It dawned on me the other night that I actually don’t know how to write. I only feel. This is a strange realization for someone who thinks himself a writer and hopes to earn a living writing someday. But the reality is, I don’t really write; I feel.
A few weeks ago, I watched “Page One: Inside the New York Times” and walked away thoroughly impressed and grateful for all the true journalists in the world. Journalists full of integrity and talent and complete badass grit. Journalists who wrestle with deadlines and grind at a merciless pace that would certainly kill any mortal man. Above all, it was their unrelenting need to get the truth that struck me most. They want to get it right. They have to. They put their feelings and prejudice aside [as best they can] and they dig and dig until they get it right. They write on command about anything, really, and they’re able to translate mountains of data from head to print with such ease and balance. That is real writing. That’s not what I do.
I watch or read or experience and something inside needs to come out. I just feel it. Usually I don’t know what it is and so I force myself in front of a white screen and a blinking cursor and just let shit out. I have no recorded interviews or notebooks filled with research, I only have my feelings. And even if I did have all that other stuff, it would still take me weeks to put it together in a cogent way unless I had some strong feelings about it. This lack of skill and logos makes me feel incredibly inadequate at times, but feelings are all I’ve got. It’s who I am. So, maybe I’ve been wrong to consider myself a writer all this time. I only feel. I consume and consume and consume and then write down what I feel. What do you call someone like that?
Well, “amateur” comes to mind. Or how about “raw” or “unpolished”? That would be a fair assessment of my character. It’s pretty spot on, as a matter of fact. It explains a lot; my taste in music, for one. I like things that sound honest, whether it’s a warbling poet or a drunken, hot mess diva, certain songs and singers and tunes just sound more honest than others. I’m all about shit that comes from the gut (where else would shit come from?). I value honesty in art and everything else. I think I’m ok with that. I’d never want to write something I didn’t believe or just to appear contrarian. The people I love most are also this way. They may be utterly sweet or harmless pricks, but they are who they are. Honest to themselves and loyal to others. Keepin it real.
I’ll keep writing; probably forever. Because that’s how I stay honest. Whatever it is I can’t say for fear of hurt feelings or appall or ridicule, I can write. This is probably why I write so much about religion and parenthood and career and angst and other things that tend to get bottled up. It’s my way of staying honest - setting the record straight. However far that takes me, it’ll be enough to keep me satisfied - knowing that I did the best with what I had and held onto some integrity of self along the way. It may not get me onto Page One of the NY Times, but it’s all I’ve got. And I think I feel pretty good about that.*
*is it me or is all of this starting to get a little too “Sex and the City?”