The way I write changes based on who I am writing to or about. In various replies to half a dozen people today, I’ve noticed that pretty strongly, and just thought I’d bring it up. Half out of hope that maybe it’s a unique thing, half out of hope that maybe it isn’t. I guess that makes it win-win or something.
I’m a poet, but my poetry evolves constantly. Who I read changes that. Who I meet changes that, who I talk to and what we talk about changes that. Temporarily. It always comes back to my own configuration eventually. But I am a style analyst. I have a feel for the rhythm of words, for the way they fit together. I’d like to say it’s borne entirely of practice. But it isn’t. I was born with a talent for writing. The practice came later, and I’ve been getting lazy about it. I didn’t have to scrape myself up from the bottom of the barrel to become good at writing. I didn’t drag myself up a cliff to make my words make sense. I didn’t throw myself on the spires of debt, razor’d and long and thin, inescapable of as freezing rain at four o’ clock in the afternoon as you walk home from work.
No. I didn’t do any of that. On some level I feel like it’s cheating. It probably is, but if it is it’s cheating I honestly can’t help. If you can’t help being a cheater, you have two choices. One, you can suck it up and just keep writing. Two, you can seek therapy and lay down the pen.
Since the latter of those options will happen over my dead body, I’m going to continue cheating. I figure as long as I make an effort to write something every day (no matter what it is) it isn’t exactly cheating. But I’ve been lazy lately. It’s true. I haven’t been putting my work up on my blog. I haven’t been writing my sequential stories. I have been moping. Pushing myself to the back of my self and sitting there, staring at nothing. Gazing into the corner, comatose while upright.
Abruptly, I wake up. I look around and it’s been a week. It’s been more than a week, it feels. It feels like it’s been two weeks since I posted anything new. It feels like an eternity has gone by. I stand up and walk to the door. I turn the handle and step outside my little bubble, my airtight house where the air is stale and it smells like the promise of cigarettes and depressed wine.
I stretch out and go for a walk.
Along the way I meet a few friends. I talk to them for a time, in long paragraphs, overlong and wordy, filling up air more than anything else, while trying to contain meaning as well. More is not always better, but right now I don’t want to think about my friends, I just want to move on.
So I do, I move on, down the street, down the sidewalk. I feel a bit lonely. I feel bad about brushing off my friends like that. They were excited about something.
I reach a writing friend’s house, and knock. No one is home, so I open the door and let myself in, walk over to her diary, turn it over to the latest unread page, and have a gander a while. She comes back home, but she doesn’t see me. I haven’t written in her diary, so she can’t.
I leave three comments in the margins of her various new works, then tiptoe out of the house unseen and continue down the street. There’s a newer friend who lives here nearby. I remember the style I had from my last few comments and decide it won’t do, as I walk into his house and sit down at his table, smelling old cigarettes and depressed wine. The cigarettes would get to my asthma if I still had it. I don’t, so it doesn’t matter much. I strip naked in front of him, taking off my shirt and my pants, my undergarments and my shoes, and pull on things more suited to the style of his work. He’s sitting across the table and staring at me. He doesn’t see me until I write the first comment. He murmurs thanks. I don’t think it’s completely necessary. I push down inane gratitude at being noticed and just nod. I don’t know if he sees it or not. I write two more comments and leave without a further word, looking over my shoulder to catch his reply and then stepping out the door.
Exhausted by this social exercise, I walk back down the street. I shrug off his style- short and to the point without being curt, real in a way that draws you in- and briefly, as I pass by my other friends’ houses, take on a variety of different styles, passing down from romantic to idealism and finally settling at my own door. I stare at all the things I took with me on this walk. I stare at them for a long time. Then I take a step inside. Then I put them all on the coat rack, walk over to my desk. I pull out my laptop. I’m feeling inspired.
As I bring my fingers to the keys, I think about what it means to have a style. I think about what it means to bring others into your style. I think about realism in my writing. I compare my characters to the way my friends write poetry or romance. I take a deep breath. I pull it in through my mouth like a bad habit. I breathe it out clean. The air is clear again. No offense to my new friend, but I don’t much like cigarettes or depressed wine.
I stare at my keyboard and my dirty old laptop. I pause. I write.