Friday, July 03, 2009
A Quick Word from My Inner Monologue
I’ve always admired Spillane. He was a wonderfully prolific writer, churning out novel after novel, furiously pounded out on a manual typewriter. I’ve been told that he rarely took more than three weeks to write a book, from start to finish. Me, I take that long just to compose my first sentence.
Now that I think of it, maybe that’s the essential difference between Spillane and me. Spillane writes. I “compose.” Just maybe that suggests a differing sense of self-confidence.
That is to say—Spillane actually had self-confidence. I’m so full of angst and self-loathing, I’m absolutely convinced that whatever I write will be utter crap, with each successive word setting a new standard in utter-crappiness, forming an infinite regress of crap supporting crap. Why, it’s crap all the way down!
Just why this is so is difficult to explain. Most everyone who knows me thinks I’m some sort of Wyle E. Coyote, Supergenius, ‘cause I can watch old war movies and tell you what the Germans are really saying, or because I can quote Chaucer at length in Middle English or because I can read Old Norse. Yet, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that I’m dumber than a sack of hammers—and no amount of books that I read, or disciplines I follow, or ideas I ponder, will ever convince me otherwise. My mind is made up, so don’t bother trying to talk me out of it.
Perhaps it’s due to my upbringing. My parents, neither of whom ever sought to educate themselves beyond the high school level, had only one goal in having kids: to have someone they could forever be smarter than, wiser than, and better than. My brother and I were never allowed to have our own opinions. We were expected to mirror mom & dad’s Weltanschauung in every way imaginable, and any break on our part with what M & P considered the True Way was frowned upon as some form of insolence. Thinking for myself was always viewed as my first step ‘pon the Road to Hell.
In short, I was raised to believe that my opinion didn’t matter. Everything I needed to know, believe, or say had already been written down centuries ago in scripture, and every thought that came to me that didn’t adhere to what had already been said was probably the Dark One trying to lead me astray and was best ignored. That notion plagues me every second I write.
And yet—and here’s the wiggy part—despite all that, I write anyway. Despite the firm, resolute conviction that whatever I say is worthless and forgettable, I still feel the need to write it down, to see it in print, and to share it with one and all.
Imagine, if you will, a tiny, impish editor-in-chief, dressed all in motley and sitting on my shoulder. I write: “The night was…”
“Hold it,” he says. “Every two-bit hack since Shakespeare starts off with ‘The night was.’ Try something else.”
So I tap the delete key a few times and then write, “It was a…”
“Hold it,” he says. “WHAT was a? Gotta make yourself clear.”
“Well,” I answer. “The NIGHT was a.”
“Okay, so say that then.”
So I delete some more and then write: “The night was…”
“Pathetic,” he grumbles.
So on it goes. Around 150,000 words later, I type: “The End.”
“Stinks,” he says.
And that’s how I write.