Starting Over

I began work on the novel that I’ve half-heartedly been “working on” for the better part of two years now today. It is a fictionalized account of a series of events that happened to me and in which I took part as a junior in college, taking place over a few days and involving a surreal road trip from Dartmouth to New York City. The main participants were myself and two fraternity brothers of mine — but that’s about where the college-y, fratty, ROAD TRIP! markers end. The journey stood out to me of the all the lunatic times I had there for the rather strange mixture of personalities as well as the fucked-up things we got ourselves into, involving among others the seduction of an evangelical Christian girl, a multicolored hot tub, smoking weed in the subway, a trip to New Haven at 2 in the morning with broken windows in 30 degree March, and a short series of mushroom trips.

I’ve long struggled with what to do with such lovely subject material, how to organize it, conjure up a plot to project onto a series of reckless and defiant behavior, to be set against the uneasy backdrop of coming of age in post-9/11 America. The broad theme that I want to work on entails navagating a course between the regimentation and technologicization of everyday day and the self-destructive nihilism of irreponsible narcissists (such as we were) on a serious drug binge against that very backdrop. Oh there are all sorts of fun questions I want to ask and maybe answer about systems of social control, sexuality, what remains of individuality and what prospects it has for the future. I’m still struggling with unifying these various interests under the aegis of a coherent and compelling narrative. The creative process is still somewhat foreign to me — I have plenty of experience with the burst of inspiration, the frenetic passion of the “moment.” I tend to lose myself in the construction, description, and production of the nimbus that remains when the fireworks are done. That’s the part I’m trying to overcome now.

I’ve spent the last two years or so in a numbing and increasingly self-destructive depression. Depression is something I’ve been prone to/have dealt with my entire adult life, beginning as a high school freshman struggling to cope with his parents’ divorce and sudden breakdown of family life. I don’t have an answer for it yet. My typical response the last couple years has been pure and unalloyed escapism, courtesy of weed, then wine and World of Warcraft, which is an exceptional purgative of reality. My struggle with the creative process is, of course, deeply linked to the act of running away. Depression breeds or creeps forth from a lack of self-worth, an inability to see in one’s self a spark of potential, a wavelength that could bring forth something new and beautiful. I don’t talk about these things. They are my hidden burden that I feed after my fiancee goes to sleep, when none of my friends (those whom I’ve not yet entirely alienated) are around, when family is at a safe distance of several hundred miles. I am a master at deception, at lying, at hiding from anything that could puncture my shell — or worse, confirm it to me.

Recent events and realizations have managed to do just that — break through the self-deception and the inverted narcissism that has convinced me for so long that my existence is worth less than the morning dew, to be burned off or brushed away at convenience. And so the defiant optimism of my first post was, to an extent, disingenuous. I stand by it, but with the caveat that much work and much recovery is to be done, before I can with any legitimacy pronounce against the hypocrisy and deception of so many contemporary social phenomena. The first step, so they say, is honesty, so this is honesty. My fiancee found me slumped over in a chair with my computer in front of me, dead drunk on vintage Scotch whiskey that we had been saving for a special occasion. This after three days of similar behavior. That’s the truth, and it’s a testament to her faith in me that I still have a fiancee.

So to come back to the original theme: I am writing this novel for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the desire to explore thematically the nihilism, narcissism, and substance abuse which I have allowed to fog my brain and retard my self-development these past few years, in an attempt to purge myself of that part of my life. The greater goal, of course, is to create a work of which I can be proud, and on which I can base the prospects for future success as a writer, for I don’t think I’m made to be anything else. My abject failure at incorporation into corporation life has taught me that.

As I work on the hard part — setting the structure, unifying the theme, developing the dramatis personae — I will post updates, and as I write, excerpts.

I don’t have confidence in my ability to write, which has been a major part of the problem, but the realization that whatever ability I may have is meaningless if I drink it away and wallow in self-immolation has finally acquired an urgency to it that’s spurring me to action.

~ by Benji on January 4, 2009.

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