I was nine when I wrote that. Today, I describe it as joyous and bizarre. My use of point of view, even at that age, had already left the realm of sophistication and entered the realm of the absurd.
Check and mate. I love the simplistic, condescending instructions on this worksheet. “Isn’t it fun to ‘make believe?’ ” I think the child who wrote this is already familiar with make believe. “It is fun but it isn’t easy to write a story.” No shit. And yet, for me, somehow I suspect writing this story was fun and easy. If a psychologist had read this, they might have seen early signs of schizophrenia. Today, I describe THE TEMPETURE Fairy as extremely creative bordering on psychotic.
There was a writer on Twitter—initials CJ. I read CJ’s book. Thought it was raw. Thought it was true. A rare find—and so was CJ. We talked a little. And in our most important conversation, she was saying she wanted to get writing back to..back to..she wasn’t sure what. And I said, “Back to when we were in high school and we wrote in notebooks.”
And she said, “Yes.”
We weren’t trying to “get published” back then. We weren’t planning on showing those notebooks to anyone, except maybe half a page to our closest friends to explain our theories of the world.
We weren’t primarily writing those notebooks with the intention of sharing them at all—we were almost exclusively writing them for ourselves. High school was the wilds of Final Fantasy and Zelda, we were mages, and those were our goddamn spell books. We needed those books, not to impress anyone, but to survive.
That was getting back to the root of why we were writing in the first place, for me and CJ. We wanted to get back there. Fuck Twitter. Fuck the internet. Fuck publishing.
And then CJ really did fuck Twitter, the internet, and publishing—she disappeared. Deleted her Twitter. As far as I know, ended her blog. I can’t find her or her book anywhere.
Maybe she got back to her roots?
I remember when I decided to unpublish Things Said in Dreams, I got back to my roots and for me it was a big change in direction and it felt so good. I had been trying to “get published” for so long—assuming that’s what one did when one had written books—that I was on auto-pilot, and I had forgotten the root at which I had begun to write fiction:
When I was in the 5th-10th grades, I read the first books that made me idolize novels. I had never been so impressed with anything in all my life, than those first few great books—and I wanted to do it! Simple as that: I wanted to write a great book. And I may spend the rest of my life trying.
Nowhere in the root of my desire did I ever say I wanted to publish a book. Nowhere did I ever say I wanted to be a famous writer. Those are fine for whoever wants them. But they were never in the root of what I wanted. Letting go of my list of literary agents, stopping all efforts to commercially publish my books, has felt right for me because it fits with the original idea of writing as planted in my head. Writing and publishing are distinct enterprises—I’m perfectly happy to be free of the latter.
Based on my brief but rich conversations with the author CJ, I have played extensively over many novels with my note-taking, outlining, and composition processes, sometimes taking a single-document approach that is very much like one of those messy, mage notebooks we all kept in high school—a garden of words and worms and moss and little sproutlings that with enough tilling and enough sunlight, sometimes turns into something readable and wild. And even though in some ways I’m moving into directions that weren’t even possible when I was in high school—I live-write every book now, showing my in-progress work at every stage in the composition process (so instead of being private, my notebooks are completely open)—I try to remain aware of that epiphany that CJ and I shared, and stay connected with the roots of my writing.
Writing for me first happened in the 4th grade, as journal writing—introspection that saved a sensitive boy from a harsh school, learning to talk hard situations out with myself in a little brown notebook my teacher gave me.
Then writing became a way to play with my bipolar disorder: listen to Michael Jackson and write poems, using both to amp up my mood to incredible heights—and to feel incredible sadness. A way to learn how to feel the highs and lows only a bipolar person can feel..and—to some degree—to control them.
Then came my notebooks. They were protector in school environments that continued to be too harsh for my sensitive head and heart to handle—and in a way they acted as friends when I didn’t have any.
Now I have written 22 books. And you know what? They’re the same thing to me now as my writing was in its root: introspection, a way to understand my emotions, protector—buffer between me and a world too harsh for me to interface with directly—and friends where friends are in short supply.
