Darkest before the Dawn

Lately, I’ve been thinking about people and how we outgrow one another. It’s happened to all us. Not family, mind you. You never quite outgrow your family. You might think so, but believe me, you don’t. I have a coworker whose mother is in her 80s. She went on and on today about how her mother drives her crazy. Really? At what point do we grow the fuck up and realize that our parents were never perfect, but did the best they could. And I’m not talking about extreme cases where parents had no right producing offspring in the first place. Anyway, let me get back on track. I do that. Get off track. One day I’m 22 yrs old and leaving the army. The next I’m married to a cokehead whose substance abuse I protested by consuming copious amounts of alcohol on a daily basis and eventually sleeping with her best friend. But that’s a tale for another time…One day I’m sweating my grades as an undergraduate and the next I’m completing an MFA in Creative Writing. What a long strange trip it’s been…blah blah blah…you get the picture. I tend to meander, to digress, to wander off the beaten path…

Where was I? Outgrowing people. Right. This I have noticed recently. For weeks I agonized over my son’s mother and I splitting up. Then, about two weeks ago, I went to pick up my son. Suddenly, there was no more longing. And oddly enough no more anger. I guess I am on the road to recovery. Broken hearts always do mend. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

It helps that I have my chosen craft…or the craft chose me long ago. That’s more like it. I couldn’t imagine a life without writing. Granted, being a writer is not the measure of all things, but it sure does beat the balls off countless other obsessions. Maybe I love writing more than I could ever love anyone. Maybe not. It really is such an intangible thing this writing life. Do we get to see the fruit of our labor as writers? Yes. But we have to write. I know writers with children and they all say the same thing: children always come first. And I agree. Denying one’s calling, however, could cause a person to develop a pathology from which there is no recovery. And then what good would that person be to a child or children who needed them? I should say here that I’m no psychologist. I don’t much about how the human mind works; except for that line from Carl Jung about knowing our own darkness is the best way to deal with the darkness of others.

So what does all this have to do with outgrowing people? It has nothing to do with feeling better than them. That’s not it at all. Maybe it’s more like finally getting in tune with myself, ridding myself of vibrational interference. My ex once told me that we used to bring out the worst in each other. Our son said he was just tired of hearing us argue all the time. I think my son is happier is now. And his happiness is important to me. I think he gets that I’ve outgrown his mother. Worse, I think she gets it too. I still care about her. I am not a monster. But it’s just different now. When I consider this I think about how many people choose to remain miserable for the sake of their children. “We have to stay together,” they say, “you know. For the children.” Bullshit, I say. Children know more about human nature than we could ever learn as adults. One day a person, no longer a child, wakes up bereft of that intuition. It happens to all of us. Still, it took me a boatload of personal inventory to realize that my ex and I don’t operate on the same wavelength; that life is short and we were making each other miserable. And my son reminds me whenever I see him that he just wants me to be happy. He’s a smart boy. My being happy means he’s happy, and vice versa.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to outgrow someone. If anything it proves that I have learned something about that other person as much as I learned about myself. And what I learned this time around was that I wanted to live in misery rather than be alone. It was ludicrous. Look at me. I am still alive, and still relatively sane. I am writing and I have a son who loves me. Sleep, eat, drink and pass water, Bruce Lee once wrote. The ignorant will laugh. The wise will understand. It took me years to quit laughing. And I think I am beginning to understand.

An Army of Monkeys Can’t Be Wrong, Can They?

If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters, they might write all the books in the British Museum.

~Arthur Eddington


So, inspired by a friend of mine, I have been the hunt lately for a good old-fashioned manual typewriter. Many argue that it is not beneficial to revert where technology is concerned. They say that’s why we have computers. They say I need to shake off my dinosaur-like longing for a more innocent, less complicated time; as if I am supposed to embrace the manic and chaotic pace the world keeps now. Well, to that I say this: 90% of my first drafts are written in longhand. That goes for poems, short stories and a the few novels I’ve written so far, including one I’m hoping to find representation for…soon (but then aren’t we all?). But that’s a post for another day. My legitimacy as a writer has less to do with finding an agent and selling my book as it does with continuing to turn out tales and hone my craft along the way with some deeply appreciated readers who offer their time (for free) to read my work and provide me with comments to make it better. This is about typewriters…
I am thinking total dinosaur old-school manual typewriter. And the reason is this: my first drafts are in longhand. With a typewriter I could write a second draft and then mark it up to my heart’s content before creating yet another draft in the computer. I hear all the time just how many drafts should be created before a writer is content with his work. But then I remember an interview with Toni Morrison who stated that she should rewrite her first novel The Bluest Eye if she had a chance. I think Ms. Morrison’s point as that sooner or later a writer has to let his work go out in the world. Have there been other writers before her that have revised earlier works? Yes. And those works turn out good and bad. Despair by Nabokov is a good example. Stephen King’s re-release of The Stand with original pages cut by his editor in the first version is a bad example. Likewise, Thomas Wolfe’s O Lost! which was cut down to create Look Homeward, Angel. Why do I mention this? I don’t think there’s a clear formula as to how many drafts makes for a good novel. A writer knows when he knows. As for me, it takes me multiple drafts but never the same amount. And these drafts I wouldn’t write on a typewriter nowadays because it spits in the face of technology available (namely, my pen and a computer).
This morning I was on EBay. There are many typewriters available there. A guy in my neighborhood sells antique junk and I spotted an old manual typewriter in his shop. Of course, I overheard him charge a woman $125 for a painted plywood sign so I am guessing the price of his antique typewriter is astronomical. Sooner or later, I’ll go the EBay route, I guess.
Years ago, I came across an application I could download with the sound of a typewriter that can be used with a word processing program. No, I did not download it. Using that program would be tantamount to…what? An inflatable sex doll and making wedding plans? I don’t know. My point is this: I miss the old noise of a typewriter. Granted, my fingers have atrophied over the years; given the post-modern comfort of most computer keyboards. Voice recognition software, you say? Perhaps in the next evolution. For now, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for a good deal so I can bring back some of that magic I had as a teenager when I used to transpose handwritten stories onto paper at my parents’ kitchen table or even further back when I wrote short tales on an old manual monster typewriter when I was 12 years old. Call it indulgence if you must, but do let me know if you know someone selling an old manual typewriter (preferably portable) for a good price.