Sorry. In my defense, I’ve been writing. Plus, honestly, I’m still getting over the death of my brother. Not unlike Jay Porter when he lost his brother, Chris, I’ve been talking to Josh more now since he died than when he was alive. Which is … weird.
I have three books coming out this year. I’ve been busy. Add to that the whole mortal coil/existential angst, the what’s-it-all-mean? and, well, I hope that explains my absence. But thanks for tuning in.
When I quit smoking back in 2008, I couldn’t write a word for 6 months. Not. One. Goddamn. Word. The brain is kinda essential to that whole “writing” thing. Mental state affects output. Being a writer configures an odd bird in that department. Can’t write if you are too happy. Because who the fuck wants happy stories about two people loving each other very much and nothing ever going wrong? Which leaves conflict. But that is one tenuous baby. No one want to read too much misery (see: biggest criticisms of Jay Porter). The challenge for the professional writer, or any writer who wants to get read I suppose, lies in harnessing conflict, mining unease but keeping said dissonance pleasant enough that you don’t end up writing Affliction or Leaving Las Vegas. Unless of course you can write another Affliction or Leaving Las Vegas. Because then you get that lucrative movie deal and everyone will love you for the rest of your life (*which may not be long).
I am not quitting writing. And if I ever did, there would be no point in making the announcement. No one gives a shit. One of my favorite bits of advice re: writing comes from Dennis Lehane, who carries a little reminder in his wallet: No one cares. Yeah, that can be depressing to some. To me (and Dennis) it’s freedom: No one cares. You can do whatever the fuck you want.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t say this writing shit has left me feeling … tapped.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my life. I mean, as much as a curmudgeonly grumpy fuck like I can. Beats working in a factory, and I can honestly say each book I’ve written has been better than the last.
Only the world doesn’t always share your enthusiasm.
I recently posted about a bad review I got, and, seriously, this isn’t a cry for help, nor is it to disparage the reviewer (although putting spoilers for a book not yet out was kind of a dick move). I use this blog, and really my life, to be open book. I don’t know how else to live. Sure, some of that is born from a … neediness. I won’t pretend to have different stripes. But there is also a very earnest, human emotion behind it all: I want to create work people like.
Before we get into a debate about the purpose of art or any of that. I mean it much, much more simply. I try very hard to write the best books I can, and when they are criticized, however fairly, it hurts. That’s it. Not a “woe is poor me” statement or anything like that. Just a basic, primitive, “Golly, that sure hurt my feelings, Becky.” My youngest, Jack Jack, has taken to this approach. When he doesn’t get his way, he cries and screams, “You bad [insert relation here]! You hurt my feelings.” Of course Jack Jack is 3.
I am 47.
Rejection never gets easier. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.
I’m also wrapping up the fifth (and final) Jay Porter, and as beta reader return their notes, I am super sensitive to the biggest complaint that has plagued the series from the start: Jay. Or more specifically Jay’s being … unlikeable.
Now, to me, Jay is not unlikeable, and it’s always weird to hear he is. Because Jay is … me (you don’t like me?!). His ideas, thoughts, behaviors, beliefs? All Joe. I am a little more mature, evolved than Jay. But, like Holden Caulfield, I don’t disagree with these things he thinks. Impetuous, childish, immature, angsty? Sure. Don’t mean he’s wrong.
It’s my worldview, I suppose. And this is not a worldview that hasn’t been unproblematic. Most of you know about the “salad years.” I am not the most pleasant man to be around in social situations (although to be fair I think most people like me. Well, at least more than they like Jay). But it’s draining. As an artist you have a vision, and I feel I’ve been true that vision. I get a lot of (e)letters from people who say they can relate to Jay and who love the books. It’s the nature of writing, though, some just aren’t going to like what you do. Like Rocky says, “Life will beat you to your knees and keep you there if you let it.” The trick is getting back up.
Because if you don’t? Like Dennis Lehane says: no one cares.