Adventures in Los Angeles 5.0 – Waiting

June 18, 2009

I'm waiting for my father.

My bags are packed.

My manuscript is printed – three times over – and is resting comfortably in a tricolored box.

I've got a pot of tea cooking, and I'm about to do something I haven't done in a while.  I'm going to sit down in a chair and read a book.

It's shameful to admit how little I've read in the last few weeks.  Hell, months.  I've read out of requirement, out of a need for inspiration, I've read to steal and to understand and to convince myself that I can really do what I've been pretending to do for months.

For whatever reason… right now, in the quiet of my apartment, four hours before I board a plane to Los Angeles to finish and accept my MFA in creative writing, I feel like a complete fraud.  God knows why.

Maybe I am – maybe I've been wasting my time.  Maybe I'm just good with words.  Or merely okay.  I don't know what I am when it comes to this.

I know what I'm not – I've known it for a while.  I'm not brilliant.  I'm too sane to be brilliant.  And the little shards of crazy that poke out of me – those are pedestrian crazies.  Redundant fuckups I've carried around with my for nearly thirty years that manifest themselves over and over and over again – each time just different enough to convince me that they're something new.  But I know they're not.  I'm the same at 28 as I was at 20 as I was at 14.

My father will be here in a few hours to take me to the airport, and I'll fly to California and be done with all of this.  I'll be done with school – most likely forever.  I doubt I'll be getting a PhD.  There isn't any subject I love enough to justify the expense, both of cash and time. 

This will be my second degree in writing, and for whatever reason, I actually feel like I know less now than I did when I started at 24.  Leave it to me to bring the gloom, I guess.

Sometimes I feel like I should have gone into acting.  Not because I think I'd be a good actor – I've already tried that, and I'm shockingly bad at it – quite the opposite, actually.  I think I should have gone into acting because, when you get down to it, everything I do is an attempt to bleed approval from every single person who passes by.  That's so shallow.  I don't have a grand idea, or some high artistic purpose.  I don't have stories rattling around in my head, fighting to get out.  I just have a big mouth, paired with a swollen sense of self-consciousness… so rather than opening my mouth and making a scene, I make my fingers dance and edit my ideas over and over and over again.  I hide behind the words and the drafts.  That's not very writerly.  Whatever that means, anyway.

I hope that when I get home, the first thing I want to do is write.  I want to be able to do this without a deadline breathing down my neck.  I want to find a destination… and not just write in circles.  Because that's what it feels like I've been doing for… well… forever.  I've been living in circles – why should my writing be any different.

In four hours I'm going to get on a plane and fly out to California and drink with my friends.  I'm going to get dinner with my mentor, and attempt in that evening to live up to her image of me.  I'm going to give a reading that I think sucks.  I'm going to give a lecture that I'll plan the night before.  I'm going to flirt and charm and schmooze and bullshit… and everyone's going to laugh and pat my shoulder and tell me how funny I am.  And then I'll walk away, and they'll probably all roll their eyes… because it doesn't take a pair of binoculars to see my shit coming.  I think everyone knows how full of shit I really am.

An exgirlfriend of mine once told me not to expect to do anything great with my life.  "You're not going to set the world on fire," she told me, a look of exhausted irritation on her face.  She couldn't even manage to scrape up some sympathy.  She just told me I was average – in general – I was average.  I stayed with her for four years.  I think that says way more about me than it does about her. 

Is it enough for me to be average?  I don't think so.  I don't want to be brilliant – not just at writing, but at anything.  I really don't.  I just want to be good.  Really good.  Great requires… I don't know… great requires a different haircut.  It requires a better wardrobe… or, if we're talking about writing, it requires a really bad one.  My wardrobe, like my hair, like my talent… like me… it's average.  I'd like to surpass that.  Not just to shove it in her face (because, say what you will about the accuracy or inaccuracy of her statement – it's goddamn bonkers for her to have said it), but to hold it for myself.  I want to be proud of something I've done.  Proud enough to put it on a shelf – or hang it on a wall – or wrap and mail it to the exgirlfriend, with a signed card which reads, "get fucked."  I'm a small man, I guess… but I look forward to signing that card.

I've gotten some really good compliments on my essays in the past.  I've believed a few of them, too.  But for whatever reason – they haven't been enough.  I've believed that the people who told me those things believed it – but I never believed it for myself.  I've never owned it.  Maybe because I think I'm capable of more.  Or maybe it's because I know that I'm not.  That that's the best I've got.

I'm going to go to LA in four hours… and I'm going to come home in two weeks… and I'm going to try to write a novel.  I'm going send everything I've ever written out to get published.  I'm going to buy an IBM selectric II and put it on my desk and never use it.  I'm going to stay up until four in the morning writing about myself.  I'm going to stare at myself in the mirror for hours and make faces, and hate myself.  I'm going to get really drunk.  I'm going to keep on doing whatever it is that I've done for the last four years… I'm going to keep trying… and keep waiting… and keep fucking hoping that whatever I become… it's something good.  Not necessarily something that sets the world on fire… I don't need that.  Just something that gives me a bit of light.  A little spark.  A glow.

Something I can be proud of.


One Response to “Adventures in Los Angeles 5.0 – Waiting”

  1. kimagine Says:

    Well, I hope you keep at it – you *do* have something with your writing… it’s witty and snarky and sometimes beautifully eloquent. And it’s infinitely enjoyable to read.
    I have those same yearnings regarding my paintings… I know I’ll never a brilliant painter, but I want to be GOOD. I want to feel excited about what flows from my mind to the canvas… to look at my work and think, “Wow – *I* did that? Cool.”

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