Writing a book is making my life more adventurous

Posted on December 20, 2010

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Some funny things are happening in me since I started working on this memoir. I’m not so quick to judge people anymore. I’m not as content to sit around my apartment. I don’t fall in love with every girl I have contact with and renounce the world when it doesn’t work out. Life is by no means perfect, but I feel better equipped to deal with it. I have a better sense of my strengths and weaknesses, and how I can work with them, and even improve them. I was cynical towards the notion of “self-improvement” for years. I silently cheered the first time I watched the Todd Solondz film Palindrome and heard a character say, “People don’t change. They only think they do.” I still think that’s the case more often than not, but I can’t deny that I’ve been living my life a bit differently lately.

I receive newsletters from Stephen Elliott, author of the 2009 memoir The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir On Moods, Masochism, And Murder. Last week he wrote that for a memoir to be good, it might have to teach the author something new. And if it teaches her something new, she has to act on it. Saving it and adding it to the book later for narrative consistency would be dishonest, and the reader will know it.

I started writing my memoir because I wanted to change. It was Thanksgiving 2009 when I was hit with a sinking feeling that nothing I was working towards in my life was paying off, whether it was a job or a relationship.  I started listing a bunch of situations and events I found myself in over the past year that stuck out in my mind. I was trying to make sense of everything that had happened. That list became the outline for my book.

The writing process isn’t finished yet, but, sure enough, I’ve been learning new things about myself. One of which is that I love to play music–something I haven’t done in almost 15 years. The idea to do it again hadn’t crossed my mind once in all that time. I figured I was a writer and should just stick to that. In fact, it scared me to do anything that strayed from the path. I clung to my pen and notepads with something of a death grip for years. But when unique opportunities present themselves now I tend to say fuck it more often. Why not? Everything new I try only broadens my perspective as a writer.

Last Friday the band I joined a few months ago (for what I thought was just a one-off show) played again at Taix Restaurant in Echo Park. We’d been practicing a few punk covers for the past few weeks–songs by Black Flag, Minor Threat, The Cromags, as well as “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses (I don’t know who’s idea that last one was). When we arrived at the venue I was shocked to see we’d be screaming lyrics about “How world peace can’t be done,” and about being a “White minority” at a bunch of people sitting and dining at tables.

“Oh my God. This is a sit-down restaurant? Are these people even expecting a music show?” I asked my singer, Tuna. She just grinned. I know, it’s fuckin awesome isn’t it? she seemed to say. We changed the lyrics of most of the songs so they could fit into a Christmas-style set, but in that moment I was wishing we were talented enough to suddenly improv jazz versions of all the songs.

White Widow, the headlining act who set up the show, performed something of a lounge act from Mars. He crooned along to a CD controlled by the venue’s soundguy, which he managed to make pretty entertaining in and of itself, but it was the visual performance art aspect of his show that made it fun (pictured right is a Peter Gabriel from Genesis-era costume he made himself).

When it was my band’s turn to come on I chugged my beer and strummed my bass to the best I could remember how. People clapped and cheered, though I couldn’t quite understand why. I was sure we sucked, being as that I could only hear my drummer’s cymbals the whole time. I wasn’t alone. In the days since, my band mates and I have been joking about how we at least got it right when we practiced. But I’ve also bumped into a few strangers who attended and remarked how fun the set was. The artist himself will always be the toughest critic.

I’ll always have a voice that nags in the back of my head on how better something can be (for the record, I’ve re-written this blog entry three times since originally posting it this morning), but on a deeper level I’m just excited to be doing new things with my life. I don’t feel the safety net of routines as much, and, in fact, I want less of them. I feel more inner stability than at any other point in my life, and with that I feel ready to have more outer insanity. More excitement. More adventure. I can only see this feeling growing more with time–perhaps making itself more intensely apparent in phases, but never going away entirely.

I’m simplifying many of my feelings here because of time constraint, and my hesitation towards blogging in general.  I’m also still figuring out a lot of things as I work on the book. But if this is how I’m starting to feel after writing it, I can only hope it will have a fraction of the same affect on those who read it.

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