Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Final Judge Of The Writing

"As we live, we all get caught and torn by various traps. Writing can trap you. Some writers tend to write what has pleased their readers in the past. They hear accolades and believe them. There is only one final judge of writing - and that is the writer. When he is swayed by the critics, the editors and the publishers, then he's finished. And of course, when he's swayed with his fame and his fortune, you can float him down the river with the turds." - Henry Chinaski  ("Factotum" by Charles Bukowski)

The character of Henry Chinaski is a complicated and sad one. Played seamlessly by Matt Dillon in the movie version of the book, Chinaski is someone who appears in five different Bukowksi books, leading the reader to believe that he was basically Bukowski's literary alter ego. But for all of Hank's bar-brawling, no-job-holding alcoholism that scares me, there is something in the centre of this character's truth pursuit that strikes the core of me.

Chinaski is the ultimate example of a man who understands existentialism; the fading, REM beauty of a life that seems to speed by with jet force - and all the while genuinely appreciating it, while it grows and dies around him.

He is a man who, despite some unhealthy vices, is seeking something lasting - and he gives no time to anyone's view of how he lives his life. And in following that example, I want to be honest. I want to spill my guts in the words and leave some of my blood on the keys.

As a writer, I've been a victim of writing flowery, poetic bullshit when I should have written the thing that scared me. Sometimes, when I've been most anxious, I've appeared to have it all together to my closest friends. I've told lies. I've put on smiles for social functions when I should have let the smile wait and brew a bit, and come from a real place inside of me. I've hurt people. I've been prideful, thin-skinned and quick to retaliate when I should have stepped back and shut my mouth. I've been a coward when I pretended to be a strong manly man with big shoulders. I've been scared shitless of this life at times, and feeling like I was a near overboard passenger of a sea-ravaged vessel. I've been quick to outwardly judge and label people when I should have listened and seen the inner beauty. I made people look dumb to make myself look better. I've put myself on a pedestal. And it sickens me.

I could have been a better husband.

So yeah - I've done some bad shit. And I have sobbed deep, dark, bitter weeps of disdain for those deeds on long car rides and dusk walks on vacant city streets, and I have let the hard moments of oblivion and darkness wash over me.

As someone who doesn't believe in regrets, though, I've only come to that place because I've known them personally - and I've seen their ghosts in my life.

But I will not, for one minute, brood in self-stewing sadness that comes from that cyclically stunted thinking. I will know my demons and my past battles, but I will move forward from them. I will jag. I will move parallel and cut a new path. I will keep learning - even when all of the voices of our culture tell me that I should have 'arrived' by now. I will search for that ever-evasive lasting thing, just beyond the horizon, and hell - I may even already know what it is - but that's not the point, is it? I will not feel shame - even when the world says I should.

The hunt is on, and I will not be satisfied until I look back upon my words without scorn or disdain, and my soul nods and agrees.

I will be the final judge of my words.

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