Writing Laxative and Hedging

My cousin asked me the other day, “What would be your elevator pitch for your book?”

And I couldn’t come up with one. I’ve ruminated over the question since, and it’s gotten me thinking about, well, a lot of things. Here’s what they are (hopefully putting them into writing will get them out of my way):

I don’t think I want my book to have a point. I don’t want to beat my readers over the head with some sort of takeaway from my nonsense. If you’d like to glean something from my storytelling, then I strongly encourage you to do just that (and let me know what it is because it’s probably something I’m missing). I have full faith in my readers’ ability to do that without me. I feel like so many autobiographical works are written from the perspective of “look where I am today,” and I don’t have that, yet.

On that point, I’m not sure that I ever will have that. I view myself as a continuous work in progress, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to wait until I feel like I’ve gotten somewhere to justify publishing shit. I want my stories to serve as entertainment – as an escape from your every day humdrummery. I want you to be able to immerse yourself in my poor decisions so that you don’t have to confront yours for a moment.

If we all want a longer narrative and more meaning, why is YouTube so popular? Then again, do I want to be the writing equivalent of YouTube? Do I want to support the continuing downward spiral of our attention spans? Or is it less a support and more an acknowledgement? Like, this is the way the world works, and I can either take advantage of it or stand behind my love of long-form storytelling, and try to be “better than.”

I’m left feeling like maybe I should have something specific to say. I should have a reason to be telling these stories. I should have a model of the world I’m working toward by telling them. I only got so far as “I want my voice heard,” and I didn’t take the time to think about what it would be saying. Shouldn’t I be trying to have some sort of positive impact?

I think I should. So how do I do that? Well, going back to school to study psychology is a start. I’ll get a masters degree in clinical psychology, then I’ll use my vastly-better-than-my-undgrad-GPA to apply to PhD programs in Europe. Largely, I won’t listen to the recommendations of people without doctoral degrees, so why would I expect people to listen to me?

Also, it seems like one’s degree of success in the entertainment industry ultimately doesn’t matter. Eventually, everyone loses “buzz,” then what? My grandfather had a degree of success in the business, and it got him into a union, and it got him into a very nice retirement home in the valley. But is that what I want? Is that where I want to end up? I don’t think it is.

I’d much rather explore the world and write about it, as I’ve always made decisions informed by the question, “How good will the story be if I do this?” I’d love to just rest on the laurels of my writing, but I’m scared by the potential of being another 5 years down the line without anything to show for it, if it ends up being the case that I’m just not as good as I think I am.

I will not stop writing. I will not stop trying. But I will give myself an out in the form of a PhD. I will allow myself the comfort of knowing I can always teach at a university if things don’t pan out exactly the way I want. And I will be called, “Dr. Sean Patrick Farrell,” which I gotta say, has a pretty nice ring to it.

*Sigh* That’s better.

The Process

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Look at how contemplative and artsy that shit is! LOOK!

Ya know… I didn’t go into this writing thing with the thought that my perspective on the world and its goings on needed to or would change in any way, but I’ve noticed a shift that’s worth mentioning. The process of sifting through my past for things worth discussing is a strange combination of cathartic and anxiety-provoking.

I find myself flying over forests of memories, then every so often a single tree catches my eye. Most of the trees are too obfuscated by time, a life of rotational inebriation, or a lack of enough interest to recall their details. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I see one clearly – I circle over it, looking at it from different angles, trying to decide if it’s worth landing on. Sometimes it isn’t, and I resume my aloof perusing from the comfort of the clouds, but other times I like the shape of the branches, or the feel of the bark, or the color of the leaves, so I land.

Some trees have a beautiful aesthetic, and I can play around in them for my enjoyment, and ideally the enjoyment of the reader. Some trees are riddled with thorns that I must endure, ideally also for the enjoyment of the reader. Some feel like coming home, some feel like I’m standing on fucking thorns the whole time (I don’t need another metaphor there – thorns suck and so do some of my memories).

Sometimes the damn things are just too uncomfortable to get close to. It’s both exciting and frustrating to find these particular memories, because I know I’ve struck writer’s gold when I can’t bring myself to confront them, and eventually, I’ll have to endure the shitty feelings for long enough to get it in writing. I’m sorry to say, you’ll have to buy the book to get those stories (I’m not that sorry – it’ll be a good book).

I suppose that even in those instances, I get some sense of enjoyment, or at least some long-term benefit. Even when it’s at its worst, this process can offer some degree of healing. I had a spent bullet casing lodge itself in my collar once, and by the time I got it out, the water forced from my skin had already cooled it to a manageable temperature. I ignored the burn for what was probably too long, and it got infected. After my first shower in a while, I scrubbed away at the wound with a rough washcloth until it was raw again. Now it’s healed and you can barely see the scar.

Point is, the process can be like scrubbing an infected burn wound with a rough washcloth, but eventually it’ll heal over more completely than it would have if you hadn’t done that. Or at least that’s the hope. If it doesn’t, I’ll at least try to make the scrubbing look choreographed. Either way, I hope you enjoy the spectacle.