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Letting it be

Saturday 1/28/23

Yesterday I had to ask my mother to not read my work. To not listen to me on the radio. For us to not talk about my work again, because any such interaction is bad for me. Awful for me. And it has been for years. I'm a peaceful person. I'm not a confrontational person. I will do what I have to do when I must do it--and I will do that harder and more efficiently and with more courage than anyone else would--in terms of fighting back, but it's not my nature. I am too kind. I care too much about how people feel. But sometimes it's easier to let go. To let things be what they are.

The truth is, my family has never cared at all about my work. Now, that's one thing if you're mediocre, and you do the same kind of work every time. That's not me. That couldn't be further from who I am and what I do. I do every kind of work there is. And all of the kinds I invent. But it doesn't matter. There's never a kind word. And the insults are constant. If I share anything I do, or anything achieved, I was always met with the audible sound of total indifference. "Best Present Ever" was a kind of final straw. My mother had promised me she'd read it to my nephew and nieces, a promise I extracted from her because I had zero faith in my sister. I had texted the latter about the story, how it was this gift I made, and she didn't even text me back about this thing she knew was coming.

Anyway, my mother didn't read it to them. I had said that I'd print it out and send a copy, but working at least twenty hours a day--and often more than that over the last few months--I didn't have time. I was thus blamed. The guy who works constantly to the point of near-death exhaustion and who worked his ass off to also have this story done by Christmas. But if one wanted to read it, that's easily done. There are other printers. There is the printer at the library. The copy shop. It could be read off a computer. Even the phone.

My sister didn't read it at all. Her kids are immortalized in the story. As I said, I greatly, greatly, greatly regret having shared that story with my family. It poisoned those precious waters for me. The thing is, I'm alone. I don't really have friends. I don't have any kindness in my life. It goes so far, the different way people treat me. I have a couple cousins, for instance. I lived with their family one summer. If anyone in our family posts something on Instagram, they hit that like button. For everyone. Save one person. Me. Of course. It's not because I did anything to them. It's not because it's not actually interesting what I post. It's because of greatness and no one knows how to act with someone great, so people do nothing. One of these women was always the first to look at anything I posted. Because she had the interest. Before this year started, I blocked them. And others. I thought, "Fuck this, man, you don't need to see this. You don't need to be reminded every time you post something, no matter what it is, how everyone treats you differently than they treat anyone else. Even people they don't like." I removed them. And I'm sure they have no clue why, and I'm the bad guy now. But why the hell would I just keep taking that? If I had a book come out, nothing. If I made it through another year without drinking and mentioned that, no one would hit the like button. One of these women is a nurse. She knew I had a drinking problem. After the fact. But we got coffee once near the hospital she works at and I told her how bad my drinking had gotten. It's health. You're a nurse. But as I was saying. The situation I'm in makes me vulnerable. There is no support, no positive words anywhere on the internet, in print, in coverage. There's no coverage because of the attempt to suppress me. I end up staying in certain relationships because I don't have anything else and you can't just talk to yourself in your own thoughts. I end up taking things that I would never take if I was where I should be. I end up knowing people I wouldn't know if I was where I should be.

People prey on that. I've lived this, so I know this to be true, but if you are great, and you are vulnerable, everyone--it can be your immediate family--is going to try to get you. They are going to try to pull you down to their level. To even it up. There is nothing I know more than this. I live it. In my life, there is exactly one person who is not this way. When I have books come out, my family usually would say nothing. I know they don't enjoy my work. They don't enjoy anything, really. They don't have interests. But my work is different. It includes all. It is for the world. There is a lot of something for everyone, at the richest, truest levels, no matter who that person is. But it is not for my family.

