Writing a paper about writing a paper. How self-indulgent. What a cop-out. What an admission of narcissism. Hasn’t anything real happened? Hasn’t your life involved just one moment of inspired hilarity? How is writing about writing going to kick-start the ol’ creative juices? Did you even think this through? Anyone can write about not writing. It’s the easiest subject for a non-writer to tackle.
Be honest. You aren’t a writer. That screenplay has been sitting dormant for almost two years. Yeah it’s half done but you have no fucking idea how you’re going to end it. Wah wah, you don’t want to just tell a story, every story you write has to be littered with social commentary and perfectly human characters that show that deep down you understand the human condition and can offer insight that shows you’ve done your homework. That’s bullshit. Your screenplay is about 3 punk kids in LA in 1987, trying to get laid. No one’s life is going to be changed by this tale.
You are newly 29 years old. Your life experience amounts to nothing in the literary sense. What are your hardships? Job troubles? Girlfriends aren’t making your life perfect? Wake up, twinkle-toes, everyone has these problems. Who are you to think you can capture these frustrations in a way no one else can? Your personality is composed of 80s romantic sentimentality and nostalgia for the carefree days that you didn’t even fully capitalize on. You think that kid from Into the Wild is a spoiled brat that died a stupid death? Smells like jealousy to me. You could never have that dimension to yourself. You’re too tied down, too assimilated, too comfortable. This kid may have not had the talent to keep himself alive, but God damn it he had the self-discipline to see that talent through. How dare you, sir.
Oh sure, look at your bookshelf. Look at that copy of Vineland you’ve tried to read six times, only to get halfway through each time. And the only reason you keep reading it is because of that one scene you think is so funny that involves the character masturbating in the shower thinking about his wife that is sneaking out of the same hotel he’s in. Pynchon can now die knowing his true vision has come across loud and crystal clear to Jonathan Doyle.
Stop looking at those five Tobias Wolff books with such a glare of accomplishment. Knowing one author does not make a well-read man. You are 29 years old! Stop fucking superpoking people on Facebook and pick up a classic book. One that people reference and allude to that will heighten your understanding of culture on the whole. You could never match Wolff’s scope anyway. What do you know about people? Sure you pick up on a few idiosyncrasies verbal tics but when have you ever sat down and tried to understand anyone? Do you even care about anyone but yourself? You have the memory of a fucking fly. Oops. There you go again, aping Mamet, a man who writes across genres, independent characters with their own dimensions, and dialogue so sharp you can’t even conceive of hearing from a person, let alone create a believable character to voice it. Who told you you could work among men?
Ugh. And that copy of The Brothers Karmanov that you shamelessly adopted into your library when Dave left it here. It’s a sick joke to even suggest you may have read that.
What were you, 20 years old? Sitting in that self-reflexive film class (great choice of classes, by the way, your parents’ money was truly well-spent) the professor warned, ‘creativity is like a muscle, and if it isn’t maintained by 25 it will fatigue away’. You feel like that part of your brain is missing don’t you? That’s ‘cause it is. And don’t be too encouraged by that article you read in Newsweek about that brain being able to re-establish old pathways, because the way you’re drinking, you’ll be lucky if your brain will be able to remember where food goes.
You big dummy. Move to NYC and try and get your shit together and get some production experience, which you secretly hate, and what do you do? You spend all your time going to parties and getting drunk in bars. You could have done that in Boston and saved more than a little on rent. This city will rob you blind, and you know it. You’re secretly praying for a recession so your rent won’t go up and the chain stores won’t kick out that vintage store you don’t even go to but you know the second the crime rate gets anywhere near what is was in the Ninja Turtle days you will be packing your bags, you big pussy. That time you thought you were going to get mugged on the M train that one time? You were stoned, end of story. Those kids probably didn’t even notice you, you Gap-shirt-wearing generic motherfucker.
Aw, what’s the matter? New York isn’t exactly how it was presented to you in Kids, Hackers, or even the first Ninja Turtles movie? I’m sure if you send a nice letter to the Mayor’s office they’d be more than happy to apologize. They’ll apologize you’ll have to suffer a little anxiety of being priced out of every nice neighborhood in the city by people who actually do their job and actually do it well. They’ll apologize they’ve shut down that drug-infested church club that you heard about and romanticized about. You think those club kids would even want to hang out with you if they were here? You can barely stomach a cigarette these days, let alone boatloads of coke. I’m sure they’ll apologize for getting their city into working order again, after the city nearly went bankrupt thirty years ago. They’ll apologize for not letting a world class city deteriorate just so some kid can act out some pseudo-bohemian existence in tenement buildings constructed by and for the citizens of an older New York who undoubtedly had a better work ethic than you. It’s a goddamn shame, really.
