Shoot from the Hip, Aim for the Heart

There’s nothing scary about writing.

Only there is. And I’ve been suffering under it’s weight for some time. My own stupid, stubborn, self-inflicted weight. It’s not the writing. It’s the failure. Or the idea of failure. That you’re gonna sit down, maybe bang out a few hundred words and they just stare back at you, haunting and ugly and bad. Bad. Just… the worst words.

I really hated my creative writing courses during my undergrad. They never filled me with confidence or inspiration. My classmates didn’t seem like my peers. Either too young or too sloppy or too anything. I always stood out as cutting in my commentary. Never cruel, but confident and constructive. I always tried to think Big Picture and dissect each piece to its fundamental elements while comparing and illuminating each.

I think the last day, when all the graduates went out drinking with the head of the creative writing department, it summarized my outward relationships perfectly. One of my classmates sloshing his beer remarked aloud, “Whenever Graham talks about your story, everything he says– it’s always so right. But like. Do you have to say it?”

I’m not a dick. I’m not. I have deep compassion and sensitivity towards everyone. I’d say, over the years, I’ve learned to listen more than to talk. And I remember what people say, especially when they tell me things about their lives. Apparently, this is uncommon. Seems normal to me. I’ve taught myself under much difficulty the invaluable skill of Shutting The Fuck Up. If that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been gone. I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been chained to my past, reliving my mistakes and humiliations. I’ve been paralyzed by a present I hated. And I could not see my future. Life looked bleak and predatory, and existentially the dehumanization of capitalism left me defeated and hopeless.

But then I went to Gen Con for the first time.

Good god, why did no one tell me. I know it was supposed to be fun and nerdy. But no one described the nirvana. No one ever told me I would be overwhelmed by endorphins at every turn and feel so completely alive again. I couldn’t possibly write about it all here in this post. But I listened to seminars, I marveled at board games, I played roleplaying games, I made amazing friends,  I played in a goddamn megagame, I met Jason MORNINGstar. Even walked 40 miles.

But people saw me there. When I was there, people noticed. I was shiny. It was purpose, it was meaning. It was a future. And it felt amazing.

So don’t be scared. Do it to it. Shoot from the hip, aim for the heart. Keep writing. Everyday. Write what you WANT TO WRITE. Fuel your passion. Feed that creativity. You feel it. You trust it. You know it.

Ready? Let’s go.

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Just Start It

You ever wanna just write and you don’t write? You sit and stare at a computer screen, or let tab after tab multiply at the head of your browser. I really think the “Open in a new tab” option is the worst and best, and then worst again, thing that’s ever happened to internet browsing and procrastination everywhere.

Thank good shit for deadlines.

I loved Hunter S as a kid when I first discovered this literary, counterculture rebel. The 1990’s were a hard and confusing for me a kid, hating popular culture in every form. Bad sitcoms, terrible movies, and boy bands. Fucking god, what was with boy bands.

But when I found Hunter at an age when I was too young to really understand him, his ferocious staccato word choice had such teeth and venom. His ideas about truth in fiction and 1st person narrative spat in the face of everything I understood. And I stood up and screamed for more.

As a man, too, he seemed a figure alone. He hated rules and deadlines and most constraints. But I think for me, the constant pressure of a hard two hours to get 700 of the best words I had made them that much better. You couldn’t agonize or self-edit internally. You’d drown in your own spittle first. And not school deadlines. Turning some buzzingly lettered essay before 11:59pm was never satisfying. Maybe in retrospect, you would peek back at the wordy monster vomited up by desperate synapses when you got to see whatever arbitrary grade it received. Maybe then you could take a little random pride in how it “wasn’t too bad, all things considered.”

No, it was the pressure of professional writing and its tantalizing publication that got me there. I feel my overall experience was a bit hampered by largely writing theater criticism or reviews or whatever the most appropriate terms are. Sure, I got to write the odd column or be more creative in certain pieces. Mostly I feel like I got Albuquerque theater people to dislike me real good, with maybe a few who I liked what I was doing.

But sometimes you get stuck, right? Creatively bankrupt is a bit harsh, but I feel a pretty common experience is sitting and staring at a blank paper or canvas or screen. I had to teach myself not to do that. And I did this by learning to start, even if I didn’t know where I’d finish or where the next step would be. That, my friends, is what editing is for. Once you have the pieces, you can pass them around, really making the connections you want. And knowing that you’re at the top of hill, staring down in fear at the precipitous slope below, is where the battle can only begin. Knowing you really can start running and that gravity won’t make you crash immediately on your face is as freeing as anything else. You CAN make it. You have it in you. Once you get the pace thought by thought, you start coasting– comfortably, even. Inertia is the most powerful creative force you can possibly have.

But if you don’t start, you’ll be at the tippy, static top, staring at a blinking cursor.

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