The things that would get a comment might be a radio appearance, and that's nothing compared to my actual work. It's kind of stupid, me doing my thing, talking on the radio, compared to Brackets, compared to "The Ghost and the Flame," compared to Scrooge. But it's Chatty Cathy. It's a guy talking. That got elevated over "Fitty" or whatever. The Sam Cooke book. Bedside manner says a lot. If I was to say to my mother, "I did this today," there would be either silence or audible evidence of boredom and apathy. Then it'd be like I was trying to convince someone of the significance of the work or the achievement. Me. The best artist who has ever lived. It was humiliating and rage-inducing. But on the inside. Because I didn't let it out. I'm not a confrontational person. I try to make things work. I take the hits. I try to absorb them. I care too much about how others feel. My best friend had said to me that if Molly--as evil as evil gets--needed something, had nowhere else she could turn, this woman who betrayed me, lied about everything, took my house from me, burned a prenuptial agreement, cheated on me, and on and on--she would think she could come to me. Because she knows me. She knows who I am. This expressed opinion of his really messed me up. That he thought this. Molly is so evil that I have taken that evil and locked it away in a box in my mind for later. When I write the book of those times. That account of what happened. The evil is so staggering that I won't allow myself, until that time, to spend any more time than I have to thinking about it. Sometimes it just comes to me. But it's the kind of evil that is so extreme that if you think about too long, it can absorb you. I can't imagine a worse person, in context, has ever existed. When one knows what happened in detail. And my friend thought this about me. It made me feel like a doormat. I said that to him. He said that wasn't what he meant. He said, "You're a better person than everyone, and in ways that no one else is, and the people who know you know that about you. It's a given." For the record, I would not help that evil creature. She could be dying if I didn't help, and I wouldn't. Someone can judge me now, right here, but it's a principle. I believe that no matter what, you have no interaction with the most extreme evil there is. That's for me. That's for my moral standards for myself. But my friend is right. It would almost be like a rebellion for me to force myself not to help. This woman did everything she could to end my life after beseeching me to put my life in her hands, to trust her fully. And it was a set-up. It was a betrayal, an orchestrated betrayal, a betrayal with rigorous and involved planning, and calculation, that dwarfed anything Judas did. I will show that later. I will show what I did as a result. What my life became. How I responded. Who I became.

That was an awful feeling that sucked part of my soul out of me, like I had to mount some counterargument with my mother about what I do, what I'd created, my work ethic. It was so degrading. It was like being shit on. Consistently. This wasn't new. Degrading to the point of dehumanizing. Enough to mess you up. Mess me up, even. Like today. I felt fucking awful. I didn't want to work on a couple stories. I couldn't get this out of my head. It made me feel like total shit. And I'm already barely hanging on. I have no one who likes or supports me. I'm hated. I forced myself to do the work this morning. But this feeling was there. That is a cancer I can't have.

Yesterday I had mentioned some things to my mother that were going on. Hard things. So much work. A lot of days, I begin work at three in the morning. I added that while I was doing all of that, I'd done most of a new book. Now, this is a book I'm excited about. I know that right now it has no chance. No one will put it out because I'm so hated. No one will read it right now. It won't be loved. It's a book that can change the world. And yet, this is how it will go, until it doesn't. That is, until I have an actual chance. Until I hold the cards. I don't know when that will be. I hope it's soon. I work to make it soon. But even now, I can look at that book and know how special it is. The thing is, when you create works of art for the ages every day--actually every day--it becomes like a process. To you, it's like chopping wood. Others can see the jewel for what it is, rather than this stack of logs. But to me, it's logs.

Sometimes, there is a work, a book, that feels differently to me. On my end. I'm not saying it's better. It isn't. Every time out, I do the best work anyone has ever done. I know that. I see the work for what it is. But to make me feel a different way about the work is different. "Fitty" was that way. "Best Present Ever" was that way. And this new book, which I haven't even talked about yet in these pages, was that way.

And my mother said, "You mean you just gathered up some stories and put them together and called it a book." It's not like that. Nothing is like that. Then there is the moral implication, like me, of all people, has falsely padded the resume, when I am someone who gives myself credit for nothing, I take no bows, because I know exactly what I am, what I do, the level I do it at, and I expect that and nothing else--nothing lesser--every single time. To me, that's the same as breathing. I expect to breathe. I don't give myself a medal for each breath.

