperwork said they put the tire pressure at 32. I went back in. They assured me it’s 35 (I’m still betting when I check, it will be 32).
So, fine. It’s 35PSI. I’m heading home from Marion and get a call from work. I need to dial in and work on some things post haste. The wi-fi at the service center sucked so I settled on a BW3’s. I did what I needed to do for work. I ate some wings. I drank a beer. And I started to head home.
I got in the car. All of my presets for the sound system had been wiped. To be expected. I was annoyed, but whatever. I figured the firmware update for this key chime bullshit would cause that. Again, annoyed, but I could deal with it.
I threw the car in reverse and checked the screen for the backup camera image.
There was none.
The backup camera was not working.
I could find no setting to engage it.
The update had horked it up.
I drove back to the service center. It was 10 minutes to 6. They closed at 6. I know this. But I also had to express my frustration.
The reply I got was, “Huh. Well. We’ve never had it do that, but yeah. It makes sense that the update did that since the camera is part of the radio'”
And then HE STARED AT ME BLANKLY.
I could feel the ire rising. I should NOT have to tell him what I expected, and yet that was the look I was getting. “Yup. We broke it. It was part of the update. It’s never done that before. What do you expect us to do about it?”
I said, fighting the urge to shout like a crazy person, “well. Are you going to fix it?”
“We have no techs. They’ve all gone home. We close in 5 minutes. You’re going to have to come back Monday. I’m sorry.”
And it was the ‘customer service sorry.’ It loosely translates to “look…I’m sorry that you’re a dumbass and didn’t check this earlier when we could actually do something about it, but it’s about quitting time so fuck off.”
I was livid. Like beyond rationally livid. I swore a blue streak on the way to my car. Slammed the door and proceeded to shout at the top of my lungs as I drove off. Luckily the windows were up.
I hit the main drag in Marion on the way to 23 and was shouting. Red faced, spittle flying shouting.
And I knew rage.
It was the stupidest fucking thing. Seriously.
The seed from the interview took ground. And I understood. I wasn’t thinking of consequence. I wasn’t thinking of how stupid it was. And I wasn’t at all thinking of how irrational my reaction was compared to the situation that spurred it on.
In short, it was crazy.
I felt, for those moments, like a crazy person. A person possessed and capable of some real nasty shit.
And here is where the writer in me took over.
After the initial outburst, The rest of the ride home was spent analyzing the situation. Not for the cause, but for how it could actually be written about and used in any upcoming works. I dissected it and studied it and cataloged it. In the instance that I need to know how to write an irrational trigger for rage, I’ve got that in my back pocket.
And maybe that’s my wiring. You recall I have always felt that I’m wired differently. I have spoken to a great many writers, some of whom I am blessed to count as friends, and to a one it’s a similar tale. I don’t think I’m the only one wired this way among my peers. I take situations that occur in my life. People that I meet. Places that I go. And they become fodder for stories.
I don’t think I would have really hurt that clerk giving me the vapid 30 yard stare, but I will in a story. Not him exactly, but someone in a story who makes one of my characters feel the way I felt staring at him Friday.
There are many iterations of a saying that essentially boils down to the following. Be careful how you cross a writer, for you may wind up in one of their stories.
For me, though, it’s all a story. Everything in this life is a story. Some of it I’m writing. Some I’m co-authoring. And some of this life I am merely reading. Turning the page to see what happens next.
I wondered what a ‘normal’ person would have done had they felt that rage? I shudder to think. There are times when I am very grateful for this affliction, for it gives me a chance to bleed out the bad stuff in my brain to some crazy narrative on the page that some find enjoyable. It is a bloodletting of the soul that I feel allows me to truly be alive in this world with its dull patina of half truths.
That is the weird wiring. To be truly alive only when the words are flowing. I suppose that is the gift and the curse. To know what it truly feels like to be alive, but to only feel that when I am completely isolated from everything and everyone in this world.
The true irony is the fact that I am still thankful for that curse. Each and every time I sit down to write.