What forest? The one behind all those trees?

I was out to dinner with a good friend last night. I told him about my recent feeling of restlessness and my desire to escape the corporate grind. “I just wish I could make a living writing,” I moaned.  He nodded sympathetically.

I explained why I feel the way I do, content with my new position and new boss, but still wishing I were doing something more creative. I told him how the stories in my head need to be told. They want to be told. I explained that I think I’m a competent storyteller, and he agreed, nodding again. He was a good listener, kind and supportive.

I finished my tale of woe, the working class man’s struggle for deeper meaning and all that shit. Then he asked slowly and gently, “You want to write?”

“Yes,” I said with profound desire resonating in the single word.

“Well, then,” he said, “I think you should…write.”

He asked if I was working on the book. No. How about the blog? Nuh-uh. Journaling? Doing research? Story boards? Doodling? Nope.

He wasn’t insulting in his feedback. Really, he was only telling me what I already knew, what my girlfriend has told me many times, what I needed to hear again from another voice. If you want to accomplish something, start making moves toward it. You aren’t going to finish a book, he said, without working on each and every chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph.

He was right.

Today I’m thinking about how tough it is to write.

I’m not talking about coming up with ideas or characters, or writer’s block, or about trying to get published, or even about developing as a writer. I’m talking about carving out the time to sit down and (literally or metaphorically) put pen to paper.

I’m dating someone, someone who I love very much. I love spending time with her and, frankly, I’m selfish about it. I don’t like ignoring her so that I can write. I have a full-time job, so I can’t write during traditional work hours. Nope. I have to hide away with my laptop after hours or on weekends in order to get any work done on a story, post or what might one day be a book.

I don’t like that.

The real bitch of it is that I want to write. I feel driven to it. I desire to write, to tell stories, to communicate truth in some way that will stick with people. I don’t care about being a famous writer or a rich writer, just a good writer—good in that I don’t butcher language and good in that my message is worth something. A good message.

I believe it is important for me to write. That I need to do it. It’s therapeutic and it’s also something I feel meant for.

But I work all day and I come home and the war inside me wages. I want to relax, to spend time with the one I love and to wind down, but I also want to write and feel an obligation to. I’ll never finish the book I don’t start, you know. Other people come home from work and feel no impulse to do more work, save the typical around-the-house kind of chores. I feel compelled to produce literature. It’s weird when you think about it, and more than a little overwhelming.

And that’s how I feel some days: overwhelmed. That’s how I feel today. Ironically, while this certainly isn’t literature, the act of writing this post means that I have written something today and will make it easier for me to go about my day and spend time with my girl and also feel like I was true to that inner part of myself that must, whether I feel like it or not, write.

Of course, the writing monster doesn’t sleep long. He’ll be hungry for words again tomorrow and I’ll have to feed him again or risk his sometimes rough treatment of my delicate psyche. I tell you, life would be easier if I had no ambition.

“It seems to me the the quality that separates the popular from the unpopular—the one and only quality that Eddie Prior and Cameron Hodges had in common—is a strong sense of self. Eddie knew who he was. He accepted himself. His failings had ceased to trouble him. Every word he spoke was a thoughtless, pure expression of his true personality. Whereas I had no clear picture of myself, and was always looking to others, watching them intently, both hoping and fearing that I would catch some clear sign of who they saw when they looked at me,” (Joe Hill from 20th Century Ghosts.)

I’ve just finished this book today. It has left me pensive and reeling in all the right ways. When I read Joe Hill‘s first novel, Heart-Shaped Box, I did not know that he was Stephen King‘s son. I’m glad I didn’t. I like Stephen King and believe that he is a good writer, a talented man whom I’ve spend hours with via his fiction. That said, he’s not Salinger.

Brief interlude:

I’m about to make an over-the-top statement. I’m warning you before hand because it’s a doozey. It’s something that you may roll your eyes at or huff as you read. I would like for you to prepare yourself, bearing in mind that I know the extreme nature of the claim I am making.

Interlude concluded.

Joe Hill may well be the Salinger of horror fiction. His characters feel as real and fleshy as John Irving‘s. His dialogue is well crafted but believable. He weaves themes and images and phrases in and out of his stories with seemingly effortless grace. It is a thing to behold. Consider me a fan.

The above quote is a wonderful example of the kind of stuff a reader will run into if in the company of the talented Mr. Hill. Read that paragraph again. Now think about it for a moment. Does it make your head spin? Does it force you to take a closer look at yourself than you might be comfortable? Are you likely to find yourself haunted, at least for a bit, by the implications of what you just learned about yourself?

Exactly.

And that’s a line from a fucking ghost story. Brilliant. I highly recommend it.

The first post of a new blog.

I’ve blogged before, so this is not my first first post. It’s easy to feel like this should be an iconic post, one that sets the stage for the tenor and nature of the entire blog. Something that will make readers want to come back. Something that makes a Statement.

But the truth is, this blog is brand-spanking-new. No one is reading this post. No one. The only people to come across this post will be people who typed the wrong IP address or die hard fans (long after I’ve made it big, naturally) who want to know what the first thing, the very first thing I published on my own personal blog was. And really, those fans will be happy just to have found the post. They don’t care what it says. And neither does anyone else.

It’s the first post, yes, but there is no pressure at all here. I don’t have to wow you or impress you…because there probably is no “you”. It’s just me, pounding away on my keyboard and posting to the entire world, hoping that after enough pounding and enough posts, there will be people who come here, who read this and who may even wonder what the first post was about.

Well, my curious reader, this is it. There isn’t much to it. I’m sorry to disappoint. But you have to start somewhere, right?