¶ Prompt from Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.
At my elementary school there were hung a series of one word banners along the main hallway from the entrance to the back of the school. One of those banners read “Honesty.” What a word. What a virtue.
Cameron calls this tool “the Flashlight” because it puts things into black and white, while the flashlight of our prose helps us find our way “through the gray.”
“When we are writing honestly, the writing heats up and we can feel that. When we get cold feet about the truth, our prose goes cold as well. Then we need to pry at the icy surface and see what we can dig up.” She goes on to suggest beginning with conditional statements that lean on the truth, rather than dive head first into what may be the deep pool of our subconscious. That is scary. But writing that feels scared, that skirts the truth, that’s what writers would do well to confront. Not polished, but honest. Not well-said, but said, brutally if need be. Personally, I’ve been struggling with this middle section of my novella, about two lovers, because they themselves are not opening up — and this inherently feels boring to me, why would I want to spend time with two people who can’t be honest about themselves — so I try to make it interesting by playing with language, by writing whimsically, but in the end it is exhausting and self-annihilating. I wish this couple would just get it on! But they don’t. So maybe a little honest can spice things up. Even if they won’t share themselves, there must be consequences. So, allow me to “flashlight” a little down below, using some of the conditional sentences, as a way of opening up to you. And I’ll start with a self-reflexive one to boot.
If I let myself admit it, it pisses me off when I am honest but the honesty is not reciprocated or acknowledged. I know what I am feeling. I know my thoughts. And I speak my mind, most of the time. But for someone to tell me I am bullshiting irritates me. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t understand why, when I’m being hot and honest, it isn’t felt. It makes me feel doubt, like maybe I am not being honest. I like Gary Vee’s quote in these cases, “Fuck them.” Even if that makes me a bit of a psycho, like Gary Vee, to say.
If it weren’t so strange, I would let myself try online dating. God damn it, it’s so strange, and weird, and yet everybody’s doing it. I feel distanced by technology, not brought together. I like the story of falling in love, and I tell myself I must have a story of serendipity, not swipe-dee-dee-dee. But, I kinda run myself out of steam, and look at me, I’m alone in the narrow sphere of my life, untouched and unseen by larger circles of friends. And I kinda hate myself for feeling so unique as to not have to succumb to what everyone else is doing. But then, damn, I tell myself I must do something. And so I am torn. But in the end I don’t do anything about it. And I just complain about being single, to myself, of course, rarely to friends, because, well, I am waiting for a miracle to happen I guess in this realm of my life, the most lacking: adventure / romance. And guess what I am writing about in the novella? What I need.
If it weren’t so risky, I would walk right into the Center for Fiction office and hand them a hard copy of my application sent to them months ago for their fellowship. I’ve been waiting so long to hear back from them, that I’ve gone ahead and submitted novels for publication (which if accepted would exclude me from this fellowship), and gone ahead and submitted applications for other residences (which, yeah, same thing, would exclude me), because I’m tired of waiting around, scratching my balls for an email. Have you seen Zama? The story about a man who waits years and years and years for a ship that never comes, who never gets the decency of a firm “No,” so keeps on waiting the whole damn time. That’s how I feel. This damned literary game we all play because we buy in to it, literally (lit-er-ally). Buy buy buy. But I don’t walk in there, because I am afraid of being too forward, of “scaring them off.” But maybe I’m just scared of getting that flat No in the face. Waiting is so much easier. Should I go… should I… should… sh…
If it didn’t scare me, I would fly to another country with no money no job no place to stay and spend my summer there and possibly never come back.
If I weren’t so stupid, I would have worked harder in high school, would have stuck to a hobby earlier, would have read all my assigned readings, would have been better in bed, would have left toxic women earlier, would have made more money somehow, would have volunteered more, would have stayed on top new music, would have been somebody else.
“What animal are you?” A lady friend asked me once. I replied Lion. “No, not something obvious,” she said. So I said Horse. But I wish I had stuck with my honest first answer. And I hate how people associate things to the lone tree shade creature just doing his thing, taking care of his people. I am a goddamn roaring Lion, have been ever since I looked into the clear blue waters of a Caribbean sea and saw my own reflection as if for the first time. And when someone tells me otherwise, Imma stick out a claw, or not give a shit, both viable options for the cat with a bite.
What season is my writing career? Spring. What season is my academic career? Autumn. What season is New York City to me? Spring. What season is my friendship with my roommates? Summer. What season is my thesis? Winter. What season is my love life? Winter. What season is my relationship with my parents? Autumn. What season is my relationship with this blog? Summer.
If it weren’t so threatening, I would admit I am the best writer alive!
If I let myself know it, I feel there are fabulous minds out there producing excellent work that inspires me to raise my low standard for myself up to their high and venerable position. If I let myself know it, I remember to be humble. If I let myself know it, I am like everyone else. If I let myself know it, I am the only one that will stick with me the rest of my life. If I let myself know it, I’m a pretty damn good writer. If I let myself know it, I have a shot to one day admit, I am the best writer alive!
If I let myself feel it, I should be patient. If I let myself feel it, I should be grateful. If I let myself feel it, I should be excited because the whole world is right there outside my window. If I let myself feel it, I am so happy I could be bread with butter, and be eaten.
If I let myself entertain the thought, I should stop right here.
I’m not ready yet, but eventually I will need to enter the dating pool. I’m not ready yet, but eventually I will have to self-publish. I’m not ready yet, but eventually I will need to give up the ghost.