On a chilly January night in 2004, I sat at my desk and wrote. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I do remember one thought, the only thought I’d had ever since I began my self-appointed apprenticeship that very night: I want to WRITE write.
Now, I’d written things before then. Growing up, I was surrounded by all kinds of books, both for me and my brothers and sister but also for my parents, so it was only a matter of time before I flipped to the other side of these sentences, so to speak, and created stories instead of just reading them. And like billions of writers throughout history, my literary journey began with devastation, despair, anguish, and longing.
Sarah Plimpton kissed Mark Mossa!
Junior high heartbreak!
Eighth-graders are so wonderfully naive and their crushes are so fantastically absurd that they could be nothing but the subject of fiction. Young writers begin with these raw feelings and urges, but instead of letting them shoot and stream through their minds and hearts, they scribble them down in a diary. We listen to the soundtracks of movies and picture ourselves as the hero, our loves as the One, and our adversity palpably bleak…until, against all odds, we are united with our Ones in a kiss amidst a fanfare of cheers, fireworks, and symphonic eruption. So this was how I began. After writing through two spiral notebooks (in a monochrome of blue shades) and three erasable blue pens (erasable: I was the perfectionist even then), I’d finally gotten over Sarah while discovering my love for writing. Over the years, while reading everything from Dostoevsky to King, I wrote in my diary my feelings, struggled with the answers, and stumbled toward a conclusion.
Then, in 1997, near the end of my last semester at community college, I fell head over heels in love with a girl (by now, it had been girl #737). The same long story short—pursuance, reality, heartbreak. After I got home from our only date, I wrote in my diary. Like so many times before, two things would emerge from my words—the real world (disappointing real world) and my fantasies (coulda-woulda-shoulda). But then, magically, a third thing had sprung from the two, like a spark from the striking of a piece of flint against a stone—an urge to change things. Being a hopeless romantic, I was used to this urge, as it had fueled the conflict of the former two. But this time, I wrote out what I’d wanted; and not just in a longingly sappy poem of coulda-woulda-shoulda and harsh reality but in a story form. It was rough. The boy was not me; I’d made him so he couldn’t possibly be me. He went on a trip to save his race by flying to the moon. There was no ending. But there was a beginning.
The point is, I’d written before, but nothing like WRITING. After all, who was I, a WRITER? I could NEVER be THAT.
After graduating from the American State University Experience, I declared myself an English Major with a shrug and a mumble. For two years in the burbs, I hung out in coffee shops with only my blue spiral notebooks, blue-ink pens, my CDs, and my crappy Discman, writing long-hand stream-of-conscious paragraphs to emotional, invigorating, and dramatic music of all genres. And when I moved into the city at the end of 2003, I did the same for hours in bookstore cafes. I told all my friends I was a writer. I recited fantastic acceptance speeches to Nobel and Pulitzer Prize audiences. I bought a tweed smoking jacket and rubbed my chin a lot as I paused from my scribbling and bubbling. But I wasn’t writing. Don’t get me wrong, I learned things from scribbling. From diary pages and love-sick poetry and my amateur fiction of ever shape, size, and kind, I learned the value of words and their meanings, their shapes and their sounds, and the way they described not only the people and places around me but also the complicated turns of my mind. But I wasn’t WRITING writing.
That’s when on January 1st, 2004, I made the plan to write seriously. Maybe it was the brand new year. But probably it was envisioning myself doing exactly what I was doing a year from then, and two years, and five years—sitting on my couch, smoking weed, eating junk food, and doing a hell of a lot of talking about writing and nothing about the actual act of it.
Right then, I got serious. It took some time. Editing was a starting point, realizing that not every single thing I put down was perfect and untouchable. Self-expression was another hump to get over. I had to also shed the starving artist or jaded addict mythology that stymies hundreds of writers every year. Next I had to be humble enough to know that even though I sucked (that was a handful of years), but that I could also get better. Of course, I know this now, but there are always missteps as well as a good dose of Life. And even though you learn something, your doubt never really goes away. It’s not supposed to–doubt is what makes you better.