Unfortunately, other people say nothing themselves, because they think I'm god-like, and while it's one thing not to award yourself, it's another when you can get no recognition or a single damn comment from anyone, because that is important, that is also a part of the process of getting anywhere. Norberg has come up in these pages. I send him everything I write. I hadn't heard from him for eight months until I asked if he was still alive. He just doesn't say a damn word. This is someone I've been friends with since 1996. He hasn't said a single word about my last three books. I have no idea if he read them. That's pretty awesome, right? He just assumes everything about me is total. The absolute of absolutes. And when that's the case, what's there to say or why say anything? Or why risk embarrassment of gushing too much?

In our regular interactions, with regular people, the terms and stakes and words are the same. There are no extremes. Everything about me is extreme, and also the thoughts and feelings one has about me and my work. People can't talk about those unique extremes. That requires unique action and words from them. For them. And that makes them uncomfortable. Unsure of themselves. So they seal their lips. I get blasted by their silence. I have to try to remember and understand that it's not apathy. But really it's a form of abuse.

But back to the conversation with my mother from yesterday. So now I'm in this awful position and it's like, what do I do? What do I say? If this was someone else, I wouldn't know them. I would not take that kind of insult. No one would get to talk to me that way. Also, if this were later, if I had my chance, if I'd gotten to where I was going, if there was constant acclaim and mountains of riches, she never would have said this. Her voice would have joined the chorus. Because I would not be vulnerable, as I am now.

I said, "That's what you have to say?" And she responded, "What do you want me to do? Applaud?"

That's typical. And frankly, it hurts me more than all of these people in this industry who want me dead. They don't hurt me. They are sick, broken, tiny people. I know why they're doing what they're doing, they know why they're doing it. They all see me for what I am. And no one terrifies them like I do. They don't want to risk ever letting this force get out and do what it can and will do. You don't get treated like this if everyone does not recognize that there has never been anything like you in history. That's the only way this unique situation happens. These people need to be defeated, but they can't hurt me. They are nothing save a problem to be taken care of.

I have actual enmity for my family because of how they have long made me feel about my work. I'm not trying to be a dick. It's not hate, but it's something very bad. It's not what I ever wanted to have. It will never go away. When you abuse me over my work, my precious, precious work, I cannot come back from that with you. I can't think about you, ever, for a second, and not be thinking primarily about that. It's impossible. My loyalty is to my work. And I know what that work is. I know it's the most precious, special commodity this world has ever known. There has been nothing like it and nothing like the artist who makes it. That is proven. Another thing that is not up for debate. There are other things, too, that I feel. Of course I love my mother. I worry about her.

But there are these different compartments. Then she said to me that I should write a novel. I have a novel, like I've failed or I'm limited. I have a novel. It's called Meatheads. And it's amazing. But that's her way of taking a shit on that. The implication is that it's a gimmick, it's not a real anything. I know what it is. I know how good it is. So it's different. So what? That's one reason why it's the work of art that it is. And what are these labels anyway? Is "Fitty" a story? What's a story? What's a novel? How do you classify anything I create? If there is more in a half page of something I wrote than any book in the world, then what are the labels? What do they mean? There's never been a book by someone else with more in it than there is in "Best Present Ever." You can read "Best Present Ever" every day from here on out until you die and there's always more, it's always fresh, it's always new, it always gives something else. The experience never diminishes. What story by anyone else is that true about? So why group me? What try to classify me or the work? You can't. It's impossible.

I don't go to my story warehouse and select fifteen stories and stick them together because they were things I wrote that are collected. I don't do story collections. I do books. I do unique books. Here's a quick account of how this works. I open myself up to the universe. I don't know how else to put it. I give myself to something greater than myself. I write 200 works at once. It's that many. It's more. They are all different, but I'm guided by something greater than myself. I know as I'm creating these works that each one of them is part of a process that will be revealed to me. As I'm doing them, I often don't know what that is. I don't need to know. I know that I'm in the hands I'm supposed to be in. Later, I will know. I learn. I am told. I bear further witness to what has been happening.

