nce upon a time, when I was in 3rd grade, a poem I wrote made it to the main lobby of the building next to the principal’s office. As I proudly showed it off to my mother, she admonished me harshly for having the messiest paper as my moment of genius caused me to scrawl out words and scratch off the ones that I knew I had misspelled. I didn’t have wite-out back then and I didn’t have the patience to hand write it again neatly. Even now, my penmanship is shameful. I start off font-like and I delve into madness.
I consider this little story the Story of My Life. I’m not a patient person. I’m not as impatient as my little sister, but I’m not a calm rock either. I don’t like doing things over, especially if I’m doing things over to fix a mistake. One of my desired superpowers is to get Everything Right The First Time. I would make a terrible scientist or a corporate line cook as I would be forced to partake in repetition and, with the latter, with precision to commit to the same result. Since then, I have always felt guilty for not being perfect. The guilt is so pervasive in me that everything that is not perfect about myself is on a backwards pedestal (hair, weight, luck, etc.) Since then, even though the years have softened my mother into a tofu brain, I will remember her as militant and unbending…even cruel. But this post is about my writing. I have a few more memories of having my writing read to great “acclaim”: Ms. Kelley reading aloud a portion of an essay I wrote that blew her mind with my adolescent insight, and having my idiot classmates whip their heads to look at me in awe; a college classmate in an Advanced Writing Class reading my term paper on the bureaucracy of a pristine wilderness and writing, “This is a PERFECT paper! I wish I could write like you!” in the margins; a college professor cum Life Friend reading my final on how the Terminator movies were an allegory to life and telling me in person that this “was a pleasure to read. One of the reasons why I remember why I love my job.” There are others…
I’m not saying that I have the hidden talent that will award me a future Pulitzer. I’m saying that any smaller criticism against my writing makes me forget these things. In high school, a friend whom I worshiped as an older brother dismissed my emailed stories to him. He was going through the High School Breakup, and the stories weren’t his style, but I took it hard. When I look back now, I should have known that a teenage boy wouldn’t be into thinly disguised stories modeled after our friends with names changed all but for the first letter. A few years ago, I watched a Korean movie called Flower Island that affected me so much that I spent the next morning entirely in bed, writing a novelized adaptation of it. (I did that with Titanic too, thank you very much. I was struck by the fact that at the very end, Old Rose had the diamond all along and she threw it into the ocean. Jack died for nothing.) I nervously showed it to someone, hoping to impress and be praised with the volume and passion with which I wrote in such a flurry, but one of the first things pointed out to me was that my grammar was all over the place, which was probably true, but I hadn’t noticed because of my excitement. I have been terrified to show anyone else my writing since.
You know what though? I don’t think Stephen King cares that Suzy Homemaker or Joe Blow doesn’t like It or Carrie or the Dark Tower novels. He knows life is short, so fuck everyone else. He knows he’s a Storyteller in his belly, and he stokes that fire daily, critics be damned. I am a Storyteller. I love telling stories. I am riveted by them, and I like to turn everything into something that weaves into all the insanity and poignancy of humanity.
This year, I’m going to do my final edit of Electra, and finish the goddamn novel.
Not Going to Get Anywhere If I Just Talk About It
[Typewriter image courtesy of Thuy Vanu.]
If you’re still around, here are some Friday links:
I wish I was this baby. Safe, warm, and content. It also makes me want to learn how to play piano so I could this to a baby.
How amazing is this Adele-inspired sweater?
Gung Hay Fat Choi! Monday is Chinese New Year, and in the TV world, Fresh Off The Boat is going to dedicate an episode to it. I’ll have to tune in to see if they skewer any of our superstitions. Every family celebrates a bit differently. We have the oranges, incense, and big feast, but not the loaded hongpo.
Cute, satirical illustrations.
Enjoy your weekend! I think mine is going to be hella busy…