Normally I would sit down, clearly think out what I wanted to write here, maybe outline something basic, and get it all down just the way I wanted before hitting that Publish button. But this week’s different, and I’m in a different place, and so we’re just rolling on with the rolling on.
And that’s what this post is about: dealing with the shit that happens.
Let’s see. What has happened around here since early March.
Wife’s grandfather had the flu and was hospitalized. My grandmother hurt her hip and was hospitalized. I had the flu, wife had the flu. Wife got pneumonia. Grandfather struggled and passed away. Grandmother struggled and passed away two weeks later. Flying across the country this week for one funeral. Other funeral is the following weekend. Family stuff. Work stuff. It’s been a heavy spring, man.
It’s May and I’m still wondering when March will end. Oh, and we’re reading the last of the Harry Potter novels (“Harry Potter and the Madcap Race For Magic Macguffins”), and let me tell you, that is not some light and cheerful reading. Rowling, man, she sneaks up on you.
I mean seriously, Harry. Your plans suck. You shouldn’t be in charge of making them anymore.
And as for you, reader, I am NOT going to bullshit you here and pretend that somehow any of this at all has made me a better writer. Fuck that, because yanno, I don’t know about you, but emotional turmoil and coughing up my lungs, they don’t motivate my creativity at all.
But I’ll say this. As a writer, or an artist or creative of any kind, I do think that you need a basic philosophy when it comes to dealing with pain and strife and angst and fear and worry and all that other fetid crap that settles into your psychic grease trap at day’s end. Because you can’t pump it out in real time, not when you’re in the midst of dealing with it.
For me, for many, many years, I clung to a single line: “No experience is wasted if you get a good story out of it.” And that covers a lot of useful ground, up to the point where you’re dealing with the really heavy stuff. Then it really doesn’t work anymore. It’s one thing to slap that hang-in-there-kitten poster on your brain-wall when a date goes bad or you have a bad day at work or something just didn’t pan out. It doesn’t help a whole hell of a lot when people die, or when relationships self-destruct, or when your entire world shifts on its axis.
I mean, yeah. Eventually you’re going to be able to use that. But let’s get real. It may be a while.
What I’m finding, though, as I start to find a comfortable place to sit in middle age, is that a much better way of stating the same basic idea is this: “Fold the pain into the process.” And that’s not necessarily the process of Art. It’s just not about making an object or a page of words.
It’s about making who you are. The process of becoming who you always were, and being okay with that, and when you can catch your breath for a bit and start pumping out the accumulated brain sludge, then you can get it down on the page or canvas somehow. You can figure out what to do with the cleaned up bits that aren’t currently killing you.
And that’s just a roundabout way of saying, guys, I’m tired, and my grease trap is fairly full up at the moment. I’m just not in the mood for more unnecessary bullshit, is what I’m saying. I’m pumping pain into process, eager to hose out this toxic dump once the night shift winds down, and am not going to be happy with a last-second customer ordering a dozen fuck-you cheeseburgers as I’m trying to go home.
(Sigh. Harry, man. Have an idea of what you plan to do once you get inside the building. That’s all I’m saying. Just plan it all the way through, for once in your life, okay?)
And for the rest of y’all, just keep going with the process of life, and make art when you can. It’s the stuff we got.