What used to be a large plane of grass is now the literal fruits of my parent’s laborious efforts to turn my childhood backyard into an orchard of sorts. Among the bounty is a passionfruit vine which prompted a realization: I think I’ve only ever had passionfruit mixed in some tropical concoction, possibly with alcohol. What the hell does passionfruit actually taste like? They did not ripen before I left my parent’s house, so for now my answer is sugar and novelty.
Summer is whizzing by like some thug who’s just snatched a woman’s purse. On the actual bright side, the delayed darkness helps me pretend I have more time to pursue the things I like to do (and often, the things I convince myself I like to do). Right now, through a tall café window, I can see headlights floating in every direction on this summer night. I soak up the magic of this urban city moment, but only briefly before I return to a self-centered wish that this won’t mean traffic as I head home.
Back to pursuing things with my fake extra time: as always, reading things and writing things. I bounce back and forth between non-fiction and fiction. For now, though, I think I’ve had my share of someone telling me how to read or write more, and someone just has to shove me into the pool already. Or I need to close my eyes and make the jump myself. For all my “research” on how to be the best creative person I can be, the one thing I’ve tried most to execute is planning and outlining before I start actually writing. This seems to reel me right into my biggest problem of all: trying to identify an actual problem. Which is the point of any story right? I always end up writing about the most un-suspenseful things, circumstances that would universally be agreed upon as boring. I feel like characters are supposed to climb up a steep mountain in the hot sun to attain greatness and the ones I write just lie in bed and cry about dropping toast on the floor. I feel like someone wanting to run without even knowing how to take a step. Maybe epiphanies can only occur if you’ve plunged into the depths of dissatisfying output like I have.
That’s meant to be more subjectively observational than self-deprecating. When it comes to doubt, I find it’s good to acknowledge it (so it doesn’t feel neglected and then punch you in the heart) but to leave it sitting on the other side of the room while you keep working. Sometimes that works for me. Other times I give into doubt, wind up watching or reading something, then get so jazzed about how good it is that I fall into the longing of wanting to write all over again.
I know I used to say that I wanted to be a doctor when I was really young, or at least I remember saying that in third grade when we all went around the classroom and had to share what we wanted to be. One kid sincerely answered that he wanted to be a fish. He refused to change his answer even when our teacher tried to redirect him. Eight years old and already way better at life than the rest of us. I bet he’s a great stoner now.
Truthfully, though, I can recall actively wanting to be a children’s book author. I remember waking up one morning in the first house I lived in and deciding that it would be so cool to be a scientist and that chemicals were my thing, but then I spent all morning writing a story about this scientist and drawing lots of colorful beakers and a science lab.
I wonder if I’d still have wanted to write if I’d lived in a vacuum. I’ll explain: I liked journaling early on and I loved making up stories and reading, but honestly, I think someone just thought I wrote something good as a kid and I latched on to that positive reinforcement. You know, you’re just so young and super impressionable, really desperate to find your thing. To this day I think I would’ve followed any path, but someone said I was quite the six-year-old poet and decades later I am still running down this road.
There was also that time when I was nine or ten at the Young Author’s fair. We were waiting for these certificates that we had won or something. It was my birthday, too, and I had overalls with sunflowers on and life was just A+ that day. One of the speakers said that R.L. Stine was also from San Jose and I was completely sold because Goosebumps was so cool. Like I said, I was a fairly impressionable kid and at that age there were no coincidences, only signs. So at that time I knew it was meant to be that I should grow up to write books just like R.L. Stine and what a relief it was to finally find my calling after a hard decade of soul-searching. I like telling that story because it feels so unexpected that R.L. Stine would be from San Jose. And that’s because he’s not. He’s actually from Columbus, Ohio, and I had misheard what the speaker said that day. Wikipedia didn’t exist then, so I never bothered fact checking. It wasn’t until very recently that I found out I’ve spent most of my life chasing a dream inspired by this charming inciting incident which is, in fact, born out of a misunderstanding. I was probably too busy thinking about birthday cake that day to really pay attention so here I am years later, still trying my hand at the writing thing and definitely thinking it’s the coolest job in the whole world.
I practice the artsy habit of always keeping a notebook with me because like illness, inspiration can strike at any time. I can’t seem to go fully paperless because after so many years of having an iPhone I’m still terrible at using the keyboard (RIP Blackberry :(. Why’d you have to fall off that mountain?) While we’re on the subject of paperless, I don’t think I have it in me to switch to e-books any time soon either. I had a horrible nightmare that somebody came to clean my room (fucking terrible, I know) and when they touched the books I spun around and screamed “NOT THE BOOKS. NOT. THE. BOOKS!!!!!!!” I really had to think about that for a minute to make sure it was actually a dream. Too real, guys.
Anyway, maybe this is an indication that I’m too self-conscious, but I’ve destroyed most of my past notebooks. No, I didn’t throw them into a bonfire or anything cinematic like that. It was more like deliberate and frustrated tearing before realizing that my underworked muscles were no match for card stock. No, there weren’t any golden nuggets in those notebooks, as much as I’d like to imagine there was something good enough that could be published posthumously and make me a legend. I recently dug up a little moleskine I used to jot notes in, and found this little gem that I thought might be directions to a secret writing spot or inspirational treasure–
Directions to a Korean bbq joint in Los Angeles. I’m so brilliant it’s embarrassing.
On this week’s episode of great big ironies, here’s some news. I’m going to have something I wrote go up on a dating advice site. Take that, “write what you know” evangelists! I’m not sure who’s getting the last laugh here, but I really hope it’s me.
On to more exciting stuff.
When I look back on my life to decide on a moment where I really knew I’d made it big, this will probably be it. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life and it’s finally here.
To kick off what is sure to be a wonderful career, here’s one of my first real bylines:
What the what? Yeah, I had to read that a couple of times. I have never, ever said I was a professional writer. Unbelievable.
What’s a boy gotta do to get some accuracy around here?