On Behalf of All Writers, I’m Sorry, We’re All A**holes

I Know What You Are, But What Am I?

Not much can bring me down on a Thursday night. Especially when I am with my best friend (my sister) on said Thursday night, and we are eating sushi at our favorite restaurant. Sushi, in itself, sends my endorphins racing like twin fireworks to the top of the night sky. If you want to tell me some bad news, pop a Godzilla roll in my mouth, and pour some soy sauce into the side of my lips like the Tin Man’s oil can. Just fill my mouth before you fill my ears. But I deliciously digress…

Now, in the midst of this tobeko laced euphoria, I hear a young lady speaking to her parents in an incredibly haughty manner. At this point in the story, I would like to assert that I am not usually an eavesdropper, but you probably don’t believe me, so let’s move on to the part where I start eavesdropping. I was overwhelmed by this young woman at the table next to me. She barreled on in her conversation like a runaway train, and her parents’ silence was so tangible, I almost asked if they wanted a fourth chair. They must feel, I thought, like Dr. Frankenstein, paralyzed by a mixture of terror and awe in her wake. The young lady sped the conversation along so fast that it was not soon before I realized that she was actually having an argument with her parents, although an incredibly one-sided one.

Yet, this was not what pulled my attention from my feast of the senses. It was the following sentence that I am both amazed and sorry that I heard: “But I have always loved the English language and writing,” she said, as if that was an excuse for the world’s longest filibuster she had been performing for the last half hour.

And that was it. I mushroom clouded. How was it that this absolutely detestable human being, who had been defiantly yelling at her parents as they tried to satiate her with sushi and shushing, was a writer, like me? Why couldn’t she be discussing her love for pig farming!? I fumed. Why did it have to be writing? And then, it clicked. I’m an a**hole, too.

Ay, The Rub

So, what is it about writers that makes them predisposed to the a**hole gene? What was it about this particular girl that swapped my raw fish bliss for horror? Well, put a roll inside your mouth and open your ears, for I have some bad news.

Every writer is an a**hole in one way or another.

And thank God we are.

Take Hemingway. If you haven’t, read the (absolutely phenomenal) novel The Paris Wife, and try to tell me that he isn’t the scum of the earth. But also try and tell me that he wasn’t a master at his craft. He thrived in isolation, slaving to write the most precise, concise sentences possible. And when he emerged from his writing world, he absolutely wreaked havoc on his loved ones. Like all writers, he exhibited a strangely inflated ego. And yet, like all writers, he was ruled by his insecurities, living and dying through other’s compliments or criticisms of his work. He existed on the outskirts of his own society, and yet captured the human condition so profoundly in his writing. Sound familiar? It should.

All truly great writers will undoubtedly endure this paradox to become great. And eventually, we will all murder everything we love in the process. Because if we didn’t, if we weren’t able to completely push everyone away, even alienate the complete strangers sitting and eating sushi next to us, then how could we be productive? How could we set aside the time needed in our lives to write the next greatest novel if we let life barge in? Our insensitivity and yet our sensitivity to the world around is, simultaneously, our triumph and our downfall. Kill your darlings, as Stephen King says.

So, be kind to the writers in your life, for if history serves, all writers die by alcoholism, anyway. But we’ll go down swinging. Maybe even in flames, if we manage to spill enough vodka on the front of our shirts and stand near enough to a burning cigarette we forgot to put out in our fervor to just get this one line down…

In the end, show me a writer that is successful, and I’ll show you one that is a complete a**hole. It’s that simple, and it’s that problematic.

The “Angel” in Angelou

More Maya

I would be absolutely remiss if I did not spend a bit of time honoring the absolutely indomitable presence that has left us physically today and yet has left us with plenty to think and wonder about for years to come: Dr. Maya Angelou. As she passed away today at 86, it is not her age that we meet with surprise, but the life in her years. I found out today that she had 50 honorary degrees. 50. I don’t own 50 anything. Maybe 50 socks, but God knows they aren’t ever in the same room at one time, so how could I count them? Ariel in The Little Mermaid only had 20 thingmabobs. Probably because she spent too much time singing about said thingmabobs to gather anymore, but you get the point.

Angelou was a force. She sang and danced professionally. She wrote screenplays, music, poetry, and 30 best-selling books. She spoke 5 different languages, and yet wielded English with a mastery that is unrivaled to this day. Dr. Angelou is one of the most accomplished people the world has ever known.

