Five Bucks for the Coffee, Keep the Change

When I was younger I used to hear a saying that goes thusly, “That and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee”; this was used in reference to someone’s opinion or some achievement they perceived about themselves.  It was meant to say, “Whatever you are bragging about is without worth”, nowadays this has no meaning or its meaning has been diminished by exponential cost increases for a cup-o-Java.  It would lead one to believe that their achievements are worth around three bucks (not bad scratch if you can get it).  That was a long way to go to say the price of coffee has gone up, add to that fact that it was not a very interesting yarn, and I’m not even sure where I was going with it, and you’re left with a very shaky premise for a blog.  Still, lets see what happens.

The next struggle with which I wrestle is a “fear” of success.  I’m afraid of how it might change me as a person.  Let’s face it success changes people; that’s a fact, but that fact conveniently overlooks other facts.  Facts like, failure changes people, and change is a sometimes necessary hurdle on the path of maturity.  So I think it would be fair to say fear of success is really fear of change, well at least for me.  This fear is predicated on the idea that I am fine the way I am, an idea that does not bear the weight of honest scrutiny, I mean let’s be honest even my two year old can see that I could use some change in my life, especially in matters pertinent to her.

Another problem with the fear of success is it’s a bit presumptuous.  “Hey I thought you wanted to become a writer; why haven’t you written anything?”  To which I reply, “Oh that?  Well I was afraid to start writing because the success, I would inevitably enjoy, might change me”.  To which they would reply, “Oh well if I were you I wouldn’t worry about that too much”.  Nice.  It’s really quite up-surd.

Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, to which Demetri Martin adds the word “man” on the end.  I spend an inordinate amount of time trying not to examine my life, mainly, because of fear.  But is that the only reason?  It seems to me fear alone wouldn’t stop a man from doing such important work as self-examination.  No, on a certain level there is a comfort that enjoy with who I am that is self-destructive in some ways.  “I am okay just the way I am”.  That and about three bucks will get me a cup of coffee…don’t bother leaving room for cream.

This “fear” thread is getting stale, next up: “The DUI Chronicles”, a series of blog entries based loosely on my experience with the wrong side of the law after a night decade of ill-advised behavior.

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Fear, Laziness’ Beard

It seems to me the next thing a writer must overcome is laziness, this is something we all struggle with, to one degree or another, and it is something that carries a very shameful stigma in many (if not all) cultures.  I like to hide my laziness behind the guise of fear.  If I determine I’m afraid of failure, and that fear keeps me from committing any ideas to a page, then that might be perceived as a more noble roadblock than the fact that I just plain don’t want to sit down in front of a blank page and pound out my thoughts or feelings.  The tricky thing is that I possess both fear and laziness and, because these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, it is sometimes hard to determine which emotion is motivating me from moment to moment.  So the logical path to take concerning both motivators is to call bullshit on them and push forward…bold words from a lazy coward.

I recently heard a story that was being told by Stephen Tobolowsky about a Zen master and a bully, this story had also been told to him via The Andy Griffith show where-in the Zen master was played by most of Mayberry through Opie Taylor, and the bully was played by a bully.  The story goes that a Zen master is traveling down a road and comes across a man who tells the master that he cannot pass unless he determines whether the bird in the man’s closed hand is alive or dead.  Opie decides to take a different way home and process the problem through his known and predictable methods of navigating life’s philosophical potholes, he asks Andy.  The Zen master in the original story simply tells the man that the bird’s fate was in the hands of the man holding it, and walks on.

One thing that Stephen and I have in common is that the story seems to be missing pertinent information; for Stephen the struggle is “What happened to the bird?”, a question that the story could have answered providing the author thought it was a valid question to answer, my conundrum is more tricky; I wonder, “Am I the bird or the bully?”.  That is to say am I a bird being held back by the tyranny of my laziness and fear, or am I the one holding all the cards, and the bird of my thoughts, and waiting for the master to answer so I can determine whether to open my hand and allow the bird to go free, or crush the life out of it to fulfill my own selfish desires.  In other words, are my hang-ups nothing more than a simple-minded passive-aggressive form of control over my own mind and creativity?

Hubert Selby Jr said he began his writing career when he had a dream that instilled in him a fear of dying having accomplished nothing; I’d kill for that fear, not really, I don’t even think one could obtain a fear just by committing murder (I’ll look into that), but that fear is superior to my own fear of scrutiny.  Although I may not be afraid of scrutiny at all.  Perhaps I’m just lazy.

Strippers and the Fear of the Blank Page

I want to be a writer, this is something I told a friend of mine…it was short for I want to get paid for writing.  I’m already a writer.  I’m already a person who observes the events of my life, collects my thoughts on those events and writes them down on a page.  I’m a writer who feels that the fact I rarely actually write anything down is an insignificant detail in a writing career that is distinguished in its vast possibility, if nothing else.  He asked me, “How does one get into that?”, to which I answered, “I don’t know.”.  This is not entirely true; I know that if you want to get paid for writing you first have to write, and then you must find someone willing to pay for the things you’ve written…and hopefully, if you’re lucky, you can pay for all of the things you need, some of the things you want, and survive the situation with your dignity intact.  It is a dirty business of walking fine lines and navigating mine fields of philosophical minutia, but then everything is when you’re a capitalist.  If you are one, my advice to you is to not think about it too much.  I try not to think about such things, generally, without success.

The first thing, it seems to me, that a writer needs to overcome is fear.  This fear is much akin to the fear that a stripper needs to overcome in his or her work, the fear of exposing oneself.  I used to think the fear of each endeavor, respectively, was the exact opposite, to the writer, the fear of clothing the blank page, and, to the stripper, the fear of disrobing in front of strangers, but I have come to believe that they are the same.  Both include making oneself exposed, the stripper, his or her body and the writer, if done well, his or her soul.  I hope to write well.