I Got Ants in My Pants and I Want to Dance

It’s time to write a little reminder note to myself to remember to watch my two children walk across the fresh-cut lawn in bare feet.

When I read interviews with writers bitching about how hard it is to write, rewrite, how the writing profession is like some kind of density of misery with no space for relief, I wonder what’s the point of writing if all it ever does is make you feel bad, bad about it, as well as put a bad taste in your mouth.

Today I overhead 2 people reminiscing about their youth. Remember when we….Remember how we…. Remember that girl who lived in the next town…. Remember those fantastic empty relationships with anything or anyone…. We drank so hard, I remember nothing….

I wouldn’t go back to those days if you paid me.

I just finished Edward Carey’s amazing Observatory Mansions. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Pithy, clever, unusually constructed, non-linear, comic, dark, depressing, bathetic, easy on the pathos, not trite with honesty, and wholly human in its depiction of fictional characters. I loved Francis Orme for his wickedness and his compassion for saving his dead brother’s remains. I have already requested his novel Alva and Irva from the library and look forward to reading his YA novel Heap House set to come out in September.

Last night I pitched our tent in the back garden as a way to get away. And next week, I’ve booked a 2-day camping adventure for my family at Lake St. George. We haven’t gone anywhere in years. Not since the children arrived with their soft toys. Sometimes I tell my wife, let’s pack our portmanteaux and move to Normandy. I could teach English to existential street kids. But we have no savings. And my wife doesn’t speak French. Neither do I, but that wouldn’t stop me.

It’s raining here in Maine. Grey sky like liver and clouds like onions.

I must go and clean my house. I never knew household chores could be such work. I think I was swapped at birth with a working-class baby. I want a castle, no disposable income, and some national trust to turn my castle into a tourist attraction while my family and I live in 10 rooms and I proudly state that all I can do is write, stoke the fire, catalog the inherited treasures, and never get involved with casual work.

Here’s some Iggy. And if this song doesn’t make you dance wildly, then you really have no lust for life. And shame on you.

Blessings and One Small Curse. Maybe.

I woke up today and realized I’m a writer in his forties without a publishing deal — yet. And immediately I looked for a different pair of shoes to wear and also came to the conclusion that I’m now a middle-aged writer, a late bloomer whose little snow-white feet have taken an awful long time in the Salley Gardens.

I’m not begrudging the late bloomer or middle age. Not much I can do about time, but spend it.

And, anyway, this older writer shtick has its blessings. I have sampled more from the kinky bedroom, the pill cabinet, the lavish kitchen table, the infested ratskeller, the dusty attic, the undisturbed bathroom, the living room, the unliving room, the empty pantry, the stocked fridge, the parked car, the speeding car, the porch full of muddied boots. All of the life I’ve lived can drip intravenously (or sometimes pour, when the writing’s going well) into the fiction. And I’m thankful for that. Though again, life happens — I’m just glad I’ve been conscious of most of it and not one of those walking dead shuffling out of his mortal coil.

But there’s a curse, too. At least I think so. My particular curse. It’s that I am no longer young. Maybe curse is too strong a word. Maybe it’s more like a heavy dose of unease. Because being a young writer, I think you’re more prone to saying, “Fuck it” a lot. Being capricious, reckless, unfazed by failure, success, just tossing your young self onto the tracks blithely anticipating the oncoming train and the screaming passengers and the psychotic driver. There’s this sod-off resilience, this come-what-may-I’ll-slay-the-fray attitude. All good. All tested. All maybe precocious. And all in the past.

Or is it? Do I need to act my age as a writer? Do I have to be responsible, have it all sorted? Do I have to grow up mealy-mouthed when I’ve got a taste for the tongue of the fool?

You’re in your 40s, you bloody well ought to have it all figured out! You need to know what you’re writing and you need to know what it means right now. And you need to decide between genre or literary fiction, between bangers or the golden calf, and you’d better do it quick or else there’s a spanking coming. And not a nice kinky one, either. And you’ve got to be so intimate with Twitter and Facebook, they’ll hang between your legs like the balls you haven’t got. (Yes, this is gender specific because I’m a man, or thereabouts). Social media is publishing’s New Model Army and you must believe in the good old cause, we don’t need no royalists coming out of the cupboard saying they don’t want to be that kind of writer, they just want to write their novels. Plus, you need to know all there is to ever know about social media since it’s your savior, trust us, and you don’t want to get crucified on some solitary tree, it’s so damn barbaric. Oh, and you need to know your market, your author photo, number of copies sold, number of signed copies, number of people in the audience, number of adjectives used, number of darlings killed, number of hairs on the dog, etc, etc, etc. In the midst of my writing life I am in debt to everyone, it seems.

In my best Tom Waits: “I don’t wanna grow up.”