It’s rare, but once in a while, life decides to sharpen the focus for you – to shift the perspective and provide a fresh outlook, and suddenly, you see things differently. You notice things you did not notice before. Sometimes, this causes you change. Sometimes, you reconsider how you live. And sometimes, you just go about your business, unchanged.
It’s really up to you as to how you deal with defining moments. If the moment seems to occur organically, your response, change or alteration is also natural and smooth. Other times, it is abrupt, and any change it provokes is equally jolting. Still, other times, you might disregard it outright.
But I’m talking about the moments that invoke change. That is what is interesting, to me, anyway.
A few months ago, I watched Postcards from the Future: The Chuck Palahniuk Documentary on Youtube. Chuck Palahniuk is the author of Fight Club, Choke, Invisible Monsters, Damned, and others. While I do not always enjoy the stories he tells, I admire his brazen disregard in pushing forward with what he wants, and I love the way he makes me think, though I do not always love what he makes me think about.
There was a point in this documentary where Chuck does a Q&A with the college audience and someone asked a question about writing, and Chuck answered it. It was simple, funny, and positively received by the audience.
It made me sit back in my chair. I think I gasped aloud. Not loud, but aloud. It shocked me because it flew in the face of my own approach to writing, and more than that – it made sense.
I was going to paraphrase the whole thing, but someone made a clip of exactly that part and posted it to YouTube, so just watch it. It’s less than minute long.
For the record, I am an absolute Nazi when it comes to forcing myself to write. If I don’t feel like it, that doesn’t matter. If I’m not sure how to proceed with the scene I’m working on, I push on or sometimes start a new scene with the plan to come back to this one later. I goal myself on words written. At one time, it was 5000 words a week, but I dropped it to 2000. Lately, I’ve been averaging around 1500 words a week. Blog posts DO NOT count.
What Chuck Palahniuk said was, essentially: Don’t force it.
Chuck’s approach makes me afraid – and afraid is the right word, here – I’m afraid that I won’t write at all if I don’t push myself. I won’t close the gap between my good taste and what I am creating, as Ira Glass put it. I’ll continue to be a subpar author. A wannabe. A hack. Maybe not a writer at all.
Still, what Chuck said made sense to me. I can’t disregard it. So, I’m backing off and cutting myself some slack. I’m going to stop flogging the muse and instead, allow him to come out on his own.
And yes, I imagine my muse is guy. He’s unshaven, wears a Hustler t-shirt that doesn’t cover his huge beer-gut, smokes Marlboro Reds and spits on the carpet. He swears around children and yells suggestive and profane things at attractive women as they pass. Mostly, he just sits quietly while playing Halo 4, passing gas once in a while. And, in between death matches of Halo, he may reach out his chubby fingers, the fingernails stained by decades of smoking cigarettes, and touch my head. It is then that I have an epiphany.
Or maybe a seizure, but it works out, because I get inspired. I write.
Eat something. Live my life. What happens, happens.
If I don’t write without forcing myself to write, maybe I am not a writer after all?
Thanks for reading this self-indulgent write.
Updates to follow.