Sartre never had to worry about what UART his modem needed

I think I’m starting to calm down after my week of everything gone wrong. I planned on getting a bunch of writing done, but spent the day doing laundry and leafing through a generic history of philosophy book, a sort of cliff notes-esque thing that wasn’t that detailed, but contained such a wide overview that I got pretty lost in it, in the good way. And I continue to work on a contract job that will probably be done by the 20th or so. But no real work on Rumored, just a few dozen words.

I guess I’m still lost; I thought about that a bit more today. A catalog for the New School came in the mail and I wondered if $400-something on a night class in fiction would be a waste of money or not. The timing is bad right now – a fall class would really butcher my time with Rumored, and this week has demonstrated that I’d really need to work to fit anything else in my schedule. Even though I spent most of my day doing nothing, that nothing provides me with the lack of structure I need for the bursts of work that eventually add up to great things. It’s something that’s impossible to fathom when you’ve spent years doing things according to tightly planned schedules. I can’t force myself to write x pages a day, especially if I want them to be creative and unique. All I can do is provide myself with a comfortable situation – plenty of food, plenty of sleep, something good in the CD player, and the words will eventually come.

I was reading about Sartre and his book Nausea today. The main character, during a bunch of research, withdraws and gains the ability to recognize that things and events in life are not categorizable, and contain no intrinsic meaning. What he discovers is that cultural and social efforts enforce or impose an order or meaning onto things. When those systems are ignored, the bare existence of things, or their facticity, is revealed. And once you see that, you realize that any meaning of events is supplied by your own free will, and you are what you choose to be.

It sounds simple, but Sartre also goes into the extreme difficulty of comprehending the extreme freedom and the extreme responsibility that comes with this realization. The freedom is in a sense a trap, because one you experience it, there’s no way you can go back the the straight-man, 9 to 5 world and expect to deal with it on any level. Also well-said by Bon Scott in the first line of Highway to Hell: “It ain’t easy living free.”

What the hell does this mean? I don’t know, I need to sit down and read Nausea when I have some time. But I do know the difficulty of dealing with this much freedom. A lot of options also means a lot of confusion. Sometimes I wish writing books was more like a 9 to 5 job at a corporation, where I went in and wrote fucked up stuff every day, and knew what was wanted from me. That’s not really true – I’ve already mentioned that I can’t write in those conditions, and I don’t think I would want to. But the problems with comprehending this whole thing that Sartre talked about is something that comes and goes for me. Sometimes, I’ll be walking down Broadway and I’ll think that none of this makes sense, the way people are controlled like slaves by religion and corporations. I don’t know why anyone would do something like run a fruit stand for their whole life when they could write or pick up a guitar or learn HTML or SOMETHING. It sounds elitist, but… I don’t know, maybe I’ll explain it all later someday.

With that, I should try to get some sleep…


Seattle the distant dream

I realized today that after about four months, Seattle is nothing but a distant dream to me. I pulled a book off of the shelf today (Steve Katz – 43 Fictions) and a receipt fluttered out, an ATM slip from a Seafirst bank. The red 1 on the back and dot-matrix printing brought me back to 5/23/98. I guess maybe once a week I have a heavy thought back to various points in the whole Seattle experiment. I’m not saying I hate New York and want to be back there – I mean, sometimes I go on a heavy trip about being back in Elkhart again, but I would never do it again. It’s just I have a bad habit of thinking back a year, or two years, and trying to compare it to now, to see if I’ve improved at all. I guess I usually think that moments of my past are best, but then I’ve probably screwed myself by thinking more like a writer and less like – well, whatever everyone else thinks like.

And I got on a big nostalgia trip about last year because I got on this huge self-reinvention thing last spring and summer, trying to figure out what path to take and what to do next. After breaking up with Karena, I spent a lot of time oscillating between thoughts of doing things to meet more people and extreme hermitdom. The latter brought greater productivity to me, and let me do a great deal of work on Rumored to Exist and Summer Rain. And it made me feel more like a writer. It also freaked me out, and made me more depressed. But I got a lot done.

I guess the reason I’m babbling about this is one of the reasons I haven’t updated in a while, and that’s because I have been lost. I mean, I’m almost always in the apartment, so it’s not that kind of lost. But I don’t know what I should do next. I have so many options open to me, that it’s almost confusing to figure out what I want out of life. And in wandering between different internal dialogues about the whole thing, I haven’t solved many things. Maybe I should give examples.

Sometimes, I want a job. Sometimes, this recruiting firm gets me to put on some nice clothes and go to interviews with big companies who are looking for writers. As of now, none of those have resulted in a job. And I guess that’s a good thing. Maybe I’d like the money and the desk and the people, but it would be counterproductive to my writing. There are times I am so blocked that I think “fuck it, I will take any job, even if it involves 2 hours on the subways to mop floors at a laundromat, as long as I don’t have to face writing again.” I usually get over those phases. But as my bank account dwindles, I feel drawn closer to this option.

A recent kick was grad school. I thought that I wanted to go back and get an MFA in creative writing. I looked into it, and decided that I had too many strikes against me, and it would be better to take the $15,000 that I didn’t have anyway and use it to keep holed up in my apartment and keep writing. I don’t want to go into the pros and cons of the situation, because it is exhausting. But that’s another option.

You may wonder, “why isn’t he listing his writing as an option?” Well, I am and I’m not. I want to finish Rumored to Exist. I want to edit Summer Rain. I want to work on more stuff. But I don’t know what to do aside from the writing. I don’t know what to do to meet people, make connections, and get out of the house. I thought grad school would make instant contacts, but it’s too much bullshit with GREs and application forms and tuition residency and comprehensive exams and foreign language tests. And I thought a job might work, but it’s a step in the wrong direction. And most of the writer’s workshop options in New York seem to be “pay me $1000 and I will teach you how to write in 10 hours” and not useful to a quasi-professional.

Somewhere in the middle of this chaotic argument, I made one universal statement that became like the 0th law of robotics to my entire mission: I need to finish Rumored to Exist. I need to make it a good book, the best I can write. Everything I do, every dollar I spend, every minute of every day needs to be directly related to the completion of this book. There will be no other side projects or diversions until I get the galleys back from the publisher.

I am starting to think a few things that would be considered anti-social but would probably help this process much more. First, I am not going to try to workshop the book. I think if I spent my money on a workshop, all I would get is a bunch of Anne Rice wannabes who would shit their intestines if they read any of Rumored. I don’t need people who don’t know what they are talking about to criticize my work, and I don’t need to waste my time reading theirs. And I don’t need to get tied up in the world of book publishing name-dropping.

So, maybe I do need to be a hermit again. Maybe I need to ignore the world until this book is done, and stop worrying about defining myself with outside shit that’s just there for people who need definitions. Right?

Yesterday, my computer completely died and I lost one of my harddrives. Luckily, it was not the one that holds all of my writing and personal files. Un-luckily, I had to drop $200 on another drive, and after two days, I am only about 90% functional. It has been a nonstop hack-fest trying to get everything running again. For some reason, I can only boot from floppy now. It appears that no known computer hardware can actually work with a harddrive bigger than a few gigs, and everything that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers have led you to believe is wrong. The only way to get large drives to work is by sheer voodoo. This is because They want you to throw your old PC out the window and go buy a brand new one anytime anything goes wrong.

I don’t remember what else. A lot has gone on, but it’s mostly categorizable in the “if it’s not one thing, it’s another” file. All I want is one full day of writing without something asinine happening that consumes 12 hours of my time. I’m hoping by the end of the month, this will happen. In reality, I know it won’t.

[2020 update: I can’t believe I thought an MFA would cost only $15,000.]