As my grandma would say, Write what you love.
Even if it gets you shot.
A little while ago I realized everything I wanted to say already had been said by people who I either respected or wanted to kill. Both categories of people earned my attitude toward them for the same reason, namely that they already said what I wanted to say and said it clearer and faster and better than I could say it. The only difference between the two groups was I respected the people as good looking as me, which was the majority from my perspective of low self-esteem, and all of them better looking than me I wanted to kill. It just felt unfair.
Petty, yes. Shallow, certainly. I console myself that I like everyone, even people I want to kill, and I’m too lazy to carry out any of my Rube Goldbergian murder fantasies anyway, so no one is ever harmed by my homicidal impulses. So I maintain whatever nobility of purpose I may or may not have had all along, as far as I’m concerned.
The thing that grills my gills about the world, that made all of this happen in me, is that there’s nothing new to say. There’s nothing new to say about anything, and everyone who’s saying it has much more passion for facts and education and edification than I have.
Which means that even if I have a good idea, which I sometimes do, then some unwitting thief with the most altruistic intentions in real life steals my idea before I even know what I think about it myself. And I don’t even figure out what I think about it, sometimes anyway, until after I’ve read what this other schmuck has said about it.
And that could get incredibly depressing. If I let it.
On most days, I don’t let it. On most days, I remember the wise words that my uncle said to me once when he said, “Why would I read books when I can think of better stories for myself while just riding the bus?”
I don’t know, my uncle, why would you?
So a lot of the time I indulge in long thought experiments, rather than writing my thoughts down, where I think about what I would have said if every other witty person suddenly found themselves paralyzed by self-consciousness and unable to continue delivering what would have been my ideas, had I taken the time to write them rather than whatever more important thing must have been occupying my time. I’m sure it couldn’t be rescheduled, you know? I’m always explaining to people that these naps won’t take themselves.
Anyway, whenever I do manage to rise from the mire of the warm solipsistic mud bath that is most of my days, and I do finally set my mind to trying to organize my thoughts into something nearing communicable cohesion, the first thing I ask myself is, “Well, since all these intellectual thieves already wore the superhighways through the wilderness of this material, what deer paths could I try to wear through the remaining shrubbery parallel to what they already said?”
The answer I inevitably provide to myself is perspective. Yes, everyone else may already have said what ought to be said about whatever they have said, but no matter how thorough they were in their researches they failed to cover one angle.
Which is the angle arrived at by me, after I’ve run the idea through the wringer of my imagination and examined the mangled remains of it that survive.
In other words, what I can still bring to any conversation is the way that I see whatever it is that we’re talking about. Because the thing is, nobody is so thorough that they can represent everyone. Not even a bisexual heterogeneous stripper who dabbles in slam poetry has something for absolutely everyone. There’s still going to be that crowd that would rather be off in the corner playing pokemon.
So in the spirit of filling niches, I found myself asking myself…well, what the hell do you think about these issues? (You being me, not you, but me asking myself and referring to myself as you. I wasn’t talking to you for a second.)
Then it hit me that because of this cycle, I’ve never actually said what I think about anything. I’ve been so caught up in feeling socially redundant, so far as commentating on social issues goes, that I had never expressed my thoughts on difficult subjects like gender prejudice and the insidious breakdown of literacy and independent thought and social decay. Or never in a meaningful way in a public sphere. I had in conversation, certainly, but we all know that face-to-face conversation isn’t real communication. Talking in person is just how you practice lying so you’re prepared for television interviews. Everyone knows that it’s only real communication if it’s written down on the internet under a screen name and with — probably — a stock image of a hand model instead of a picture of yourself, because that’s how you demonstrate you feel accountable for your words.
By the way, I’m writing under the name Oliver Blakemore when I get my books published. Just putting that out there.
So I didn’t know what I thought. I had not written down what I thought, so I didn’t know how to say what I thought.
But I wanted to say what I thought. I wanted to write it down and bring something useful to the conversation. I never expected that I would necessarily represent a whole congregation of raging maniacs and form a mob around my ideas, but I did see that my particular perspective rarely, if ever, received full expression or recognition. People got close, but nobody said it all. And my dad always said that if a question or comment occurs to me then I ought to raise my hand and ask it or say it; if it occurred to me then it probably occurred to a bunch of other people, and I’m just not hearing it from them because they’re not sure if they should say anything.
To which I say, say it, dude. Probably it needs to be said.
After thinking through all this I realized that one way to really check the strength of a perspective, and to really force whoever holds that perspective to figure out what, if anything, they can say about it is to attack that perspective. To criticize it. To argue with it. If an idea can hold up to argument, it is a better idea.
Thing is, I’m not that given to overt hostility. I shy from it, in fact. I’m a bit of a non-confrontational type. I had come to this conclusion — that I ought to subject my beliefs to some kind of crucible — but, and here’s the tricky part, I couldn’t think of a good way to point out where I was wrong.
Then the voice of another mentor of mine mumbled out of some bubbling pool of my memory to say, “Inspiration is when several good ideas come together to complete each other.”
The answer came to me like the realization of a bad review, or a flash of thunder, whichever feels more like a probably slow process that feels, in retrospect, like a sudden occurrence.
Because I realized that I also had been meaning to work on two other things.
First, I really wanted to work on irony, the subtler evolved form of sarcasm, sarcasm being a second language and irony being a difficult if similar dialect. Irony is a powerful tool, and not well taught in American schools. I’ve always wielded wit like a club, when I really wanted it to be more like a scalpel. Irony has a finesse that I’d never mastered, but I wanted to practice.
Then, and this is the moment that will go down in infamy for the rest of my life, probably, I decided that I wanted to make myself laugh. Which would have been great if I had any kind of sense of humor. Which I don’t. So you’re welcome.
So there you go. That’s my winning formula that has turned all of my “non-fiction” writing into the obscure moodscapes that, lately, I have proffered for my adoring readers — thank you, one person — and for all the other semi-interested people who come read what I have to say when there’s nothing good on TV — thanks, all you other people.
And this has everything to do with you, even though it doesn’t look like it exactly, because you should do the same thing. Figure out how to say what you want to say, that is, not find a subtle way to alienate everyone while making yourself chuckle. It will be hard. Figuring out what you think will always be hard. It took me years — literally years — to figure out that I didn’t even have clarity of thought, let alone whether I even had an opinion. I don’t know how many years. It could have been two. Could have been a hundred. I don’t know. It was years. But now, at this end of however many years I spent figuring out what I truly believe about what I want to say, I’ve realized it’s the most rewarding thing in a writer’s life. I hope you figure out what you think.
And when I say “you,” I mean you, not me. I am talking to you now.
Say what you mean, and say it how you want. Let God sort out the rest.
Come adventure with me.
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