Extreme Writing 101: Scab-picking

The phrase “Physician, heal thyself,” is meant to be a dry poke at the medical profession. You may be god-like, but you can’t fix yourself.

“Writer, heal thyself,” however, isn’t a poke, it’s a goal.

In talking with a friend over dinner last night, I likened writing to the extreme sports of the artistic world. No other art requires one to be so isolated and confrontational, so alone and challenged, for so long. It’s an endurance sport, one with almost impossible odds. You’ll never say everything you want to say, you’ll never be as complete as you want to be. You never get to the end and go, “WOW, look at what I did!” like when one climbs a mountain; you’re always flawed and missing a certain something.

There is no “right” way to write, unlike what the schools will tell you. Grammar isn’t even as rigid as you might think it to be. Schools of thought exist on many different grammatical styles. The most hotly contested wordgeek event of the year is the Oxford Dictionary releases annual new words. “Unfollow” was a big one last year.

There is a right way to do the writing, though.

From a place of truth. Honesty. Rawness. Forget what your mother taught you about picking at scabs. Rip that motherfucker off.

This book I’m writing is highly cathartic. I’m forcing myself to be more honest there than I am for you. It’s not that I’ve been afraid of sharing those truths with you… it’s just that I think it’s kinda like how women shouldn’t wear microskirts — don’t just give that away, honey.

You haven’t earned the right to know about my deepest, darkest passages. This needs to be a two-way street. Right now, I give to you, you take, I get nothing. But that’s the way of the blogging world.

In a year or two you’ll be able to buy your very own copy, and feed the belly of this beast. That’s when you earn it. And that’s not me being a bitch, that’s a brutal fiscal reality.

What, I’m supposed to eat idealism for breakfast? That’s how it works if I choose art, not ratrace? Really?

There’s not many things in this world that I love to do, am good at doing, and see myself wanting to do for the rest of my life. There’s nothing, actually — except writing. For that to happen, for me to pull these scabs, spend late nights staring in blackness at a cieling I can’t even see, as I think of topics I want to tear apart, I need to pay my rent.

At some point there enters into this a consciousness about you, my audience. I know you’re there. I can now engage in a monologue that’s both true to me, yet relatable for you.

It’s an interesting consciousness. An even more interesting exercise.

If I was in grade three, I’d simply explain it as: I find writing weird, and writing for an audience even weirder.

It’s something I know in my heart I’m very good at — but I see myself as being very good at writing the kind of thing I like reading; not necessarily “very good” at the craft as a whole. If I was GOOD, it would have to be harder for me, right?

Then again, I’ve never really tackled fiction. Who knows, right? But, still, I don’t follow traditional writing schools or all the Proper Things To Do. I’m not even very linear, I go all over the place. But nothing comes more comfortably for me in life than writing.

I was talking with writer friends about Twitter — they don’t follow me and I don’t know if they’ve even seen my Twitter stream, but I pepper the thing with one-liners. I’m all about the jokey stuff and scathing observations. And one says, “I don’t understand some people — how they just post all their best stuff, great one-liners. I mean, you could spend up to 60 minutes composing a single tweet…”

And I said nothing. I’ve never spent more than two minutes on a single tweet. Never! It just pops in my head and BOOM, there it is. There are so many areas in my life that DON’T work efficiently, though.

But there? Writing? It’s seldom a struggle, not anymore. For six years, I’d have better luck squeezing water from a rock than pushing out readable words, but once I found my way out of that writer’s block, I’ve never gone back.

At some point, you gotta figure out who’s the lion (the writing) and who’s the tamer (me), and then it’s all about remembering who’s in charge.

It’s my extreme sport. I’m always pushing to see what new thing I can say, what new button I can push. It’s what I really, really enjoy doing — whether you’re reading it or whether it’s gathering dust until it finds its way between covers or never sees the light of day. THAT’s my extreme sport. That’s where my life’s legacy will probably be found, in words I’ve cobbled together over decades and credos I’ve hammered out one phrase at a time.

There are people who go their who life without ever knowing who they are.

I may be broke, facing losing my job in the coming days, unlucky in love, always rehabbing, waging battles with ADHD, and any number of other things…

But I know exactly who I am, who I want to be, what’s important to me in life, and what I cannot live without doing — what’s as important to me as the air I breathe.

Writing makes me one of the richest people I know.

Hopefully I can take that figurative statement and make it literal in a “Holy shit, we’re capitalists?” kind of way over the next year — but not at the risk of losing my soul or my self.

Some prices can’t be unpaid. That, too, people can go a lifetime without learning.

Like I said, I’m one of the richest people I know.