Ruminations on the Why of It

TCRiggs wrote a response to my last post I thought worth sharing. A personal essayist struggling to find her voice might find the following interesting. The essential question, “How much time does one give a thing before it’s safe to write about it?” 20 years? Perhaps. She also suggests perhaps turning to fiction. She keeps a level of anonymity on her blog.

But what if it’s too late for that? What if the damage is done? I mean essential damage? That’s what I’ve done. I’m really good at tearing down the foundation of a thing. Exceptional at destruction. Here’s my response to her:

Anonymity is good. Fiction even better. But I’m working on a brand and it conflicts with every area of my working life. I write to a small subset and write myself out of others. I’ve struggled with this and for decades I haven’t written at all, working for little to no money in other industries and profoundly frustrated. Unable to construct a sentence. I’m unsure of the connection between them, why must one exist to the exclusion of the other?

But it was when I started to write those things closest to me that I found words again. Much to the detriment of many things. I don’t want to. I don’t try to. But when I stop, then I stop writing.

My heroes are the rebels and the cynics. I’ve always felt that cynicism is thinly veiled hope. A cynic sees the world for what it is, but knows its potential for more. A glutton for punishment, she never stops hoping even when things are at their worst.

When I read Hunter Thompson’sThe Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, it unfastened a latch within me. I recognized something in his writing, a thing that felt like me. Not in the subject, not in the content, but in the how of it. In the rage of it. And in the self-awareness of it. There’s beauty in his disgust and self-knowledge. In the last sentence of that essay he recognizes that he and his subjects are one. They disgust him as he disgusts himself. He never judged himself for it. I judge myself for everything. So on the page, I fight for his courage.

There are others who inspire me now, but it was Hunter Thompson who taught me to trust my voice. I’m somewhat transgender in my writing. My voice sounds like a man’s. A friend once told me that, and he didn’t mean it to flatter. But I don’t mind anymore. Except that the world still wants girls to sound like girls.

There is always luck in success and Thompson was the writer for his time.  I’ve been mining the depths of my life and I cannot find it. That thing that makes me unique. That thing that people want.

As for making money in the meantime, there are many things I’m good at, but one thing I want to do more. And when it’s in opposition to those other things, it creates constant tension. I’m looking for work, I’m not writing. I’m writing, I’m not able to find work because of what I’m writing. Now it’s all out there. It was unwise. It was unrealistic. It was perhaps, wishful thinking to imagine I could give the finger to the man and expect the man to give me a paycheck.

Since this exists on the internet, I have to find sympathetic employers who can see what I do and value it, not fear it. Whether or not I meant to, I created this. The secret will is a powerful thing. And so is the Internet. I’m deep into it now.

6 thoughts on “Ruminations on the Why of It

  1. Flannary O’Conner comes to mind… she was a cynic of the highest sort. But then that was fiction as well…

    (Was it the Nordstrom blog? If so… I didn’t get to read it!)

    You will have to have a tough skin for this venture. Almost feels like investigative journalism, except from a participant-observer pov. Sorry not familiar with the book or writer.

    Could get messy. All I can say now is ‘better roll up yer sleeves’… a lawyer might help depending on the dragon you are slaying.

    Still… very brave and interesting… looking forward to seeing where it goes. It might just be what the world needs to get us through this mess.

  2. You. Are must be the most insightful human on the planet. Ok, but really insightful. Given that you don’t know Thompson’s work, there’s no way you would know that you just described his career in a nutshell. And you’re right, it will be a bumpy ride. And you’re right, Flannery O’Connor is also brilliant. It is because I cannot write fiction that I don’t write it, but if I did, she would be my muse. Does your daughter hate how much you’re right all the time? Do you have a daughter? Because I would hate it. But in a friend, it’s the only kind to have.

  3. Hey, “Edge,” I enjoyed this and it made me think about some common ground. Once, long ago, I had someone in a writing class tell me a piece I wrote disturbed her. “I couldn’t tell if you were a man or a woman,” she said. At first I was surprised. Maybe a smidgen uncomfortable. But then I decided I liked it. Why should I have to sound like a female? Why should I have to sound like anything other than the human I am? So, anyway, good on you sister! Another thing, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” is freakin’ awesome essay writing. Thanks for reminding me how much I love it. Keep on being you. xoxo

  4. Hey California Cracked. I know. And that’s why I love your writing, because it’s totally ungirly. Not that there’s anything wrong with girly. Really. But it’s so good to be on common ground. Isn’t the Kentucky Derby so awesome? I hadn’t thought of it in years until today. Well, moving forward…this is the year, yeah? We’ve set milestones and now we’ll help one another meet them.

  5. I guess it’s good that someone should ask how much time to give a thing before it’s safe to write about it–it shows they’re thinking about the question–but no answer applies to everyone. No answer even applies to most people. When I taught fiction writing, one of the things I aimed for was to get my students to stop looking to other people for answers to that sort of question.

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