0300h: Some fiendish spirit stirs you from what must surely have been a restless dream. Waking life welcomes as it always does, with dry mouth, one hell of a headache, and not a damned idea why you can’t sleep…until remembering the drinks you had earlier (more than a few). Then you stumble out of bed and run the tap into your mouth like the withering stray dog that the weekend has wrought of you.
By now you’re well enough acquainted with your own irreconcilable brand of insomnia to know that rolling around and yearning wistfully for rest aren’t going to do you any good, so what can you do? Coffee sounds nice right about now — black, a full pot — and hell, why not a cigarette? Maybe even two.
It gets easy to do a great deal of tough thinking about what it means to be a writer, and even easier to resort to iconoclastic clichés as a form of egotistic auto-eroticism. Some times the words roar out of you and it feels like you were meant to do it; others the process of extracting them from the depths of your consciousness feels almost medieval in its cruelty.
Make no mistake, both are of equal importance. You need the former to remind you that there was indeed something you were put on this earth to do other than walk it alone, and the latter to remind you that just because you found your gift doesn’t mean it’s always going to be given to you. There’s nothing bittersweet about it, my millennial peers, I can assure you.
Suffice it here to say that journalism has never been my primary source of income (ten cents a word just doesn’t cut it in post-Recession America), nor do I honestly expect that it will ever be. The concept simply isn’t feasible in these times — except that’s not the point. We all do what we must to keep a roof over our heads, but I see no value (or really, even sense) in defining ourselves by the mindless tasks we commit ourselves to for the nickel and the dime.
“I think the trick is that you have to use words well enough so that these nickel-and-dimers who come around bitching about being objective or the advertisers who don’t like it are rendered helpless by the fact that it’s good.”
– Hunter S. Thompson
I have worked a number of odd jobs to get by over the years, none of which I can claim undying affection towards. I have cleared lumber and washed toilets and poured drinks (briefly) and painted houses (poorly). I suspect, too, that I will work a great many more before my days and words are numbered. But I will never for a moment identify as being only what I do for a paycheck. I just won’t.
Writing is not a job for me so much as it is part of my identity; it is what keeps the torch lit in the depths of my soul, and grants me the courage to tread forward unto the light when seemingly entrenched in the abyss. I am fortunate to have discovered that so young, and grateful for it.
So upon being asked “What are you writing these days?”, I am at once filled to the brim with a sickening blend of joy and dread, because the answer is typically all that’s left to keep me going at that point in time — and I daren’t let it go, lest I lose what preserves my sanity with appreciable success.
The things which give you strength often have the power to take it away. Whether it’s the love of your mother or the kinship of your brother, there is always something at stake in the war against yourself. I have found weakness in the fear of letting my words be read, but ever growing strength in the face of that very same conflict.
I say let no voice be unheard.
Look terror in the eye, then laugh as you see it retreat.
Hell hath no fury like an inner demon scorned.