I constantly find myself looking for control in my work, trying to compartmentalize. Consciously fighting the idea that everything has to be wrapped up nicely in a bow. When writing, I’m trying to nail down a movement of thoughts; it’s not a supposed to be a dissertation. There’s no art in perfection; I always want to keep it a little messy.
My favorite reads are the ones that lose me here and there. For me, reading is like listening to jazz, so much of the experience is just wondering how the artist is going to pull it off. Of my own work, my favorite pieces are the pages I went a little bit farther off the reservation than I expected. There’s almost always something great on the other side of improvisation. Why? Because it’s uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. It highlights your flaws; it takes all of the pomp and circumstance out of your work. It shows you how all that time you spent trying to take yourself so seriously was totally wasted. The more you create with the idea that everyone’s right behind you peering over your shoulder, the more you create insecure work. Work that makes you roll your eyes in a year. Flying by the seat of your pants should be the reason you start being creative in the first place. The worst thing that can happen to you is to feel like you’re totally in control. Where’s the fun in creating when you know what you’re going to get? The goal is to be as surprised as the reader.
For a lot of people, the most significant thing keeping them from producing is the fact that they have a preconceived notion behind what the process is going to be, as well as what the product is going to be. This false expectation is what keeps people from finishing their work. For me, whatever I’m working on has to be a time bomb. I don’t put stringent deadlines on myself, or set three-month goals, what I do is treat my work like it’s going to blow at any time. I treat it like there’s going to come a day where walking into my office to write is going to feel ten-thousand times harder than it felt the day before because one day it will. This is where consistency comes into play. If I’m not working every day, I’ll lose my pace. Pace is God; pace is where inspiration is. The days of the brooding, eclectic, erratic, depressive artist are over. The only place you get rewarded for being that stereotypical Warhol type is in bars, late at night, when everyone’s loaded, and you’re impossibly interesting. There’s no upside to being undisciplined; you’ll just end up with a folder full of a thousand unfinished pieces. The longer you drag out your projects, the more they wear you down. You have to respect your decision to start or make the decision to quit. All these half written stories cluttering up your desktop are nothing but noise, you have to finish them.
The things we make, no matter how mundane or pedestrian they seem, have to be the things that drive us crazy. What people connect to are almost always the things you don’t expect. Writing what you think people want to hear only appeals to the lowest common denominator of consumer, the work you don’t end up wanting to destroy down the road is the work you can’t get out of your head. It has to be selfish, or no one will believe you. We’re not interested in communicating; we’re interested in power, the high we get from dominating conversation is much less damaging to our ego than an actual conversation. A conversation where someone can call you an asshole if you say something they don’t like. A conversation where someone can look you in the eye and judge you.
The most human thing about us is our ability to judge. There’s something so familiar about hate; we can’t keep our eyes off of it. It’s why we spend hours watching trial footage, and five-hour car chases, and two-day standoffs. We love to be the fly on the wall establishing moral high ground with every guilty verdict we devour off of court TV. I’m talking about myself; I love it. There’s something irresistible about watching reality anything. The marketing genius comes from a producers ability to addict the viewer to an ever-slipping slope. It doesn’t have to be dramatic beyond belief, the consequences are almost never life-threatening, but there has to be an element of loss behind every real housewife moment. All good things must be unraveling before your eyes; you must be able to play dress up in your mind and redo every poor decision your watching. For me, this judgment is interesting. Turning the camera lens around and magnifying that judgment is jarring to the reader. It highlights the underlying narrative of suffering and permanence, beauty and desolation in our own lives. All of a sudden we’re not drawn in by the ability to judge, we’re drawn in by the sadness that we’re on the ever-slipping slope too. What makes us want to watch people fall out of buildings, or be decapitated, or booed off stage, or caught cheating? These questions are where my stories come from. The goal is finding peace through grace, understanding where the desperation lies.
The things you create can be finished without being pretty; there doesn’t have to always be a bow on top. The things I write are messy because they reflect reality. The desperation we all have to fulfill whatever existential bullshit we have rolling around upstairs. Good writers aren’t sitting next to a rulebook making sure they don’t piss off their high-school English teacher, good writers write what they want to read. You have to be selfish if you want someone to tag along.