Of Monsters and Writers and Closets, OH MY

Heady morning on a beautiful sunny Thursday, but it’s my Friday afore a three-day weekend to be crammed with writing so I get the big bookwritin’ ball rolling fast.

I’m realizing the magnitude of the hill I’ll have to climb to write this book, more and more. But it’s okay. I’m also realizing I’m pretty tough and I’ve been through worse, I imagine.

I think the fact I’ve been so balls-out open about my life for the last couple years is because I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time.

I haven’t done a lot of writing classes in my life. I’m not a “trained” writer, per se, aside from a journalism degree. About this extent of it is, I took creative writing in high school, and a semester of “how to write a novel” that was taught by Maureen Medved, author of The Tracey Fragments.

I’m far from an academic writer. Technically, I’m flawed six ways to Sunday. I break a lot of rules, I don’t care about who’s reading, and I don’t want to take your eights-weeks-to-success writing course, thank you kindly. I read books on writing by writers who don’t believe in writers spending their lives being taught what to write or getting workshopped to a creative death. Editors exist for a reason. Soul can’t be edumacated into you.

Maureen Medved told us one thing that resonated for a long time: Every writer should write a book, then throw it out. The first book was filled with the self-obsessed drivel which no reader should be forced to endure.

I give you my blogs.

There. There’s your self-obsessed drivel. Pushing 4,000 posts, more than 2 million words, the equivalent of 8 or so books.

Everyone’s favourite social philosopher, Malcolm Gladwell, says 10,000 hours are needed before you’re an “expert” in any discipline. Yeah? Okay, then. Might be done on that count, too. No school? No. Diligence, passion, willingness to work, and a sheer love of doing it? Check, check, check, and check.

Funny thing is, as “open” as I’ve been, there’s so much more in my life I’ve never written about for public consumption. Like, about three decades of it. Look for postings on my childhood or my schooling, you’ll probably find 10 or less. Out of thousands.

I’m not sure what that says to you… but I sure as fuck know what it tells me.

One of the exercises every bookwriter should do is to create a timeline. In fact, I think it’s a great emotional exercise for just about anyone. Want to know where your issues are? Reflect on every year of your life, detailing what pivotal events you remember in that year, then move on to the next.

I did that last Sunday.

Do you know what I’ve written about since? The first time I ever saw the sun rise, when I was about 8 and camping on the ocean at summer camp, which was a huge thing I don’t want to explain to you. (Buy the book! HAH.) Why I never liked to exercise as a kid. Why I want to learn to surf. An insult a kid said to me when I was in grade 7. Things I’ve never written about before.

It’ll be an interesting ride. I can’t believe the mental resonance touching on those events had for me. We get into the habit of thinking we know all our building blocks, but sometimes I think we underestimate the resonance the small events and moments a life’s timeline doesn’t reveal — the fragments we often don’t realize lie under larger shards, you know what I mean?

Two parts wow, one part shazam, and you got a whole lotta past life goin’ on, man.

Starting tonight, I have to do what I’ve dreaded for a really, really long time:

Re-read everything I’ve ever written.

The plan for tonight was to go see a movie by myself, but now I’ll be staying home and reading my old work, copying and pasting relevant bits. One by one by one.

I don’t want to open that door to my past.

Going back there? Not a fun thing. But it’s what one does when one writes a memoir, no?

MI-SulleyMikeBooDoorIt’s time for a bottle of wine, a nice meal, and a night of pretending I’m reading about someone else’s sadly troubled but funny and insightful life. I’ve come a long way in those years. I’m hoping the re-reading leaves me celebrating that, not regretting the struggles, but you never know where some of those doors lead.

Oh, Aldous Huxley, you and your fucking psychic metaphors.

Maybe I’ll even LISTEN to The Doors while I open those doors, and later I can read a little Huxley and get all pretentious or something.

But don’t think I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been avoiding this for 18 months. Literally.

It’s funny, how much our past can scare us. Like the monsters in the closet really have teeth instead of being the big bad but harmless CGI creations they really are. Just ask Sulley and Mike — monsters-schmonsters.

My past terrifies me.

Not because I think my mother’s gonna die all over again or the worst of the head injury will return or anything like that. It terrifies me just because I know what a mental depression feels like. I’ve been there, I’ve lived it. I’ve experienced an unbeatable chemical depression. I know how intangible these things really are. Once you’ve had a mental illness of any kind, the mystifying power of the human brain never really escapes you.

Tripping down memory lane, indeed. More like catapulting down it.

Some little part of me is terrified if I open that door, it doesn’t close again.

Illogical, I know. Improbable? I agree.

And yet the 11-year-old somewhere inside me says it’s not about logic and probability — it’s about MONSTERS, DUH.

I don’t kid myself that this fear makes me special. I’m pretty aware this is probably a feeling most of us relate to, so I don’t mind sharing it with you.

The difference is, I don’t get to ignore it anymore. I can’t put it off anymore. Tonight, the door opens.

Thar be monsters? Soon I’ll know.