Big Mouth Goes on Strike

I was given an annoying moniker as a kid: bionic jaws.

It came about because I talked a lot. I was a shy kid and my way to overcome it was to jabber on and on about anything: my brother’s interest in bloody pig organs; the number of times I’d buffed my oxblood Doc’s so that they shone; the number of dog turds I’d counted on our street that didn’t come close to the number of dogs, etc, etc.

Looking back, this seems an odd thing to do, considering the fact I was shy. But I talked a lot so that people wouldn’t notice me, they’d listen to my words, which, in a strange way, hid me. Although sometimes the other children listened, sometimes they walked off. Adults simply stared or asked me what the hell I was talking about. In fact, it was an adult who stuck the bionic jaws moniker to me. (I’ve hated the bastard ever since.)

I still tend to be loquacious, but now it’s about literary things, and I’ve found a small milieu who appreciates what I have to say. There are still a horde of others, though, who look at me as if I’m a banana short of a bunch, and I know they are probably thinking, “Bionic jaws.” Or they feign interest by looking at some unreachable spot in the distance. None of this bothers me anymore. I’ve become immune, as we all must to the inescapable annoyances of life.

I still get riled up, though. My wife says I think too much. But I’d be an empty shell if I didn’t. She’s got a point, though.

I only wish I had found writing when I was younger. For me this is a way to calm me down. I can organize what I want to say more clearly and sometimes elaborately, but it makes more sense than the maelstrom in my head. And I can also detach myself from the emotions and make them stronger and less overwhelming when I write. Of course, when I discovered that writing could help me calm down, what I wrote was a toxic dump of emotions and words. I tried so hard to get everything down. Everything! At the time I was writing poetry and I filled notebooks so that Marlow would have cried “The Horror! The Horror!”

I’ve got better over time. The more I read, the more I write, the more I can reign in that effusive, orgiastic pouring out of words that convulse and writhe and spit about me.

But like I said, I still get riled up. Especially when it comes to interviewers who ask a writer to give advice to other writes. It’s not a useless question, but it seems to be asked of everyone, and even more so from first-time authors. Which is annoying because it makes me wonder what almighty knowledge they have suddenly become endowed with after publishing their first book that sets them so much more apart from novice writers on their way to publishing. I’m just not buying that these writers are suddenly imparted with the gift of a golden nugget that can save, help, or motivate other writers. Of course, some give good advice, but just as many give out a bunch of bullshit, plain and simple.

Here are a few that get under my skin.

Persevere. This is good advice if you’re stuck in a snowstorm, there’s no gas in the car, and you’re a long way from home.

Or write what you know. If you like living in a very small room.

Or this one, which makes me laugh: study the market. What, like a banker would the stock exchange, to see what’s falling, rising, or being stolen?

My advice: Make shrimp wear coats.

Oh, and write lots and lots and lots. It pays good dividends.

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.” Virginia Woolf


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