So I just wrote 400 stories. There are seven new books right now that are all completely different from each other that are underway. Among other books. But one book is an assertion of feminine identity. The ultimate work of feminist literature. Another book completely reinvents what horror fiction can be. Another book is fiction tied to the events of the age. Another book reveals the infinite aspect of human lives in very short--word-count wise--fictional accounts. I'm leaving out others, including this new one, which is so goddamn radical, a kind of book that does what no book has ever done or been about, take a stance that no book ever has. When this was made plain to me, this part of the process, a few days ago, I could have fallen the fuck over it hit me so hard. You talk about a lightbulb going off? This was the explosion of a sun. It was like I had been hit so hard I had to sit down.

And I didn't know that before. I didn't know what it was all about. Do you see? Process. So what was the accurate reportage? How did I lie? It had just happened. It had been done. This thing that hadn't existed was now that much closer to existing. I didn't go to the fucking story shack out back and start rounding up a given number of things that had my name at the top. There is something human and more than human that happens here. I am a part of that. I am not other authors. I don't write stories then gather them up. I am tied into something beyond this world that is part of how I illuminate this world and the people in it. It's a process. If I say over the last three days there's a new book, that's real. It is part of this process of what I am tied into. But like I need to falsify my productivity anyway? I've written a book from scratch in fifteen days, another in thirteen days, another in seven days. I write at least 30,000 words a week, and upwards of 60,000. And I'm now defending myself? With my mother of all people?

My mother had read a chapter of a different novel, The Year. I brought that up. She said that she didn't remember it. (Never mind that we've spoken about it a few times, too, and she knew it was part of a application for something that I won't get and said it would say everything about the committee if they read that excerpt and didn't award me. But when it's convenient and I can be hurt, well, things change; it's like reaching for whatever cudgel is closest to hand, never mind a passing stab at congruity.) She used to say do a Beatles book. Like that would make a difference when it's not the book, it's not the work, it's that people who suck at everything in this life and have no talent and preside over the most bigoted community there is in publishing, hate this man, this artist, and everything he represents and can do. That's all that matters right now. That is the issue. That alone is the issue. It is never the work, it has never been the work, it will never be the work. It's not the appeal of the work, it's not that the work can't be loved by many millions of people. That's not it. So there's a lot of victim blaming. It doesn't matter what I do right now. What I have to sell. This isn't about anything like that. It's about greatness and an entire industry wanting to stop one person from moving forward or getting anywhere. That has been proven. It's been proven in these pages. That's not up for debate. That's not a theory.

I'm also vulnerable because no one says anything. There are people I know who think I'm like God. They don't know what to say to me, they're scared of me, they think what they say would be too effusive because what they think and feel is unlike anything they've felt or thought about anything. They don't want those extremes coming out of their mouths. I have no support. My publishers are against me. That's real. I'll give you one quick example. On the last day of 2022, I had two op-eds run in two of the ten highest circulation papers in the country. Same day. Different subjects. Beatles and baseball.

This has never happened before in the history of American newspapers. Kind of a big deal, right? My family didn't say anything. I texted the links to my mom. Nothing. I put them up on Instagram, so my sister saw that. Nothing. Same with Facebook. How would you feel? I put those op-eds on Twitter. My presses follow me. I follow them. They all saw that. Both op-eds. They decided--each of those presses--not to retweet them, like them, comment, post them on their own. You know how that should go: "Our fantastic Colin Fleming has a new op-ed on blah blah in blah blah! Check out his awesome blah blah from us." Obviously that would help sell books, right? Think about that. That's clearly a decision made to work against your own author. (And I haven't started to open up various cans of worms on this theme, because I'm still trying to work with these places with other books--such is my situation right now--but if I have to, I will, and that can all go up on here, in full. Do you see how I try to avoid that, though? I try to avoid it by letting myself be shat on, taking it, and taking it, and taking it, and still trying, still offering, still being friendly, still being professional, offering up those masterpieces.) What would you call it? What else can anyone possibly call it? Do you think I'm making this up? You can go look on Twitter. It's real. This isn't me editorializing. It's not me exaggerating. I never exaggerate. Kimball had wondered aloud on the radio a few weeks ago if I was exaggerating. I was surprised he said that (then again, I also wasn't). I never exaggerate. I try to be as accurate as possible with every single thing I say or write. I don't reach for random numbers. I don't try to make points with hyperbole. I try to get as close to the truth as I can with everything I put out there. That is factually and truthfully exactly what happened, what doesn't happen with any of the other authors at these presses, and which happens every time when it's me with things that are far more impressive. What do you think would happen if one of their other authors somehow achieved this? Total celebration-fest, no? How about if they did something meaningless, like wrote some bad listicle for a blog? That gets the celebration-fest. So long as it's them. So long as it's not me. And that is documented. That is real. This is all true. And anyone can check it out and verify it for themselves.

