a secret

I am going to tell you all a secret :

I seriously am kind of in love with Barbara Stanwyck.

OK, so that’s not, like, a secret. There’s also, not, ultimately, much to say there. Let’s try again.

Um, shit. Sorry, I keep getting distracted.

This is a writer’s blog, and I, too, am a writer, so I feel like I should say something about writing. I went to KGB Fantastic Fiction last night, which is a monthly science fiction/fantasy/etc reading series in New York. The fiction always fits both definitions of the “fantastic,” and a bunch of good people always congregate to hear fiction, catch up, and drink beer. I left with a warm fuzzy feeling, and not just because a friend bought me a gigantic bottle of russian ale. Writing is described as a lonely undertaking, but one of the shocking things for me is how many incredible people — I mean, people at the level of incredible where you were pretty sure people like this didn’t actually exist — I have met because I’ve gone to workshops and published stories and shown up once a month in a bar.
So I left thinking about community, and how energizing it can be, and how I would be a much different, and lesser, writer if I hadn’t stumbled into it. The social aspects of writing are often derided as distractions, but that’s ridiculous. The support and debate and, yeah, fun have helped me to understand what it means to dedicate yourself to this absurd pursuit as much as time alone at my desk has, if not even more.

But back to the lonely undertaking. People say that like it’s such a sad fact, or maybe I’ve been mis-reading them, because to me that statement has always sounded tragic. But my most focused, even joyful, writing happens when I feel, if not lonely, then certainly alone. I’ve lived in some lonely places over the past few years, and it, at times, drove me crazy. But now that I’m in New York, I find myself perversely missing those long stretches of time where I was by myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a stupidly social person. And if someone calls me up and says, hey, let’s hang out and write, I will be there. But writing for me feels like, ultimately, a profoundly private act, something secret, even. When I really need to dig in (or, say, write a story that’s due in, say, four days), I want to be alone for those four days, occasionally forgetting to feed myself, stumbling out of the house in hideous sweatpants to walk the dog — in fact, that feels pretty good. Dangerous to keep up for too long, but exhilarating in short bursts, like a sprint.

I suppose I started this post confessing my love for Barbara Stanwyck for a reason, though at the time I hadn’t thought of it that way. I came out as a writer and as a queer at about the same time, a long, slow, stumbling process wrapped up in huge questions like “What do I like? What do I want?” No one knows how to answer those questions, but if you don’t try, it seems a standard, unpleasant answer will be provided, free of charge.  Fiction is about telling the truth, right, whether the truth for your character, your story, or for you, and I find that truth to be the hardest to track down. Maybe that’s my secret, really.

Comments

  1. says

    Excellent post, and totally true, I think. The act of writing is something private, something I have to do alone, but getting out, having crazy experiences, that’s what fuels the writing in the first place.

  2. says

    You always have the classiest celebrity crushes. (And the classiest deep abiding celebrity loves, too, I mean — not to trivialize your thing with Miss Stanwyck.)

    I hear what you’re saying about the privateness of writing. The perverse bit, for me, though, is that I can only get to that alone place in a crowd of strangers — to get the best work out of me you have to drop me off in the middle of some unfamiliar city’s morning commute, isolated but inconspicuous. Ask me to talk about what I’m working on or leave me to myself in my own apartment on a silent Sunday afternoon, and either way it’s killed dead.