A note to my muse, who despite my undying love, will not sleep with me, but keeps fucking with my mind.
Despite a lifetime of trying I have not found a way to become less confused. I now believe in a universal principle of conservation of confusion. In physics terms this means the universe was formed with a certain amount of built-in confusion. There'll never be more. There'll never be less. It's just there to be suffered.
I believe people suffer confusion. It's an affliction. It's a sort of pain. Some people endure it better than others. We all know people who allow the dentist to drill their teeth without an application of novocaine. We all know people who revel in aggressive asininity despite all the shame violent stupidity can bring upon a thoughtful person. These people have tapped into a different vein of life than most of us. They live in an alternate universe. Were it not for the fact the velocity of their foolishness renders them opaque to light rays (and the occasional Jim Carrey movie), we'd never see them at all and be happier for it.
I, for one, try hard not to be confused, and when I am, try hard not to seem that way. Being confident gets people jobs and frequently gets people laid. I have this in mind, most of the time.
And so I try to understand things. I think I've done a good job understanding the things my life demands. It's taken a while for some things. Nearly thirty nine years went by until I understood women well enough to know when to cringe at random blurtation. Management of large projects is under my belt. International contract relations. Employee relations. How to throw a frisbee backward over the head. How psychics read people's minds.
Every time I learn something new, though, it seems another pressing question takes its place. Like: what the hell is going on in the gaps created by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? Why does inertia work? Why does DNA replicate and how does sexual reproduction account for the fact my daughter now speaks some French and drives a German car? What is love?
These things evade me, but I was happy in my ignorance until recently when someone I know asked me a question that I couldn't shake and for which my confusion exposes a blatant ignorance I have no means to correct.
I was whining I hadn't sold a story in a long time, especially since my agent, now dead, hasn't been putting the stamps on the envelopes like she used to. And she doesn't answer my calls.
And this person, whom I respect and in whose opinion I'm interested said something which stopped me dead in my tracks.
"Why do you want to be published?"
"To have an audience," I said, glibly, dripping Folger's freeze dried coffee flakes and uncooked rolled oats into my keyboard.
"Why do you care if you have an audience?" he said.
Well, that one was way fucking obvious. "BECAUSE I..."
Hmm. I dunno. Why do I care?
It's been killing me for the past couple of months. Honestly. Why bother? Why the hell do I write at all? Who cares if anyone reads this shit? -- more importantly -- what makes me any different being read by people or not? I'm still the same guy whether or not anyone sees this. My writing abilities will not change. Certainly, I'm desirous of being read and loved, but so what? I'm desirous of pizza and sex, too. I don't become more fulfilled for more than a couple hours with either of those, either.'
Beyond simple vanity or ego, I have no answer.
I can't live on a writer's income. I'm too old to start my writing career young. The ten or so stories I've sold in my life have netted me a couple months groceries, tops. My kids would all be living in foster homes if we had to exist on what I could make writing. So certainly, I can't be in it for the money.
What the fu--?
Honestly, I don't know. I will probably keep writing for my whole life just because it's been something that while I'm doing it makes me happy. Kind of like a socially acceptable public masturbation. I can do this in front of people and I'm happy doing it and nobody minds. And I can finish writing something and read it over and think, "yeah, that's something I want to read, how come nobody wrote it before me?" or some such bullshit. But I mean, why? Why is there gravity? Why out of all the universe is this one planet exactly the right distance from a g-class star to sustain the type of chemistry and biology that makes us alive? Why do I love people?
Why do I even bother writing? Why do I care if anyone reads this? Why should I bother trying to get published?
I can't answer any of those questions beyond, I want to be pretty, or I want to be liked, or I want to be wanted, I want I want I want. Those aren't good enough reasons for something solid and important.
I went to Colorado recently for a big Antarctica ops meeting and I met a woman there who has been trying to get an Antarctica book published for the past 20 years. She says she goes home and forces herself to write four pages every night.
"Why?" I asked her.
"Because. How else am I going to get better?"
"Why do you have to get better?" (this "why?" thing. it's a virus. try it on your friends. you won't be able to stop.)
"Yeah. Because. Look--I'm giving up. I'm done with this trying to get published bullshit. I'm no happer when I sell stories to 2-bit magazines than I am before. It's not going to make me rich or improve my life in tangible ways. It's not going to cure cancer or help my kids get through college. It's pretty much a waste of time that I have to justify by only doing it when I'm not supposed to be doing something profitable, like taking out the garbage or feeding the dog."
She looked at me as if there were bees coming out of my ears.
"Fuck, Joe," she said. "You can't quit."
"Who's quitting? I'm not sure I ever started anything in the first place. What the fuck is this writing to yourself business? What exactly am I quitting? There's no reason for it."
And so on.
It makes me wonder, why the hell did Van Gogh paint? What made Steinbeck spend a year pounding out East of Eden when it was killing him to do it? (At least he won the nobel prize, eventually.)
I can't answer the question of why I want to be published. So I stopped worrying about it. It just went out of my head and then I concentrated fully on my actual, paying job, and so on.
There is -- no purpose -- to it.
None. Think about it. What the hell do you do with your angel?
You're probably happy pretending it's not there.
As for me, if she's not going to make me a rich famous writer with a Ferrari and a house on a hill, she can at least have sex with me, instead of screwing around inside my brain like the remains of a bad acid trip.
And if she wants to be a bitch, bring on the dog show.