That's how my life is. I pay the price of greatness. Constantly. I am met with anger, attacks, envy, silence, sabotage, passive aggressiveness, and more silence.

People get mad when you, what, spill the tea? What a dumb phrase. But it's all 100% proven. It's all right there to be seen. It is what is happening. And we all know this guy. We know the man he is. The person he is. This blog is nearing 2000 entries. We're about a dozen entries away from that number. I have portrayed myself, my life, exactly as they are in these pages over those 2000 entries. If you were horrible, if you were a bad person, you'd give yourself away, often, within 2000 entries, as those things. I am not those things. Clearly. I live my life and show my inner self so nakedly that I write and share this, and one can reasonably know what I'm doing every second of my day. I don't pretend. Even now, with those two op-eds, I'm only mentioning them now. I feel like ass about them. That day, knowing those pieces were coming out, was miserable for me. Because I knew exactly how it would go, because it's me, and that's exactly how it went. I knew no one had ever done that in history. And it made me feel awful even as it happened, because I knew people would hate me more, say nothing, and treat me worse. Can you even imagine having that be your life? Can you imagine the victory lap someone else would have taken? I don't do that. I try to be thorough on here, as a part of this documentation process. And that's it.

So I said to my mother I cannot do this anymore. I can't really do fake relationships. Other people can. Usually it's all they know. Everything is pretty token. You call your parent one a week, you chitchat, that's it. You check a box. Life for most people is about box-checking. Check a box, move on to the next. I can't live that way. It's not living to me. I refuse not to be fully alive. I'd just not know you if that's all we could be. Or were. I wouldn't bother. I don't. I need substance. I need a point. I need things that work. That have great value. Not token value. I've tried for far too long to have that relationship with someone I can't have it with. My sister was someone I wrote off that way many years ago. I won't go into that. And it doesn't feel the same. Doesn't hurt the same. It's just what it is.

With a mother it's different, I think, because there's something fundamentally at work there. A kind of buck stops here. And being treated as I am, I want a place where that is not so. And I don't even have it with the person I should have it not be so the most, if that makes sense. I have a worse form of it, a more painful form, because of what that person is, represents, because of that fundamental sense. Even here, with my own mother, it's the same. And there are things I remember. You have to understand, I've always remembered everything. It was just me for five years. I was with her a lot for those first five years. I remember how she was with me, what she said, what we did. And now that's a person I have these feelings for and about. I have other things. I have love. But I answer first and last to my work. If you try to get at me through my work, I will never get beyond that, I will never forgive that, and it's what I will always see and feel first. See and feel constantly. And I don't think that's my fault or makes me a bad person. I think that's what it is. That's just what it is.

I asked her not to read anything, listen to anything. To act like I'm something else. A house painter. We can talk about her grandkids, sports, the weather, the stairs I ran in the Monument, her trip to a wedding. But my work, this thing I am, that is done. Unless there's some emergency. And when it does change, and when I am the best known person in this world who is changing this world to the good, constantly, the same goes. I don't want to talk about it then, either. It's over. And what is really over for me is this effort to have this kind of relationship that doesn't exist, and will never exist. To be something real, substantial. That's not there, either. As I've said before in these pages, no matter how painful something is--something you don't want to be true, like how my family feels about me and my work--to just let it be is what you have to do. Let it be that awful thing. Stop pushing against what that is. Just let it be that. Leave it there as what it is. Stop fighting. Stop trying to see it differently. Stop hoping. Then do what you have to do.

So. That's one thing on this Saturday morning. That's fun, huh? I had to say something in these pages. For me.


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