What do you by yourself when you know no one else is watching? I do Harrison Ford’s look of intensity. It’s that face he makes in all of his movies during the climax when he’s about to take on the antagonist. You do it by clenching your jaw and tightening your your lips around your bared teeth. It’s Harrison Ford’s look of intensity. As you hold this face, you point at the mirror, widen your eyes, furrow your brow, and yell out: “YOU. YOU DID THIS.” Or something a little more dramatic like: “I will NOT negotiate like terrorists.” Just make sure to point, because Harrison Ford points whenever he’s upset.
Last night, after a few minutes of clenching and pointing, I opened a bottle of beer and decided I was going to write a book. I went out and bought myself a Rhodia graph-paper notebook and settled upon the subject matter of said book. I want to write one-hundred one-page stories. Or fifty one-page stories, depending on how tired my hand gets. Furthermore, I want each and every story to take place in New York City and further furthermore, I think it’d be a good idea if I was under the influence of Clonazepam during the writing process for each and every one-hundred (or fifty) of my stories. Normally ideas like these fall through the cracks of my brains and end up in idea-purgatory alongside scores of discarded sentences and pitches. I used to work at a cafe in Boston, where I would spent around nine hours on my feet without sitting. Sure, I’d be busy during breakfast and lunch, but for the most part, I was all by myself in complete silence for hours at a time. During my shifts, I’d write little stories on discarded receipts and stow them away in a little cardboard box underneath my bed.
Unbeknownst to most of my friends, this little box of stories has followed me around from each and every apartment I’ve lived in for the past four years. I really didn’t like this cafe job. My boss was a total gem, but the customers all worked at successful architecture/graphic design firms and, as a result, were wealthy and entitled. I lost track of how many times people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and patting me on the shoulder saying things will eventually get better. Mind you, I left every day with $50 in tips (in addition to my hourly rate), but it really got me down. In a public space such as a cafe, where patrons will point and laugh at your attempt to recreate Harrison Ford’s look of intensity, writing is a really great way to keep my head straight.
I’m employed now. As in, I get up every morning and go to an office where I spend around nine hours managing the social media presence of a successful Internet company. It would be slightly less embarrassing to do the Harrison Ford look of intensity there, because everyone is goofy and friendly, but still – I haven’t done it yet. Thus, I take solace in the fact that I can always go home and write. What is it about writing that calms me down so much? I know that a lot of people don’t like writing. They think it’s a chore and avoid it. I know I’m not an expert writer, but with each tap on my keyboard, all the stress and anxiety I feel during my day floats off into the atmosphere. I’m writing fifty (or one-hundred) stories, because I want people to feel what I feel. Accomplishment, in a way. Sure, it’s always been easy for me to write, but to write creatively takes so much more effort. I think back to the looks of pity I’d get from those I sold coffee to back in the cafe in Boston and the stories that followed. They’d be adventures through time and space by characters who always closely resembled me. They were me, but they weren’t. They were always darker, more bold, more addicted.
I suppose I don’t really know what I want people to feel when they read my stories. Sure, I saw accomplishment, but they’d have to know me to realize how accomplished I felt as I was writing. To be fair, I’m not even sure it’s accomplishment I’m feeling. Can one really take pride in something they were born to do? To me, that’s like getting a gold medal for shaving. I guess I’m happy that I can be productive in solitude. There’s a life after the Harrison Ford look of intensity and that life is very clearly documented on paper. Is this a backwards way to promote this unfinished bastard of a novel, too? Yes, absolutely. I wish I could’ve read the process behind some of my favorite books. With some authors, it’s obvious where their inspiration came from. J.D. Salinger was scarred from the war, Kurt Vonnegut was scarred from the war, Ernest Hemingway was scarred from the war, Charles Bukowski drank a lot. It’s fascinating to know where the inspiration comes from and if it’s even inspiration at all — or just something that happens when there isn’t a proper way to express yourself after you’ve been imitating Harrison Ford all night.