Writing Hideout: Writing as a Mask

I hide in my writing. It is clear in my¬†notes for The Young Chronicles series. I didn’t write about things that happened – seeing Beatlemania in Saskatoon, not even the guy who offered me a blow job – but instead about drivel that would embarrass¬†an illiterate.

Reading through my notes from my Canadian Hitchhiking trip in 1983 is squirm-worthy.

Much of my writing is like that – everything from my bullshit poetry to my first attempt at prose – a lowlight reel proving I should have stopped long, long ago.

A thankfully brief extract from a story I wrote in 1984, Ulvand’s World. Even the titles…God.

I went on to write about prostitutes, 9/11 and outer space, everything but me.

Detail of a cover design from a story written in 1994

So why blog about it now, you ask? I’m getting to that. (I hope.)

Be What You Know, Stupid

I now know, or think I know, that I should only write what I know. I liked writing as a teenager and kid, but it wasn’t anything big. I just had a compulsion to write things down – travelogues, ratings for movies, things like that. When it came to writing stories, I was a clod, convinced that I had to write about important things, be philosophical, and I was really bad at that. (Expect examples to be forthcoming.) I didn’t write about me, about being a teenager, and that I didn’t like being a teenager or kid because I thought being a teenager was a stupid thing.

I didn’t write about that feeling of being stupid, never being happy with who or what I was, where I fit, because I didn’t – fit, that is. I wanted something else, something I couldn’t figure out. And so I pretended that I knew and wrote like that, instead of this, which, good or not, is what I know.It’s my voice, pathetic but real. I can be almost happy to share my embarrassment, my regrets and humiliations, my spasms. I’m getting better at that, better at understanding that the more I let it be what it is, the more to the point, the clearer my understanding of something – I don’t know what – becomes.

For one thing, I’m not much for Christmas. I liked it as a kid, the promise of it, but that was over by 8 am, lost among the heaps of wrapping paper and stacked-up stuff. I looked for it on the TV after that, but there were just cartoons and a dreadfully long dinner to come. As an adult, it’s so much worse, the desperation of trying to get back to something that never was, wearing elf hats, miming good cheer, taking pictures of each other looking stupid doing that. I am happy to be generous, but that does not mean having to listen to the drivel of siblings and offspring. No, I would rather do what makes me happy instead, yes, writing about that.