You should write the thing you would really like to be reading.
You can’t claim you don’t know what that is. That’s like saying you don’t know what you want to order from the menu. Of course you know. If you were by yourself, you’d order it.
Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what to order when you’re by yourself. It’s because you’re playing the bullshit game, believing there’s something better than what you want. There simply isn’t. There is nothing better than what you want. You think, I want to order the best meal. I want to know that, when my food comes, I’m eating the best thing. Who’s going to judge what’s in your mouth? Don’t play games with yourself. No one can taste your food for you. And if you’re tasting something other than what you’re eating, you’re having a delusion, and you’re alone in it.
You’ll say that writing isn’t food. I should be writing for the audience. Which one? You’ll know people who claim to be experimental, sublime, vulgar, minimalist, maximalist, postmodern, classical, formalist, post-punk, marxist, nihilist, spiritual, bleeding and cauterized. Good. Know them. They will never taste the food in your mouth, and they will never know what you would like to be reading unless you show them.
When they read and say you’re not postmodern enough, the experience teaches you little about yourself. Instead, you learn this critic believes he’s really postmodern. He’s a tyrant wishing the world to be different from itself, but he is a walking paradox and has not learned what generates the world in the first place. He looks at mailboxes and fire hydrants and condoms and thinks, “These things are not postmodern enough. I’m not interested in them.” Fool! You want a postmodern condom? Look at a rubber and say, “Now there’s a Postmodern Condom.” There’s a Marxist Maibox. There’s a Bleeding Hydrant.
You are the hydrant. It’s you. It is also the reader, just as you are the reader. When someone reads this sentence: “The fire hydrant is bleeding,” the hydrant bleeds both because an author has written and a reader has read. If the reader is pissed about a bleeding hydrant, it is because s/he has failed to imagine the hydrant bleeding in a satisfactory way. Writing about a Marxist Mailbox will not solve anyone’s problem. It simply contributes a distraction from the first, and now we have two identical problems instead of one.
Yes, it’s frightening to admit what you would like to be reading, then to show it to someone. It is identical to seeing that pretty girl, the one with the ribbon on her back and the French braid, and walking up to say, “I love you.” Chances are she does not love you. You know this. You knew it the first time you saw her. But there are two reasons to tell her the truth. One is to be done with it. The other is to see what happens.
What is the worst outcome? She’ll murder you in disgust. But death is absolutely certain. Better to be killed for expressing love than to wait for death in a fortress. Better to write the sentence you would like to be reading than to write the one you hope everyone loves. You cannot tell love what it wants to hear; that is a fraudulent start, the relationship headed for doom. Instead, when you write, you want someone to say, “I thought I was the only one who saw bleeding hydrants.”
Of course you’re not. Hydrant blood puts out fires.
Photo by Darin Barry.