Where is your work ethic? It sure damn isn’t on this piece of paper. Your girlfriend buys you a writing class to help you get out of your slump and you can’t even trouble yourself to write two pages a week. If you wrote just one page of that screenplay a day you would have had it finished three or four times by now. It sure isn’t at your job, where trying to find a project to produce so you might be able to someday lift yourself out of assistant-land plays second fiddle to checking blogs of people you don’t even like.
You remember that scene from House of Sand and Fog where Ben Kingsley talks about Americans always needing a new sweet taste in the mouth? That is you incarnate, buddy. Your attention span is so eroded by the promise of something new and shiny every half a second that it makes your sense of self-discipline look zen-like in comparison.
Oh no, you didn’t. You did not just go outside for a cigarette with your roommate. What were we just talking about? Self-discipline. You were supposed to quit a year ago. You don’t even like cigarettes anymore. What is wrong with you? Can’t say no to a little distraction time? Work on your craft, god dammit. When the day is done what are you going to have to show for it? A couple of cigarette butts and a pathetic score on Halo 3? Do not let your roommate’s vices become your own. Put the Xbox controller down.
Stop diffusing all your energy into ‘social networking’ and relationships and work on your own shit, so you are somebody with something to show for yourself. Stop worrying so much about your grey hairs and your recent added weight (which is not your girlfriend’s fault, but your own), and worry about how you’re going to write again with the precision you once wrote in college (without the help of your roomates’ adderall prescription, you junkie). If you could focus half of the energy you expend worrying about your girlfriend’s ex into writing you would have a desk at the periodical publication of your choosing this very second. Better Homes & Gardens at least.
So you sent your book out to a few of your favorite magazines. Didn’t hear back? Send it again. Send it again and again until you are so fucking annoying you at least will get the satisfaction of know they got it and looked at it even to get your contact information so they can tell you to piss off. Why are you wasting time? There are younger, smarter, more disciplined brats in this city right this very second that do not hesitate to make themselves known and you are growing complacent withering away your cubicle, giggling at icanhazacheeseburger.com. You joke. Who told you you could move here, work amongst these people? Get to work or get out. If you don’t get to work and get to work hard this very minute you are only adding to the pile of self-failing writers you used to despise, and here you are, writing a paper about writing a paper. Making these poor people suffer your bickering and never-ending neurosis. Say you’re sorry. Louder.
And for Christ’s sake, McDonald’s strawberry shakes are not a suitable snack. 420 calories for a small. It’s all sugar. Your dad and your grandmother have diabetes, can you guess who’s next in line? What do you think, you are thirteen years old? Your metabolism is slowing, old man, and slowing fast. Strawberry shake, you have got to be shitting me. New diet: eat like a 20-year old indie girl. I’m talking soy milk, edamame, grilled chicken salads. God forbid you get some real nutrients in your system, instead of relying on generic multivitamins. Y’know what? Fuck nutrition as a whole. I don’t know how you got the idea that if you make sure you have at least 200% of niacin (b5) in your system at all times you’ll somehow be able to remember to pick up your dry cleaning. Cut that Red Bull shit right out the window. Can’t focus on your craft? Maybe you shouldn’t have been drinking 3-5 cans of the stuff a shift. Couple that with a few binge-drinking nights a week trying to get laid and no wonder you’re sitting here wondering where your talent went.
You can’t care who’s going to happy hour. Not only are you going to waste time, but you’re going to waste money and get fat. Don’t forget your lack of moderation and your uncanny ability to say something stupid and inappropriate. With co-workers, i.e. people you have to work with. Every day. When you were visiting your uncle and got drunk you suggested they put their newborn baby in a car wash. What is wrong with you? It sounded funny at the time? I know fifteen dollars is a great deal for seven hours of drinks and food every Sunday, but seriously what is it costing you in the long run? Your self-respect? Pull yourself together.
Write, just keep writing. Write every day about the stupidest shit you can muster until you see a pattern in your idiocy and then maybe you can take some steps to correct it. Where did your vocabulary go? Your charismatic wit has turned into miserable ranting, your fine-tuned sense of justice has been replaced by pleading queries of validation, your sense of hope has been razed to make room for a comfortable coffin of just-getting-by. You think, what a dork I was when I was younger. You think, what a naïve, idealistic boy who thought things would be all coming together by now. You think you knew what it was to take a chance, to make something, to see something through.
You’ve neglected yourself for too long. Tomorrow you’ll wake up and be forty years old and realize that perfect day never came where you sat down and it all came together. And if you think it’s over at 29, it will really be over at 40, then you’ll be even less motivated to get shit done. Then you’ll take it out on your kids, or one of their dorkier friends. And even at that young age, you knew the difference between a talker and a doer and that dorky kid will look at you and you will know the gig is up. And that is the only advice I can leave with you with: Don’t let that dork get the best of you.