Today is my last day being fourteen. Tomorrow, I’ll be 15 after a year of waiting, and as I reflect on this fact, I begin to wonder what will the next year of my life bring me: where will I go, how far will I come, and will I be able to look back and see that I have crossed another mountain? The most incredible thing that I did as a 14 year old was that I won 2nd place in a statewide contest, won $100, and have my name in an unofficial record book of award winning authors that I keep in my head. To me, that’s huge. But, now as I walk into the next age of my literary career, I’m starting wonder just where will I go? I’m currently writing a science fiction story, a western, a transgressive screenplay, and working on the plot for a transgressive story about incest. How can this be so? Last year, I was very sure of the direction I wanted to take my writing in: I would be an minimalist writer who wrote dystopians about subjects that have little coverage, such as my novel The Art of Slaughter (which hasn’t been published, but I’m working on it…) which deals with how animal cruelty evolves, but not only this, how our society puts the pieces of themselves back together when they have lost themselves midway upon the journey of our lives. Anyhow, as I look around my room, I see a hodgepodge of genres: on my nightstand sits Virkam Seth next to Henry Grey next to Edgar Allan Poe next to Lovecraft next to Dante, next to Doyle, next to Proust! Under my TV I have nearly every work of Stephen King in hardcover; sitting on the printer next to my desk are Remarque, London, and Steinbeck; behind me, next to my couch, on two shelves are too many authors to be listed, but among them are George R.R. Martin in paperback, a couple of YA books that I only keep because they’re just a little bit above the usual tripe, Shakespeare in Paperback, a worn out copy of To Kill A Mockingbird, Cormac McCarthy and Ayn Rand; in my closet, taking up the shelves above my clothes I have everything ranging from science fiction to Biology and Chemistry textbooks along side the works of Stephen Hawking and an Encyclopedia about Ancient Rome. What a collection. But, of all these books, there are a select few that have guided me along this path thus far: Rick Riordan allowed me to take my first steps down this road, and Suzanne Collins carried me to dystopia, and Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe led me to horror, and now I’m in a place between Quentin Tarantino, a handful of comedians, and other theatrics as I wonder: where will I go.
The aforementioned western that I’m writing is a mixture between Tarantino and my own inner child thinking, “This is what a western should look like.” What is more, it’s experimental in it’s design, using techniques of screenwriting and play writing with a narrative structure that is more like that of a film rather than a novel, including scenes and breaks to cut to this scene and that. And it feels right. I’m realizing, as I grow older that I don’t want to do just one thing. A couple of months ago, I would have told you that there is literally nothing else that I would want to do but write all day long. Now, I want to make films, I want to teach, I want to be a painter, and I want to do standup and take photographs as I take a tour of the country. I’m realizing that, I want to transcend.
I’ve come across a bout of indispensable knowledge over the past few years as I write, and I like to think that I’m a better person for every bit of information that I learn. One of the most recent lessons that I learned is that I’m still just getting starting, and that I will always be a beginner. But this is not a bad thing. There are certain puzzles that toddlers can understand how to solve that adults can’t figure out with their fancy Engineering Degree from Stanford, and that’s something to be admired and to be kind of afraid of: as we grow older, our minds begin to hone in on something that seems important to us, and everything else is clouded it. There is one thing that I’ve learned from watching comedians talk about children and having kids: they have no idea what they’re doing, but they don’t care and to an extent, they know they don’t know what theyr’e doing, but they’re going to do it anyways because they have nothing to be afraid of. They’re six and seven years old, and they don’t know that someday, they’re going to die, that they’ll simply cease to be. They say that we teenage think we’re immortal, but at least we can acknowledge the fact that some of us are going to die eventually, earlier than other for various reasons or another. Toddlers have no concept of death, they barely have a concept of time, confusing a second with a minute, and an hour with a second; they’re like dogs, just a lot less obedient. For this matter, they’re not afraid to get the answer wrong: so they’ll work until they finally find an answer that satisfies them not anyone else, because at some point they’re going to get fed up, say “Bump this,” and make up a whole new rule that gets the answer right for them. That’s what we need to learn to do, I think, is to be selfish: satisfy yourself, no one else, because it’s not until you’re happy that anyone else will be able to be at least kind of entertained by something that you do. We do not serve each other, we serve ourselves, even when we think that we’re serving others. When you do something nice, it’s not really for the other person: it’s mostly for you, so that you can get that feel good feeling for giving a little extra on the tip, for giving someone a ride, for buying lunch for a friend, or paying for their gas. It’s for your own gratification and satisfaction, but that’s fine, because by being selfish basterds, we all inadvertently help each other.
