I keep telling myself that I need to write one of these every single night, even if they aren’t published, because I don’t want this to turn into another failed writing experiment.
All writers have failed writing experiments. My first one was a novel that I tried writing at the age of eighteen. It was a book that was going to be like the movie Crash, or some shit like that because I was eighteen and didn’t really understand what a theme was. It went from being a book that would be like the movie, Crash, into a book that was about growing up in Tucson, to a book about the drug trade, to a book about a number of things that made the entire project far too overwhelming.
It was captured in a 300-page spiral notebook that I gave to a girlfriend to try to impress her. It did work to some extent, but she broke up with me and ended up keeping the notebook, and probably destroying it because we were content with destroying one another by the end of our fling.
Another book I attempted was a novel that I actually finished a first draft of back in 2015 or so. I wrote it after quitting a call center job that I hated and spent a couple of weeks at home before my friend Lewis got me a job. That was an ordeal to get through, but editing became too huge of a task later on. The problem I had was that I kept on thinking that once I got to a certain point I would be set, and writing doesn’t always work like that, with me at least.
I’ve really handled everything the hard way when it comes to writing. People told me I was talented as a kid, so I figured if I poured a ton into it, I would be able to “produce” something. But really, production for the sake of production is kind of bullshit. I think if you are going to create something, you should have some sort of meaning behind it so that something can be taken away from the writing.
That doesn’t mean that everything has to be incredibly literary and have an incredibly deep meaning, but there’s so much content that is made just to hold your attention for a short amount of time, and a well-written essay or a finely written short story makes you sit there in your chair afterward and ponder SOMETHING. It isn’t just pressing like and moving on to the next thing in your life.
There were moments in life when I felt like my trajectory was changed due to things I read. They were tough books that handled tough questions.
Going back to when I was eighteen, I got a job with my friend Destiny at a sandwich shop that was down the street from my house. I hated it, but it was across the way from Barnes & Noble, and I knew the exact book I wanted to buy when I got my first paycheck. It was Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. I remember the week before I got paid I went to that store and picked it up from the shelf and thumbed through the pages and saw all the stuff that I was about to read and I put it back not reading a word. I wanted to save it. I went back a few times to look at the book, and each time an employee would give me a funny look, this kid with a grease-covered shirt, smelling of onions and steak, picking up the same damn book every day.
I bought that book and read it in two days and I remember feeling so sad and full of a strange sense of hope that I tried to replicate for months on end in my own writing. It never stuck. It was impossible to pull off. So I tried doing my own thing and prayed that it was half as good as that book.
And that’s how the writing projects started.