As we round August I can see about halfway through my 30th year. I celebrated the birthday in January with two close friends, not much more. Close friends and martinis. The evening ended with another bar, and a drink (Greyhound) by myself. Then the walk home.
The extent of the drinking dwarfed the company, I shouldn’t have been as hungover as I was. But, there it was. The hangovers were getting heavier because this was largely all I did through my twenties. 1. Drinking or going out is the perfect way to evade the responsibilities of writing. Better yet, going out is writing. You are collecting Experience. I can’t think of a character for my first or second novel notes that I didn’t meet during an inspired night out. After one date recently, I drove me and this new girl home. We had both drank iced teas at BJs after the movie (weeknight). I felt a sense of relief but also a kind of embarrassment. I hadn’t been with many girls while sober (save for my one long term relationship).
So there it is one’s 20s go by in a blur. And every adult, teacher and friend told you that was how it was supposed to go. But it needn’t have gone that way. I could’ve been like many of my journalism major friends who quested to the coasts, to journalism camps, always working, never stopping. Or others of the same ilk who went to law school, while I bartended and read Kerouac, Bolano, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mailer, whomever. I looked for a woman to complete the night, if not me. Life wasn’t about the work.
Then a funny thing happens exactly when you turn 30. You say, it’s really time to get to work. Or else, I had guessed, you’re going to get stuck in the loop.
James Joyce provided the ultimate excuse. He was always in debt and always giving his passions over to the night, good conversations. But at some point the part not as fun to talk about, was the monastic stretches one had to take to write with such condensed expanse, to pack the reference, to learn how to vault cathedrals of alliteration, rhyme, joke and sad beauty. Sentences that were paintings themselves, or rivers in their fluid flow, and inevitability. It wasn’t all bawd and oblivion — though he prefers both to the political. There was a secret somewhere, between the lines of biography accessible to us, told by college or grad students, by outmoded writers and speculators on “the novel.”
That secret somewhere isn’t out in the night (I mean, it is and it isn’t). I guess it’s not with a lot of your friends or competitors. There’s no way to tell people how to get there. You can only pray that you are sensitive to an illumination. If it passes, you’ll be reaching again, lost, working too hard, making excuses, talking shit. If it passes, and my eyes can’t see, then I don’t know how much time will be made for me.