The same goes for writing: if we write to please someone, or to make a critic nod to us, then no one is ever going to get very much out of your work, not even you, because at the end of the day you have to sit down and look at your diamond incrusted piece and ask, “Is this really me?” I recently wrote a story that I thought I was going to enter into a contest, but there was something wrong with it. I still can’t pinpoint what exactly is wrong with it , but there’s something about it that I don’t like, something vital missing from the story, but I do one thing about it: it’s not me at all. It was loud, pretentious, and totally convoluted–it was Ernest Hemingway trying to sound like Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King trying to imitate himself. It was me trying to be something that I wasn’t, it was me trying to make a finished product out of a first draft, and it was me feeling like I had to always do something totally brilliant, having to do something that, “People would read and read over and over again, praising me for my incredible talent,” when the truth is that I have no talent at all, I just knew how to string words together in a pretty way without making those words matter. You have to serve yourself when you’re writing. Writing is masturbation, it’s self pleasure, self indulgence: you don’t don’t do it with someone else (not even if you’re co-writing) you do it because it feels fucking amazing, and because you enjoy doing it. And don’t lie and tell me that there’s no satisfaction in finally achieving orgasm, sure there’s a certain amount of guilt to it, there’s a certain amount of dirt on your hands now, but it fuckin’ feels GREAT. That’s why you write, because you want to feel a little guilty after you write this horrible explicit scene about how your character gets fucked up on drugs, because want to feel the dirt under your finger nails afterwards: you want to achieve orgasm only for yourself. Writing isn’t sex.
For this matter, there is a quote that goes, “There is only one thing that you need to know: writing is freedom.” This is one of the truest things that a writer will ever need to hear in their lifetime, in their career. Writing is freedom, writing is your voice in the air, and writing is your break from North Korea or Auschwitz: above all, it’s the escape from yourself, from those things that you fear, or the very thing that you use to face those fears. When you have a bad day, if nothing else makes you happy, it should be your characters or the story that you have created when you go home at night: even writing one more sentence about how John battled the viper should bring you immense joy, becuase you return to the place where no has been before, you return to that secret cupboard where only you go at night–it’s a private place, a place just for you and only you, and when you’re done with it, gone from it, if someone happens to come across it, then hopefully they like what you wrote. In addition to this, writing is a journey that you take through the woods with nothing but a backpack full of a couple of things, and once you get deep enough, you can no longer distinguish the edge of the woods from the place in front of you. Within these woods, there are only 3 things of great importance that you must consider: finding stories, studying the trees, and leaving marks for all who enter here, so that when they pass by, they know that you have been here and will smile or cry at what you have left behind for them.
With this in mind, I think it is important for me to go into my next year of writing by transcending into my next year: I’ll take a little bit from screenwriting, experiment with it in narrative form, and I’ll bring a little bit of narrative into my screenwriting. I’m going to shake it up a bit: what does cheese taste like on donuts? What does the devil look like in a new dress? What happens when I mix this with this? But most importantly, I will transcend and delete the idea that I am restricted by anything, which includes genre. I am only restricted by my ideas, not the frame that I place those ideas in, because ideas should not be contained: they should be spread, they are contagious, and they should rain about the world like a spring storm and blossom a thousand flowers which themselves are pollinated by ideas. And so the world turns.
How will you transcend your writing to the next level, what will be your mark, your ode to the world as you write? How hard will you knock off that hard-one, and when will you admit to yourself that you don’t do anything except for yourself? Be proud, be selfish, write and fly high, leave nothing up to chance but take plenty of gambles; study the trees and ride all the pretty horses.