I’m alone at Casa de BeaverGoat on a rare Tuesday night. Erin and her mother are off watching Emma Lou Harris as I try to avoid trouble and be a good guy. Being a good guy at the house alone means not drinking too much and making sure our two dogs, Shelly and Pops, get fed and don’t run into oncoming traffic. It’s nice to eat a steak dinner with baked potato along with a couple of whiskey and waters but in the end it is kind of boring.
I feel for Erin having to spend four of her seven nights alone in the same fashion.
I started a new project this week. In reality, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of months. Its called, Decade. It’s the story of a Utah boxer in the near future that goes through an epidemic afflicting his mother while the federal government outlaw childbirth for ten years. Not really heady stuf but fun to play around with.
I like science fiction in the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut. Hell, I’ve spent every moment in front of a typewriter or keyboard trying to be Vonnegut. He blends science fiction with social criticism and makes it seem palatable. Whether or not he it talking about the role of engineers is society (Cat’s Cradle) or the dichotomy of justice (Time Quake), Vonnegut writes the way I think. In truth, I probably think like Vonnegut because I’v e read him since my cousin Lauren gave me a copy of his book when I was 13.
You always remember the great books.
Back to Decade.
Decade came abot because I thought that there isn’t enough great stories written based in Utah. After finishing Hibernate, I wanted something to follow up with and went to this list that I simply call The List. It is a series of ideas about stories, in novel length, that I want to write. Some are romantic, others are horror, there’s a zombie tale based in Coalsville Utah and I have a couple of sci-fi pieces set throughout the state. The only central theme they share is that they are all set in Utah and there is a company called Henderson Refinery and Die Cast involved. Henderson Die Cast and Refinery plays a central role in Hibernate and fuck you, it’s a good idea.
I’ve completed the first draft of Decade but I found myself at a loss during the editing. I was trying to tighten up the language and add some humor. Unfortunately, being funny is a lot harder than sounding important. Instead, I looked over pages of words and ideas and thoughts and stories and realized it is a collective pile of mess. The kind of thing somebody regurgitates while on spring break or a tequila bender. It’s not bad—just not great.
What I never appreciated until recently is the pain that comes from sitting down in front of a computer and trying to come up with something. In writing blogs for the last four years, the words stream through my fingers and magically come up on the screen—very little labor and almost no thought. Writing with a purpose damn near sucks. It hurts. It pains your brain and makes your body uncomfortable. There is none of the ecstasy of stringing sentences along but rather a shitty, shitty duty to try and finish a thought that really isn’t full constructed.
I wish I were better at it.
I used to be addicted to going to the gym. I liked pressuring myself to hit the various stationary workout stations and crush lifting weights. I was compelled to do so because I wanted the strength to do other things. Somewhere, that passion faded. With writing, I have this desire to crush words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters with the same passion of throwing up bench presses but lack the machismo to finish strong. Ask anyone who has written anything, after awhile you get tired of looking at it and yourself. I guess that is what makes great bodybuilders—they never tire looking into the mirror. When you write, there comes a critical mass of bullshit that you can take and never want to see or even think of yourself again. It’s not self doubt—it’s just the reptilian part of your brain that says, “Enough with the self reflection.”
The best piece of writing I ever saw was in Esquire and it was about a guy who worked as a warehouse worker during the graveyard shift and spent his days writing short stories. He was honest, self-deprecating and funny. He knew he had a crummy job and no future but he wrote for the sake of writing. The act of itself was worth any of the pain or malarkey that he had to contend with during the course of life. Ex-wives, be damned! Rent checks, be damned! 401Ks, security, future, legacy or notoriety, de damned! He wrote because he was a writer and all of the other barriers and obstacles in his life just made what the do ring true.
I’m not that guy.
I’m a fellow with two dogs safely out of the street, bellies full with kibble and a house not on fire. I might have bourbon in my blood and a ribeye making its way through my system, but in the end I’m just a guy that likes telling a story and having a laugh. It’s remarkable that I brought the computer out to do some editing by the campfire and sip a highball and I came up with a dumbass bartender’s manifesto to writing but I guess that’s what you get when you check out and just tap fingers into a keyboard.
I wonder if Vonnegut felt this way?
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out the podcast, Trib Sports Radio. Thank goodness there isn’t a breathalyzer on WordPress or this thing would never see the light of day.