Content, man.

I've figured out why I stalled on writing. The main reason I stalled. Some of the subsidiary reasons are valid - fatherhood, marriage, full time job, blah blah blah - but to claim that these prevent me from cranking out a measly 500 words of text more frequently than once every six months is total bullshit.

I stalled on writing because I started missing the point. Losing the purpose. Focusing on the wrong end-goal. It took me reading another DF Wallace novel and buying a digital camera to put the pieces together.

Let me explain.

Content. I'm hung up on content. Look back at my last 112 posts (I may need to re-count, as some of them were never published). I always found a topic, theme, to center around. This was easy to build on and blend in/camouflage in the beginning because very new experiences were flooding my life: racing bicycles in Spain, traveling the US in my Volkswagen bus, aspiring to be a pro, failing to be a pro, grad school, love, career, house, marriage, kiddo... ironically I think the transition to more stability, time-consuming stability, shaped my writing style by strong-arming what I thought I had to write about.

Let me explain some more. And bear with me.

Let's take a new angle here before coming back to the "what I had to write about" bit. I recently bought a shiny new high-end camera from a co-worker. Two weeks into ownership of this shiny new electronic marvel I'd clicked the shutter closed thirteen times. Thirteen times. The first nine were snapshots around the kitchen - macro images of fork tines and salt piles, ceramic reflections and wood grains. Two were pictures of Emma and Lauren. The final picture a portrait of me taken by Emma, basically a closeup of one nostril. Fun pictures, but simply monkeying around with a new purchase and gearing up for snapping pictures that matter.

Well finding pictures that matter caused me to stall. There it is, that word. Stall. A new 18-megapixel SLR camera should not be used to capture the ordinary and arbitrary, right? Evening after evening I'd come home from work, glance up at the camera sitting on the mantel, a tinge of guilt spurring mental gears into motion to consider what would be acceptable to photograph that evening. The light was never quite right in the back yard. The setting sun's hue never quite pinched enough, not enough yellow. The flowers not at the right stage of blossom. The garden's offerings well shy of awe-inspiring. Well, shit.

Now about that David Foster Wallace (and don't think I'm losing track here because I know damn well what I've left hanging a few P's back). It took me a few months, but I finally wrapped up his last (and posthumously published) novel The Pale King. In the same manner as his first novel, Infinite Jest, Wallace blew my mind by describing the trivial, day-to-day lackluster monotony of life  in candid, brutal honesty; the clarity and perspective pulling you out of a hole you don't realize you're in, assuming (but perhaps not comprehending the assumption) that no one really "gets" what you feel or how you navigate the world around you. Wallace got it. Wallace had the ability to truly observe not only his surroundings but also the emotions they provoked within himself and others, somehow slowing things down and analyzing reactions and feelings in extreme granularity. It would be like an android peeling open his own cranium hull just to peer in a mirror at all the blinking lights, PCBs and processors inside, grinning uncontrollably and fervently scribbling notes to document the causes and effects of everything occurring. He (Wallace) goes through this process and tells you about the "other side", in effect teaching you about yourself at his own expense.

Wallace didn't worry about content. The story, the meat, lived in the total lack of content. The tedium. Life. Much of his writing doesn't have a clear direction from the get-go, which causes some readers to abandon Infinite Jest in the first 50-pages. Granted, the guy was genius and I suspect he knew exactly how to structure his writing to subtly guide the reader to his point; but the way his writing unfolds makes you feel like he, the author, is also stumbling and groping through this gray, fuzzy, mass of confusion, trying to make sense of how and why life is pummeling you (or his characters) instead of getting to the point already. In the end, you feel this immense satisfaction and gratification by merely observing life. No big story - no ghosts, no crime solving, no delta force recon mission. Just living, dude.

So I'm sitting on my couch (not now, this is a few nights back), and I've just watched the "This is Water" commencement speech by Wallace, and I'm speechless mouth agape and reflecting on the genius and immensity of what he's laid out there clear as day yet it was in front of me the whole time and I'm feeling this giddiness bubble up because I realize I've felt everything he just described and I now feel somehow ready, equipped to face the future... I started looking around. I see the camera. I think of writing. I see a Modern Art book up on the shelf, and I think about the great artists and their ability to paint a bowl of fruit, a goddamn bowl of fruit, and change the way you see the world. A bowl of fruit is not content. It's life, and there's more there than you realize.

Coming full circle, "what I had to write about" was, in my mind, something great. I felt like I had to first describe all the back story that'd occurred since my last post, then be sure to cover all the wonderful aspects of marriage and fatherhood, then talk about a few other "satisfying" things... all before I could feel justified to bitch a little. Then in the end that didn't feel like a worthy topic, it certainly wasn't "something great", so I'd scrap the whole thing and nothing got published anyways.

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. This is life, man. And this is me growing in my life. There are ups and downs and I, we all, experience these undulations to the fullest. I plan to write about them, loosely, which may make for entertaining reading or it may not. I don't care. Here we go. Oh and I  better start using that camera...

1 comment:

Matt Weyen said...

“I love the living room, it’s so encouraging. I feel so alive when I’m in there. What are you doing in there man? I’m living, dude! Why don’t you try it sometime, stop dining.”

Interesting read with limited, but also pointed point... yeah, I said pointed point.