Writing is about adventure.
We didn’t have Experiences growing up. My mother was afraid of them. We never had a real family vacation because she was afraid of flying so in order to get anywhere, we pretty much had to rely on the family car. And for a family that doesn’t enjoy being together for protracted periods of time, the Family Car was less a chariot to adventure and more a chamber of misery and leg cramps. So of course, we never really went anywhere unless you count a road trip to Tennessee when I was ten. Somewhere around Pennsylvania, I punched my sister in the face for trespassing on my side of the car. When my dad asked me what the holy hell that was all about, I remember distinctly saying “because we’ve been in a car for four days when we could have flown here in four hours. It’s hot, this car smells like feet and I’m pissed off. Damnit.” and I remember thinking, in a moment of rare wisdom and clarity probably uncharacteristic for a ten year old that not only did open cursing just get its first pilot run, I had accurately and openly addressed concerns with some degree of articulate cogency. Of course, along with that was the flash of plain, naked fear that came from the knowledge that I was about to Get It. There were two things that were loudly discouraged in my family: cuss words and cynicism. Really it was safest to shy away from all forms of honesty other than tattling and confession. Observation was something that was not done in our house. Observational honesty mixed with my family created a chemistry that was very unstable. Complaints were wrong. Criticisms were dismissed and Observations were usually only halfway out before one or both of them interrupted in such a way that didn’t only imply my thoughts weren’t important but, had mastered the art of demonstrating that, in that moment, I didn’t exist.
So it’s no real surprise that on that ill-fated odyssey that I decided to do two things. Act out like a motherfucker and start keeping a diary. “Decided” might be the wrong word. On day two of the trip, after loudly mourning that I had forgotten to pack any “damn comics”, my father handed me a set of headphones and a journal and said “Make it work”. And I liked it. At first I just liked the bubble it created between me and everyone else. It took me a few days to figure out that, most importantly, that journal was a place where I could say everything I was thinking and not get kicked under a table at Denny’s because “the fucking syrup tastes like bee piss.” In that blue book, I could feel however I wanted about my surroundings. I could capture and harness any crazy scenario raging inside my twisted little head and not have it called “foolishness”. I could observe the world around me without being told I was seeing it all wrong.
Most ten year old girls don’t know themselves well but I REALLY didn’t know myself. At all because to a large extent I was discouraged from being myself. Not using whatever gifts I had was unacceptable but using them (and at that age you’re using any genius you may or may not have purely in instinct) was Tedious. Annoying. Tiresome. Actually that was probably the word I heard the most. I, the human being, was Tiresome. That was pretty much all I knew about myself. But between the pages of that blue book, I was able to realize why I was so tiresome. Because I craved everything. New experiences, adventure, change, chaos, spicy food, air travel. I craved a plot. And i wanted to achieve these things by watching the world very closely and then telling it exactly what I thought of it.
Criticism is a spiritual process to someone who has opinions in the same way eating is a spiritual process to someone who has an appetite. They’re kindred activities. You smell it. You crave it. You savour it and then you wind up bloated, tired and a little scared of what you’ve just done. But like having one too many helpings of turkey every year, you relish the simple, slutty honesty of it all. And every year you go back for a third helping even though you know you’ll wind up passed out on the couch with your pants undone. You keep going back. Because it’s good for the soul.
Whether you’re submerged in critical theory or gravy, the most important piece of advice I can give you is wear pants with an elastic waist.