|Desert Rats Writers Camp|
In his 1929 book, Civilization and Its Discontents, Sigmund Freud posits that an individual's instinctual desire for freedom is always at war with society's demand for conformity. Civilization is a tool we have created to protect our happiness, but bound to its rules, we are essentially unhappy and discontent.
It's a paradox for sure.
As an artist, it feels particularly sharp. I don't have some huge reserve of belief in my own creative prowess, but I don't think I'm delusional about my talent or desire. I was meant to be a writer. It's all I want to do. Observe, think, write, done. Simple. Yet, the plight of the creative is not that simple. Unless we are genius and recognized or well-funded or just plain balls-out crazy, we have to live with the paradox of discontent. We get to be free in as much as we must conform to survive in the society we want to reject.
Since I'm none of those wonderful things, I spend a great deal of time conforming and feeling a deep existential pain. Sometimes it burns, like a kind of spiritual bursitis. I can feel it in my joints and the pit of my stomach, the set of my jaw, or the way my feet hit the ground. The somatic response to conformity is stunning and painful and perplexing and flat out depressing.
|Maybe Balls Out Crazy|
There are days I think I would rather cut off my own fingers than use them to work for someone else. I'd rather poke my own eyeballs out than experience the particular shade of blue that defines the sea of cubicles inside the office I go to during the week. There are days when I feel like the clock in the break room is mocking me. Time cannot possibly move so slowly. Also, why do I want time to march forward so fast?
There are days when I wonder what is wrong with me? Shouldn't I be content? Not much is being asked of me. I'm not selling anything or being confronted with some great big moral dilemma I'm great at what I do, so no one is breathing down my neck. Many of my coworkers seem content. They arrive on time. They work and mill about and share lunch and go home without spontaneously combusting. It is all so polite.
Every month my bills are just paid, there is a roof over my head and my cat is fed and at night I get to write but sometimes I'm too tired or out with a friend or gathering material to write about, so the story is there but always in the future, just ahead of me. I have this idea or that idea, and as I fall asleep or piece it out in the dark hours of insomnia, I feel that pain of discontent.
My belly is full. My head is swimming. My heart is wide open: I want to be free, but how can I be when I have to be at work in the morning?
Lately I have this fantasy, I'm going to buy a hippie bus and I'm going to load it up with some books and my poor cat (who really is chained to polite society) and I'm going to run away. I'm going to write all day and freelance when I have to and wash dishes at diners and bathe at TSAs. I called my best girl and told her about it. My best girl tells me the buses are made of tin, and not worth the money. She says I'm just going through the thing that ladies my age go through. She says to take a deep breath and to keep writing anyway.
|From My High School English Class Journal|
I'll stay here with society for now, and I will work for who ever needs or wants me to, and I'll keep writing, not because I don't feel the urge to run or that it's small or easy to tramp down, but somewhere in that place is the reason to write. And also its material. Without the experience of conformity how would my writing change? It's this world I live in, the privations of society, of work, of modern life, of being a woman and an artist. I've heard a million times how you have to suffer for your art. I guess I'm getting it right because I'm suffering. And it's just a little sweet.
Last week, I sent out the first short nonfiction from the Travels With Jonah Project. It's called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I think it's good. I hope it gets picked up. I sent out a short slice of life piece called Makeup to a few places. I'm working on a piece about how my parents met called Lake LeAnn and another piece about men and women and conquering the west. It's working title is Across the Great Divide.
I know who I am as a writer. I have my voice. I know I can do this, discontent or not.