I was reading a biography recently about someone I don’t remember who does something I also don’t remember. (It may have been Colin Jost’s new book since it was a mostly unmemorable read if you don’t watch SNL [which I don’t].) Either way, in this book it talked about someone successful (or was someone successful talking about themselves) who decided to whittle down all aspects of their creative and work-life down to what they cared about most. The point was that, though they somewhat cared for all of their work, there was only one thing they truly wanted to succeed in. That idea stuck with me over the past couple of months, and I realized that I have been doing a lot of things with writing that I do not want to do. Mainly: I have little to no interest in writing columns, articles, op-eds, or most other forms of nonfiction except essays and creative nonfiction.
These days, articles, op-eds, columns, etc. have all started tacking one way or the other: to be so gentle as to not offend anyone or be so obnoxious as to garner views by playing off of everyone’s anger. And the world is so, so angry.
It does not seem like words have any real power to make this better, only worse. I see brilliant articles buried by mounds of self-esteem boosters, social justice manifestos, and bigoted garbage. I believe in helping people by listening to people, doing what I can, giving back what I can, and being realistic about my hypocrisies. I don’t think that I need to write a dozen articles about why and how my ideas should be adopted because I am not a scientist, economist, anthropologist, or, really, any other -ist. It has amazed me lately how professional “opinionators” have proclaimed themselves authorities in all of these roles. No one seems to be concerned about this and instead, everyone keeps jumping into the fray with their own: “Well, I think…”
Honestly, I didn’t start writing to convince people of things. I started writing because I like stories. Somewhere along the way, I forgot that. I got lost in the messy world of online nonfiction writing and scratching at the walls of my own brain until I found things I could possibly say for money and attention. But, really, I just like stories. I like to tell stories. Some real, some not. I tell them to entertain. Maybe it isn’t a lofty or admirable goal, but it is the reason I write. I want to make people laugh, engage, imagine, but I don’t want to help make people angry (righteously or otherwise).
So, that is where I am choosing to redirect my focus. Stories. Mostly, I will be writing short fiction and creative nonfiction, working on publishing in online magazines and finding publishers for my chapbooks, novellas, and novels that have been twiddling their thumbs in the corner of my computer while I gallivanted around after someone else’s goal. I will still write long-form personal essays, but they will be fewer and further between. I am not sure yet what this newsletter will become in the next couple of months, but it will likely be geared more toward fiction and updates on where you can find my writing.
For example, here are some places my work has appeared lately:
Three Prose Poems That Might Be About Cats in Maudlin House
Invest in Braille in 365 Tomorrows
With work upcoming in:
5X5 Literary Magazine
Digging Through the Fat Magazine
Lotus Eater Magazine
Rat’s Ass Review
(There is a good chance I start writing nonfiction again in the future because I am not above being a hack who likes money. But fuck, I need a break and I need to give my other works the attention that they deserve.)
For those of you who might be thinking, “Well, how do I know if I even like this guy’s other works?” Here is a piece of mine that was recently published in print for PublicHouse Magazine’s Issue 14 titled:
The Last Cinnamon Raisin Bagel is Full of Assholes
I’d been living the same day over and over for nine hundred and forty-one days before I turned to my co-worker and said, “Dude, Kevin, I have been living the same day over and over for nine hundred and forty-one days.”
Kevin didn’t look up from his desk. He nodded and said, “Yeah man—me too.”
I touched his shoulder, something I never do, but I wanted him to know I was serious. I felt like crying and he looked into my eyes. “No, Kevin, I have been living the same day for nine hundred and forty-one days. The sixth of March. This day. No matter what I do, nothing changes.”
Kevin looked at my hand and rolled back a bit in his chair so I couldn’t reach him. “Yeah man, lower your voice. I know. We all have. Don’t you read the news?”
I looked up over the edge of our cubicle and out the window. It was shitting rain, and someone honked outside. “But why this day? Why not a day with some adventure? Don’t you remember adventure, Kevin? That feeling like something might be different just around the corner?”
Kevin shrugged and went back to work, a few feet further from me. “Get over it, man,” he said. Our co-worker, Don, leaned over our cubicle wall. His breath stank of eucalyptus and he coughed chunks of phlegm onto Kevin’s papers. “You think you’ve got it bad.” He laughed. “My wife is on the rag, man. My wife is on the rag.”
I left them to go have a bagel in the breakroom. There were no onion bagels, so I snatched up the last cinnamon raisin bagel and, as I brought it to my mouth, a breeze hit my nose. I looked down and saw that right there, in the hole of the bagel, there was a cold, blue and white light. I held it up to my face and sure enough, it looked right onto a winter wonderland forest of deep green and virgin white. I checked around the back of the bagel and found it to be the same piece-of-shit kitchen that smelled of old Tupperware and whatever stuff of myth and hell they make office breakroom tables out of.
I sat down in a chair and peered back through the hole in the bagel. It was a beautiful forest, and the sky was vibrant with purples and oranges and greens. I poked my finger through the hole, and it came back chilly—it even had a little flake of the most perfect snow on it.
“Hello!” someone called.
I looked in the bagel and out of the trees popped a young man. The bottom half of his body was covered in fur, he had hooves and a sword at his waist. A centaur.
“Hello?” I called into the bagel.
The centaur turned and squinted at me.
“Hi! What are you doing?”
The centaur puffed out its chest and said, “I am looking for the chosen one.”
“Yes. A child of Earth.”
“I am a child of Earth,” I said.
The centaur frowned and moved closer to my bagel hole, or whatever it looked like on his side. “How old are you?” he asked.
I scowled through the bagel and said, “Why does that matter?”
“No—no,” the centaur held up his hands. “Not meaning to offend. If you are the chosen one, can you come through? The Green Prince has taken over the lands and sits on your throne. His men have been chasing me, trying to keep me from finding you.”
My heart leapt. I stood up. “Yes! Yes! I am coming!” I stuck my finger into the bagel, and then two. Boy, was it cold in there. As I tried to fit a third finger in, the bagel began to break, and I panicked. I pulled my hand out and looked back through. The centaur was looking around him, hand on his sword.
“Hey! So, I can’t fit through this bagel! Is there another way I can get there?”
The centaur turned and smiled, “Yes, of course. But wait, what is a bage—” At that moment, a man on horseback flew by and decapitated the centaur. A droplet of blood flew out of the bagel and landed on my nose. Then, there was silence.
“Hello?” I called. No response came. “Hello? HEY! Who is there? Hey, tell me how to get there. I don’t give a shit about the Green Prince, just tell me how to get there! Hey, buddy on the horse? HEY BUDDY!”
But the man on horseback didn’t return.
I sat back in my chair and looked up. Jane from the legal department stood in the middle of our shit little office kitchen, watching me.
“Hey—uh, you all right?” she asked.
I buried my face in one hand and tried not to cry. I couldn’t think of anything to say. A moment later Jane asked, “Hey—uh, is that the last cinnamon raisin bagel?”
I looked down at it, cracked a bit from where I’d tried to get in. I nodded.
“Can I have it?” she asked.
I held it out to her.
She took a bite and said, “Some kind of day we’re having, huh?”
Thank you for your ongoing support.