Poetic Injustice

And yet, with all that said, I do not have an adequate grasp of the English language, after studying it for most of my life, to truly capture Angelou’s legacy. I’ve circled this issue like a hawk all day, and my wings are undoubtedly tired, but I have nothing to show for it. I thought about compiling some of her greatest quotes to marvel at (and believe me, I would have been here all night attempting to do so) or a list of 10 things that Maya Angelou has taught the writing world (another insurmountable task due to the depth of her talent). I also got in the ring to box with the idea of delving into what most biographies and news stories will undoubtedly gloss over in the days following her death: the fact that she was raped at 7 and worked for a time as a stripper. I feel that these aspects of her life are not inflammatory, but instead they make her even more tangible as a human. As anyone who has ever achieved a large amount of success can attest, a person’s humanity can be obscured when all of their accomplishments are rattled off in a block of text at the close of their time here on earth at the close of a day on a news report. We need to preserve all parts of Angelou’s legacy as well as her humanity. However, it would truly take another 86 years, another lifetime, to celebrate Angelou in all of her glory. And even then, it might just take that long to frame all of those honorary degrees she was awarded.

And so, I will not continue to summarize Angelou’s life, nor compress it, nor dilute it. She is a woman that lived her life out loud, and she does not need me or anyone else, for that matter, to speak for her. Even in death, she has that rare ability to make people listen. I’ll leave you with this video of Angelou reading her own poem, “Still I Rise,” with that sultry, deeply-dwelling voice of hers and enough sass to shake the very foundations of your own self-confidence. Here’s to you, Dr. Angelou. May no one ever reduce you to less than you are, in words or otherwise.

This Blog and Other Lies I Tell Myself

I feel a little like Beyonce. I’m dropping a blogpost after months of silence. And I haven’t told anyone.

In case you were looking for me:
I stopped writing because I was looking for me, too. I hoped that the new year would provide me with some insight about where to take my writing next. People kept telling me I needed to do something with my blog. That I needed to dig a hole and find my niche. That I needed to be an expert in something for people to expect my blog every day. So, I drafted a few ideas. I started to prepare myself for OpEd Tuesdays and Poetry Wednesdays, and to essentially deliver a product that people could swallow without chewing. But I never got far enough to actually start posting with my new format in mind. Maybe something in a deep cranial fold of logic or the stained glass transparency of my heart knew I would never be able to fully commit to a project that did not feel organic or alive to me. Or maybe I was lazy. Probably, I was lazy.

Along the way, I found that life has a way of carving you a tunnel where there was not a path before, and the fact that there is an entire world outside of that tunnel is not enough to convince you that the tunnel is worth leaving. Well, that, and I got a job (that I love) that I needed to get acclimated to before I could continue writing. But now I’m here. And hopefully, you are, too.

In case you were not looking for me:
If you are new here, welcome. Please pretend as if I have been a diligent blogger this entire time and that I have been dedicated to the pursuit of savory word choice and hilarious musings. I’m sure we will get along just fine if you can play pretend as well as I can.

The Pale White Lies
But in reality, this blog was a gigantic lie that I used to tell myself. In case you didn’t know, this blog is updated every day (except on the weekends), and I do not usually premeditate my topics. I generally sit down to write in the twilight of my day and slip into my writing like the sun sinks behind the horizon. Yet, recently, I would watch dusk turn into dawn without so much as a turn of phrase to show for it.

For some time, I researched other blogs and platforms to get a sense of what I would want for BaileyDailey in the future. I called this progress, and finally, I called my own bluff. I lived painfully with the lie that, yes, oh yes, today was the day, only to pull the covers on my bed up to my chin at its close and chide myself for another wasted day. I decided, very unceremoniously, that I was not good enough to be a writer, and I drowned any notion of writing. But after a month or so without writing, all I wanted to do was throw myself overboard.

Writing, if it is a part of your life in terms of habit or talent, is not a tumor to be separated from flesh and precious organ. It is more of an urge that is as familiar as a headache or a hunger pang. It presses in until you can let it out. And try telling your shoulders to fall to their normal height or your mind to mind the speed limit as it goes racing and tumbling down every turn in a piece or prose or poetry, waiting to be cradled and cast out by a line or chapter break. And try telling yourself that you can read something without imagining how you would craft that line or imagine that character’s faults for yourself. And try telling yourself that reading other people’s works, while not creating your own, will satiate you for the rest of your life.

And words, words, words. They line my soul and march through me and they stay unyielding in their pregnant forms so turgid with meaning and incorrect use but also flexibility in a way no one has ever caressed them before and I’ve lost all control. of. punctuation. There.

And these are the lies I would tell myself. That I was not good enough, and that I shouldn’t be writing, and that I didn’t have enough passion to continue.

But I told a bigger lie. I told myself that I could live without writing. And now that I am back to blogging, it’s not that I will start to tell the truth. It’s never been about that. It’s always been about spinning gold threads in reality and churning it with half-truths, lies, and perception. (And if you don’t think that perception should be in that grouping, then you must come back tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.)

And with that, BaileyDailey is back.

And with that, so am I.