You'd think I would learn.
I've written a lot of stuff since that day in July, 1997 when I walked in to the prairie dog offices and told them I was a writer. They were fool enough to believe me, and that's how it started. Probably 90 per cent of what I've written has not been about me--except when it secretly was about me--and that's for the best. In writing about other people (mostly short profiles of musicians), I learned a lot, about writing, about the world, and about myself. That's been great. Even though I don't take on as many assignments as I used, I still use arts journalism as an excuse to chat up people who do interesting things, like Richard Rosenbaum (editor of Can't Lit) or queer cinema legend Bruce LaBruce. These gigs are great because they're interesting, they're fairly easy to do, and they pay. I hear back on them sometimes. Mostly just, oh, you know, I saw that you wrote this, or I started to read this. That kind of thing.
But the stuff I really hear back on, the stuff that people write me long, moving emails about is, y'know, the other stuff. Where I reveal more of myself or write about something I care about. Which is, I don't know, pretty fucking great.
"The things you do for love are gonna come back to you one by one."
I took a class last year. It was an adult education freelance writing class at Langara College. I hadn't written anything other this blog in about three years at that point. I was really into David Sedaris and the idea of being, I dunno, a personal essayist. Is that what he is? Nicole has loved Sedaris for a long time, even suggested Hugh as a name when we didn't know we were having a daughter, but for whatever reason, I was quite late to become fond of him. But that's what I wanted to get out of this class, I wanted to be David Sedaris. That's the way I get when I like a writer. I don't just want to read them and learn from them. I want to BE THEM. Kerouac, Brautigan, Hemingway, Meltzer, Thompson, Ames, Richler, Hiaasen, Ronson, Willeford--I have to work through these embarrassing periods of pathetic poseurdom and then, I cast off their skin and become me again, but a little bit (I hope) has stuck. It's a terrible way to exist, but it's my process and I'm too old to change now.
I didn't learn how to be David Sedaris, but I did get back in the habit of writing regularly, and I got some good advice and encouragement. The instructor was Mette Bach, who released her first book this summer, the very excellent Off the Highway: Growing Up in North Delta.
My point is that I got some great feedback from my Lou Reed t-shirt piece and some of my recent blog posts. People like me! People like to read about things I care about writing! I got one fantastic note from Maryanna Hardy, who went to Grade 8 with me at Georges Vanier (says Nicole: "Is that the school you went to after you got kicked out of the school where everyone beat you up?") in Saskatoon. Like Mette, Maryanna is releasing her first book this year. You can see the poster for the book launch in Montreal next Friday above. You should check out her blog for more of her illustrations and, of course, buy her book, So I've Been Told.
So, I'm going to write more (probably mostly here) about stuff that matters to me, like rock shirts and Superman and being a dad.
mp3: "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain" by Andre Ethier (live)