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Can't fake the life

Wednesday 10/4/23

You can't fake life in a story. You can't teach how to have it be there. And the value of a work of writing is directly proportionate to how much life it contains. You can live a million lifetimes and there's nothing that can help you write a story with life in it if don't have it in you to do that already.


Writing programs go wrong in every way, but I feel like this--if any of these people actually knew this truth--would be the thing above all that they have to keep top secret in order to get people's money. They can't help someone do it. And to have life in writing is the point of writing. Without it, it's other things. Directions, reporting, advertising, groaning, listing. Writing must have life and we always know--because, as I said, there's no faking it--when that life is there and true as life. Not necessarily true to life--true as life. This is from a new one I'm working on today.


***

Jackson’s dad lived in the town where they all used to live. They could still see each other, Jackson and his dad—actually, that’s how it was supposed to be—but it was an hour and a half away, and some weekends when they had plans the plans didn’t happen because it really was a far drive for Jackson’s dad and it wasn’t like they were able to meet somewhere in the middle.


“I’ll make it up to you, big man,” his dad said then. “We’ll do something twice as good next time. Load up.”


The math didn’t make sense to Jackson, because he wasn’t sure what twice as good as nothing might be. Or four times nothing, or eight times nothing. Surely it had to be zero, if life was like math, or perhaps it wasn’t at all, which would be better, and you just needed math for life, like teachers were always saying. Jackson wished he was more forgetful, so that he wouldn’t remember and count so well. Then it wouldn’t hurt him as much and he wouldn’t have even thought to try and do any multiplying.


“Okay,” he’d say into the phone, then his father might reply with a “Good man,” which seemed to bode well for the future and what Jackson and his dad might be later on when they could both be men together. Maybe that was the key, and time just hadn’t done what time needed to do yet.


***

That's exactly 245 words, but how much life is that? And that is out of context, without the accumulated power and input of everything that came before and which will follow.


Life. Life. Life.


Stairs now.



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