I don’t want that to ever change. I always want to be a black mage in a dangerous high school lunchroom, with my hoodie covering my head, roomy sleeves, carrying my notebooks containing spells that I use to keep myself moving and breathing and vital in an environment that, psychologically, spiritually, and intellectually..wants to kill me and every other creative person alive.
There are lots of writers’ rules, but the most famous is to write every day. Every writer and every writing book will tell you if you want to be a writer, you must write every day. Why?
The less important of the two reasons I’ll give, I’ll give first. You must write every day so that every day you will have the recent experience of having written yesterday. That way when you go to write today, you will believe you can—because you did yesterday. This is very important. The more time that passes between the last time you wrote..and now..the farther away will be those meagre memories of having successfully written for one day. If you wrote two days ago, it is quite easy to believe that you can repeat that today; if you wrote yesterday, it is even easier.
It takes a long time to write a book so you have to do it in little pieces. This is not college or high school—you cannot write a novel “the night before.” There is no night before. Maybe you can write 5 pages in a day. Maybe you can write 10. Maybe you can write 20. But you cannot write 200. If you work sporadically, it will take mysteriously longer to finish your novel than if you work regularly. This is a good place to be the tortoise, not the hare. If you “only” write one page a day, but you write every day, that’s a pretty long book every year. A book is a big project. The wise way to do most big projects is to break them into little pieces.
There are other reasons why writers have to write every day. These are just two that are apparent to me right this minute.
(regarding creative people) “If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an ‘individual,’ each of them is a ‘multitude.'” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) (from Suzanne)
“Most of us assume that artists—musicians, writers, poets, painters—are strong on the fantasy side, whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be true in terms of day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.”
Yes, I feel that. I’ve done software engineering work for more than a decade, and something that bores me about almost all of the engineers I’ve encountered is, perhaps, in the light of this article, their lack of creativity. Most of them aren’t very intelligent either, but perhaps even more centrally it’s the adherence to this stereotype referenced above, among engineers, that annoys me, or bores me, or irks me somehow. It’s like these people think that without some “art”—and by that I mean some dedication, some passion, some care—about their engineering work, that somehow they’re ever going to engineer anything of interest, of value, of significance. Four years of engineering classes and a daily dose of slashdot does not a creator make, even of things engineering-oriented.
“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”
That’s totally me.
This article also talks about “psychological androgyny…referring to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.”
Amen, brother (sister?). Am I gonna live my whole life with only the bonehead male aggressive responses? No. I love saying “fuck you” to people I hate, and if I was on a desert island with no consequences, I imagine I’d enjoy being quite violent toward those people. But just because I have a dick and love to stick it in pussy, doesn’t mean with my girlfriend (or anyone) I can’t sometimes be the one saying, “awww, I’m sorry you had a bad day at work honey.”
From The Thin Pink Line (2009): “The Japanese phrase, ‘the tall nail gets hammered down,’ refers to the phenomenon by which entire organizations strive for medocrity to accommodate the majority of workers who are — well, I have to say it — average. When you don’t behave ‘average’ you face negative consequences.”
From Stanford (1993): “What you quickly come up against . . . is the often skeptical attitude of your colleagues. And sometimes you face even overt hostility from other scientists who hold to different values or [even worse] represent opposing interest groups. The worst-case scenario, of course, is a linkup of the two, when skeptical colleagues and hostile, opposing special interests join forces.”
From the political theorist John Stuart Mill (On Liberty, 1869): “When the opinions of masses of merely average men are everywhere become or becoming the dominant power, the counterpoise and corrective to that tendency would be, the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand on the higher eminences of thought. It is in these circumstances most especially, that exceptional individuals, instead of being deterred, should be encouraged in acting differently from the mass. In other times there was no advantage in their doing so, unless they acted not only differently, but better. In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”
This is why I say banality is a crime. Break through the tyranny rather than being the tyranny. Open your mouth (at work, at school, at play) rather than keeping it shut. Don’t make (or pay to see) Transformers II or G.I. Joe; make movies that mean something about (or say something to) you! Making Transformers II (when you can do better) isn’t merely inane. It’s morally wrong. Not speaking your opinion with your peers—not sharing your creative ideas—this is not merely weak, it is not merely lazy. It is morally wrong; it is shirking your responsibility as a human being—and as such, is criminal.