As we browsed an independent bookstore together more than ten years ago, a handsome fella put a David Sedaris book in my hands and said, “Have you read him? I’m buying this for you.” I hadn’t, and he did. Things didn’t work out with the fella, but everything worked out with David Sedaris. I read that book, which was Naked, then everything he wrote before, and then since. I’ve been an unattractive version of the handsome guy in the bookstore many times over, foisting Sedaris’ work on unsuspecting friends and family like a talisman. “Just read it,” I whisper, reverently. “See what happens.”
What happened for me was that everything I write is forever soaked in his blood. As with other writers I admire, his style permeates everything “original” I think I’m doing, and then reads back like a watered-down, substandard, poor man’s version of. But if I were to fight that impulse and consciously try to avoid his influence, I’d never write anything at all.On Monday night, a dear friend and I went and saw David Sedaris perform at a concert hall downtown. It’s a trite thing to say, but it was everything I could have hoped for plus more. He read, as far as I could tell, all new material, or at least nothing he’d put in a book before. The seemingly off the cuff remarks he made between readings were funny and endearing, and he ended with a Q&A where (thankfully) no one said anything stupid. Just before the Q&A, he read from his diary, one that he apparently writes in every night. Now, surely these were cleaned up a bit for live readings, but still, even his diary was written so deftly, so funny and simply, in the best sense of the word, that I was inspired. Inspired is a term we throw around so often and it has this kind of squishy, overly sweet connotation that makes me think of do-gooders and kids missing part of their faces, but what I really mean is I was encouraged by his example. I was galvanized.
Dream: Write more.
Goal: Achievable. I write every day as part of my job, and I rationalize with a consistent whine that I “write eight hours a day!” even though that writing is strictly technical copy and not creative. I complain that I “look at a screen all day and the last thing I want to do is go home and look at a screen”, which is an argument that would only hold water if I didn’t go home to watch TV or look up garbage on the internet.I can absolutely take the extra time required to write creatively, if only for my own amusement, because even if nothing comes of it, even it doesn’t earn me any money, it’s something I’m incrementally better at now than I was before. I owe it to myself if only so that my writer brain doesn’t collect dust in the cobwebs of my brain, like a clarinet shoved in the back of a closet.
Plan: Get back on a schedule and hold myself to it. It’s weird, I’ve never missed checking my bank balance on a pay day, I carve out 90 minutes a week for Saturday Night Live, I manage to get to Dairy Queen with alarming frequency in the summer months. If I can make time for those things, it stands to reason that I can make time to write.
David Sedaris signed books both before and after his performance. When we got there before the show, the line was pretty short, but that was because he could only sign so many books before he had to go onstage, and someone from the Line Police had determined the end point. After the show, the line snaked around the lobby and back into the theatre by the time we’d gotten up and out of our seats. Apparently David stays to sign everyone’s book, though, even if it keeps him at the venue until midnight. My friend wanted me to wait in line. “I have no problem staying,” she said. “Who cares it takes hours, he’s your favourite!” But I begged off.
The line was long and we would have been there late, but truthfully I didn’t want to interact with him, however briefly, because I knew there would be nothing I could say that would honestly express what his writing means to me that wouldn’t make one or both us extremely uncomfortable. Plus, I figured that people that wait in line to meet someone who writes so perfectly about the humour of the everyday would want to somehow be memorable. They’d say something outrageous or odd enough that it would engage his quirky brain and maybe a story about them would end up in the diary, or a book, or a live show. I hated those people because that’s so nakedly needy, and also because I’m probably one of them. Maybe if I met David Sedaris, instead of fawning all over him, I’d have told an off colour joke, or lied about having some intricate hobby so as to make an impression. Because the worst case scenario is also the most likely: that I wouldn’t make any impression at all. I’d just be another fan, clutching a book, believing some sort of special relationship existed between us, if only we could meet and then we’d surely become fast friends.
Writing about writing is like masturbating and calling it a “self-administered handjob.” It’s only special if you think it is, and nobody but you gives a shit about it. But this is my annual public reminder to myself to just keep plugging away. By posting it on a blog like this, it will stand as indictment if I keep letting weeks slip by with no contribution. Tune in next week, then the next, then the next, until I get back in the swing of things, dammit. But in the meantime, pick up anything by David Sedaris and see what happens.