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We lie?

Wednesday 2/7/24

There are people who write very little and who don't write well and don't spend much time or effort in working at getting better at writing pay money for plane tickets and hotel rooms so that in March they can go inside of a convention center and be with other people who write very little and don't write well and don't spend much time or effort in working at getting better at writing, and few if any of this kind of person I am describing see the flaw in their thinking or the approach or the being of this way.


That's the AWP conference.


Very similar to those baseball fantasy camps where fat middle-aged men stuff themselves into baseball uniforms and pretend they're a real Red Sox player yelling "Cut it!" or "Let it go!" on that throw in from the outfield, but at least that's where the illusion ends for the middle-aged man. He doesn't go back home and tell people he's a big leaguer.


Before I deactivated Twitter, I was looking at the profile of this woman who went to all of these writer retreat things and her bio was a listing of these retreats. It was like that was her career--going to these things for periods of time. Having residencies. I don't know how you put it. You go for however long these people go, they hang out with each other, walk on a path that has bushes of flowers on each side, they drink wine, have their trite thoughts about what it really means to be a writer, and they let you know that they're there.


Boy do they do that. They'll have someone else take some photo of them sitting on a stone in a glen with an expensive looking designer notebook--I swear, it's really like a designer thing--on their knee, head titled at an angle to suggest they're receiving glorious lines of literature from the muses above. They probably have the person take that shot a dozen times before they pick the one they want to use for their "socials," and then they return the favor by taking a similarly-themed shot of the other person.


This woman had "all of the ones." Yaddo, Bread Loaf, MacDowell. Whatever. And I thought of the conversation that her child--I don't know that she had a child--we're being hypothetical here--might have with her father, where the child asks, "Daddy, how come mommy never produces any writing of value?"


And the dad says, "Shhhh. We're letting mommy have this, it's just something we do for her."


The kid says, "We lie?"


And the dad says, "No, we pretend. Over and over again. It's what we do for mommy."


Because that's what you'd have to do, right?


The lives of these people must be full of people who just humor them, almost like they don't take them seriously. It's hard to respect anyone you're always humoring.


But then that presupposes that the people in the lives of these people are not the same way they are, which is closer to the truth. You have to surround yourself with an enabling kind of person who also doesn't think honestly and accurately about themselves and can then do the same with you. It's not healthy when you condition yourself to be this way, and then you become it fully, without knowing that you've actually done so.


Life is kind of like being in business. You know how people used to ask each other what business they were in? I'm in the business of making wagon wheels. I'm in the insurance business. Our lives are that way, too. The people I'm talking about in this entry are in the life-business of lying to themselves.


I think it's more pathetic than anything. Pathetic in the sense that it's sad. It's just such a waste of a life. If you're not going to waste your life, you have to be honest with yourself. And if you're not honest with yourself, I don't think you'll get anywhere close to what you can get out of your life. And I think that's an awful shame that doesn't do anyone any good. And it certainly has never produced a lick of writing of any value, and it never will.


How about this instead? Go to bed at 9. Set the alarm for 3. Wake up and write something unlike anything you've ever written. Venture. Risk. Dare. Sit there and work on it as long as you can. You'll have at least a few hours. Then get up and do it the next day. Then the day after that. Do that instead of AWP. Keep doing it. Produce something different. Work at it like you've never worked at anything before. Have the daily discipline and focus. Don't go easy on yourself. Don't fish for compliments with people you know will just ladle them out to you. Be demanding. When you think a sentence is done, look at it again. And again. Again. Find a way to imbue it with more meaning. But don't be satisfied when you get some in there. Find a way to get more still in that sentence. That's not a length thing--it's a depth thing. It's a multiple levels at once thing. Be ruthless in your expectations. Don't settle. Don't say "That's good enough." If you think a sentence is the best one you've ever written, consider that maybe it's just the start of the process of making it what it really needs to be. You don't need to jerk people off and you don't need to be jerked off. You don't need to hob-nob, chit-chat. You need to write. And you need to challenge the hell out of yourself with every last word.


It's the conference of one. There's no other way to do it. Save your money, and go to that.



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