were most of your stars out? : a conspectus on writing part i

Writing, real writing, is done not from some seat of fussy moral judgment but with the eye and ear and heart; no American writer will ever have a more alert ear, a more attentive eye, or a more ardent heart than his.

Adam Gopnick on J.D. Salinger

This has many beginnings.

12 years ago when Justin and I were mere children living in San Francisco, I whined incessantly that all I wanted to do was write. I had been publishing journal entries online since 1996 but they were random and scattered, in content and location. There was no coherency to them with the exception that they were about me, whether about my life or my emotions, but the running theme was that I was somehow worked into the story. And most of it, whether I remembered it or not, is true.

In the spring of 1998, one my co-workers at Slip.Net told me how she decided to start putting her journal entries online in a diary format. I thought this was brilliant and in May of that year, I registered simunye.org. I thought I was being oh, so clever naming it “The Lisa Chronicles,” because that is all that it is — a chronicle of my life. I knew that it was something that could work: professors had praised my writing during my first foray into college that I had more than enough voice to make a living with the written word. Writing an online diary of sorts seemed to be a natural extension of that same concept – if enough people like it, it would spur me on to write more, push me into honing the craft and make something out of it (like every other 20-something pretentious fuck twit who thinks they can write).

But could I actually make a living off of it? I, then, never even bothered to try and find out.

Justin says that if I”m passionate about writing, really passionate as I exclaim during our near monthly argument on the topic, why am I not doing something with it? Why do I push it away and bind it away from me, like loose hair?

Writing, I tell him, is extraordinarily lonely work. There is no water cooler chitchat, no gossip amongst the cube farms – writing for me has to occur not only when I’m inspired to drop a few syllables, but when there is a time and place to do it. Writing, I tell him, requires focus and hard work and if you know anything about me at all, I’m a pretty lazy person. And against my better judgment, I’m also a pretty social person too.

The return argument, you see, is that if I’m excelling at everything else — why can I not excel at this – the one thing I’ve always wanted to do, have never wavered on? Because, I retort, I excel at other things because those things are mechanical to me. I don’t have to think when I’m working with something technical, or studying for school, or helping a patron at the library. Those things are logic puzzles to me: If D is the final step, and I don’t know A or B, but I know C, I can figure out what A and B are to make them add up with C to D.

I think about writing a lot – almost too much. It’s not just technique and delivery, but I think about the stories that I may write (or could write, if I so choose), I think about other writers (and totally Google-stalk them when applicable), their styles, struggles and influences. I’ve bought Writer’s Marketevery few years because “That is the year I’m going to make at least $1 dollar writing!” – and yet, I never really do make a penny. I’ve produced pieces, entered them in contests only to have the website lose their database / go under/ silence. A rejection would have been nice, but I have to get one of those because I’m apparently bad juju to online submission sites. I spend more time preparing and researching writing then I actually do writing and I’m aware of this and yet – I do nothing to fix it.

Several things have happened in the last few weeks that have caused me to pause this sort of meaningless circular argument that I have on this topic with myself:

A death, a book discovery, and a scandal do not seem to be likely bedfellows, but in my head it seemed to be pointers towards something I had to go towards.

And it is almost becoming an obsession.