This is how my brain works. When sh*t gets real, I get writing and somehow it helps the crazies work themselves out of my system so I don't end up eating wallpaper or gouging holes in random melons in the supermarket. No matter what the issue is I know some time spent in the good old zone will exorcise the demons. I get to writing and all the stress, all the baggage, all the world melts away to nothing. It's a vacation to a place where I can fix the unfixable, even for just a little while. And I really like it there. Without writing, I'm two bad songs on the radio away from being this guy.
A few years back I realized I may have had (okay, definitely had) some serious cobwebs in my emotional attic that needed some industrial strength sweeping out. It was either a leap of faith or desperation that got me writing about it. And I can pinpoint the exact moment. I was cleaning up the TV room and it was like those stories you hear about angels speaking to prophets. Only, I'm no prophet. I'm a bit of a goon. And the angel was no angel, but Hollywood royalty. Carrie Fisher.
The one the only, was doing her one woman show WISHFUL DRINKING.
Carrie Fisher has had her share of problems and for that hour she stood on stage and spoke about them, candidly. And this was well before the whole "That just happened." thing took off. My once-idol stood in front of a group of strangers and talked about all of her demons. She didn't just talk about them. She owned them. Every single last one of them. And she was once again a princess in my eyes. That was the night I started writing what would become a memoir detailing some, if not the majority, of skeletons I locked away in fear that people would know once and for all that I was crazy.
SPOILER ALERT!!! I am... SPOILER ALERT!!! Who isn't?
For years there were so many things that fell into the category of, "We should never talk about that" for me. But Ms. Fisher had changed it all in the course of one HBO special. That night I wrote out a full notebook and in that subsequent winter break I found myself writing during every free moment I could find. Late at night, in between pick-ups and drop-offs and doctors appointments, it was me and my laptop and the story we thought we'd never tell. And then something remarkable happened. The more I wrote, the less crazy everything felt. The more words I got down, the less horrible it all felt. And before I knew it, it wasn't "We don't talk about that," anymore. It had made the transition to, "That just happened."
Princess Leia changed the way I write forever.
Instead of trying to hide my shit, I embraced it. I made it my own and did some of the most powerful and healing writing I've ever done.
Since then I've vowed to keep my stories, essays, poems, (hell, my notes to school) as honest and true to the guts as I can. I'm that writer who digs into scabs and pokes at the metaphorical toothache until it stings. If it hurts I dive into it as far as I can and I bring it up into my fiction. I have a history with awkward break-ups. So, my first published short story is about a girl who shows up at her first love's gala event, with her own personal bagpiper in tow. All the while her bagpiper is piping away, the tune "Staying Alive" at full-tilt. And just when you think it can't get any more uncomfortable we find out this gala event is her first love's funeral.
Hit the nerve yet?
I do what works for me. In this case, it's getting real. Those honest painful things I am too uncomfortable to face in real life usually rear their heads in my fiction well before I even know they are a thing that needs to be hit at all. That's why I have so many painfully awkward characters who have a hard time in crowds, or ladies who identify a little too well with their inanimate objects, or lots and lots of characters with social quirks.
Right now I'm taking on the biggest challenge I've ever taken on as a writer. I am working on a story about a young hero with autism. And my goal is not to create a cartoon. (Not that there's anything wrong with cartoons.) But I don't want the two-dimensional paper cutout of what a person on the spectrum might be, but a fully-realized person who loves and needs to be loved, a character worthy of our respect and interest not because of what she has, but because of who she is.
Did I mention sometimes I blog somewhere else?
In real life?
When I'm not writing dark creepy books, or being a superhero wiseass of the stupid, I spend my time advocating for a very important character who inspires me more than any writer, crime fighter or alien. Her struggle has become a source for my own growth as a human being, in that she has taught me how to be a better person. She has given me focus, purpose, and strength I couldn't ever fathom was possible. And I learn a little more about the world each day because of her.
As cheeseball as that might sound, it's as true as it gets. And that's what I write.
I never write for word count, and much to the dismay of anyone waiting for stories, rarely for deadlines. I write for neither of those, but for the need to get something out of my system. I write to keep my demons at bay, to battle the ghouls that keep me up at night, and to keep my head straight.
Just today for instance, I got some news. That news is the reason I sat down this evening to blog when I swore I would go to bed early tonight. I'm not ready to write about it yet, but knew the second it came I would end up here. I'm sure in time pieces of the issue will find their way into one of my stories or characters. The news today will surface just as surely as any other "somethings" I've been working through have. It's as inevitable as the sleepiness coming over me, now that this blog is just about done.
That's just the way my sh*t seems to work.
Thanks for reading and g'night!
**For those readers wondering, "Why so serious?", worry not. I'm sure next week I'll be back to writing about hamburgers or sharing videos of scared guys playing tubas.