Listen: we all want to walk a straight, smooth, heated sidewalk to accomplishment and happiness, but it always ends up being just a grassy, meandering trail 30,000 feet up a mountain. Always. Any project, anything you do in life, always. And with only a tiny flask of dirty water and some turkey jerky to nourish you. WRITING writing—literature, the serious, compelling, complex, and challenging art form—is the toughest thing that a writer can agree to pursue. And the thing is, they can always quit. That path of least resistance is and always will be there for you to come back to. That night, when I agreed to WRITE, I agreed to more than just words on a page. I wanted a career in something I loved more than anything. I wanted something that would challenge me and that I would succeed in. I didn’t know how hard it would be, thank god, but I’m so proud every day of what I’ve done and what I will do. As I told my mom one day at a lunch after graduation, “It’s one of the things I actually give a shit about.” Nothing has and will inspire me, ignite me, or nourish me like literature. Novels, short stories, essays, non-fiction, and all of the other family members. When I am reading, I’m not just taken away, I’m being asked to lead on as well. I am co-creator with the author. And when I write, I ask for your hand on this journey as well.
All these years, I’m still working. This and that: literature and passion. What I started with and what I’m always working on.
So it’s weird, this little site. It’s weird because this site is adjacent to my literature and my passion in one sense, in the sense that it is not going to be what I am working very hard on most of my time. It’s adjacent in the way that it is everything else that inspires me. That’s not to say that what I’ll be writing about here isn’t serious, but only adjacent. There are so many things that go into writing, not just the actual literature. Music inspires me, but so does film and philosophy and some good-old real-life stuff. LitAdj is a blog on not just the process that does into it but all the ingredients.
This site is like this:
There is no circle there, there are just dots in the shape of a circle. Our brain makes it complete. Literature is a circle composed of the myriad forms that make it. This site is composed of all my adjacents that influence me to form my complete art form.
However, in another sense, the term adjacent has a more personal meaning. I’ve been adjacent all my life. In real life, I’ve been dubbed the Book Nerd in many circles. I’ve been the dork in the crowd, the kid reading at a party, the shy and reserved introvert.
But in writer circles I’ve found myself to be the serious, perfectionist who wants to say unique things with my words, to use that language to track and observe the habits and tiny dramas of the human experience. Most people don’t. Most want to publish, I want a career. Most want to self-express or just dabble as a hobby, or, even if they’ve gone to get their MFA and become full-time writers, wish to formula-repeat to live off of and possibly become successful. I want to plumb the very depths of what language can do. I want to question the history and future of literature. I strive for the indescribable, reveling in ideas and thoughts and emotions that have not been mapped by language or turning on their heads the things that we have taken for granted. I craft a subtle, powerful language style, focusing on the details of everyday life but in extraordinary ways. I don’t want to just do something, I strive to do the best that I can. My ambitions are inexhaustible. This is very difficult but I’m willing to live and die for my writing. WRITING writing. I am Nerd among nerds. I am outside. I am adjacent.
Being a part but also apart of two different groups can make one feel isolated, depressed, and sad. They are outside-looking-in. They see their uniqueness as a deformity and they see their differentness as something to fix. I’d been like this for far too long. No more.
‘Outside looking out’ is a mantra that embraces your being different and being proud of that difference; and in that pride, finding your style, finding your voice, and finding solace in yourself.
Also, there’s a bit of the Eastern mindset of actually looking around you that makes you focus inward. When you’re on the outside, look out! Look at the life, the sky, the movement, the faces. Don’t miss the things around you in your journey.
And so, welcome to my site, LiteratureAdjacent.com.
Because that’s what being a nerd is all about, Charlie Brown.
Love and be humble.
Create and Complete.
Drop me a line at Literarycrow@yahoo.com
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