Saturday, August 4, 2012

What words to say?

I had an epiphany recently. Well, actually, I was handed one. In my last post, I mentioned getting a reality check on my ego; which, while disheartening to an extent, was also incredibly healthy. But sometimes it’s nice to get a little pick-me-up as well – someone reminding you that you are a badass every once in a blue moon is like the sweet, creamy dessert after a few servings of humble pie.

That dessert was served over a breakfast conversation with a profoundly respected and totally kooky high school teacher. He’s a fellow writer and wonderful human and offered to mentor me. We concluded over far too many cups of coffee that although I’ve found my voice, I still haven’t found a path. When he asked if I’d ever thought of writing a memoir, I sat back and just stared at him. I could actually write a whole freakin’ book. Never before had I considered myself capable of such an undertaking.

No offense to Tina Fey, but when I read her book (I will say that I did laugh out loud), I remember thinking, I can do that, and maybe better. But then I also thought, Yes. I know how to hook and entertain readers. But what have I got to say that needs to be heard? And could it actually fill hundreds of pages? Who decides whether what you have to say is worthwhile? How did Dave Berry and Tina Fey and David Sedaris decide what to include in their memoirs? Did they just start writing and say, well, I think this is funny, so maybe someone else will, too? That’s how I started, but I’m in the phase where I’m forwarding blog posts to my parents for their completely biased approval. How do you leap from blurbs like the following snapshots of my thought pattern to full-fledged published authorism?

I want to give you a few snippets into how my brain works. Just read these and bear with me, k? 

Every time I go to get coffee from the kitchen in the office, my first thought is “I can’t believe I work in a place that has free coffee. This is awesome.” My second thought, no matter how many times I open the fridge, always winds up stuck on the carton of fat-free half and half. Can we just stop and think about that for a minute? Cream is the fat from milk. Half and half means half cream, half milk. Where does the fat go in fat-free half and half? I just DON’T understand why anyone would want to create something that’s not what it’s originally intended to be. That’s also why I don’t buy tofurkey or pens that double as candy or believe that Chihuahuas are actually dogs. Why is our society so bent on creating fake shit to impersonate real shit? Just be fully what you are!!

Or this one, on stating the obvious…
The last couple of weeks we’ve spent driving to the middle of the state for meetings. The view along the way is pretty bland, despite the occasional milkshake from Cookout, which tends to brighten any view, and beautiful patches of flowers along the road. Halfway between Asheville and Greensboro on I-40, one of these patches of gorgeous yellow flowers has a huge sign plunked in the middle that says: Roadside Enhancement. No one else seemed to notice or care that this sign existed, but I found it absolutely preposterous. How much did it cost to put that sign there? And what is the purpose? Of course we know that it’s roadside enhancement! Only people living on the border of South Carolina may be silly enough to think that little fairies planted the yellow flowers in the middle of the highway. And most South Carolinians think anyone who lives in a 100-mile radius of Asheville is a fairy anyway, and a sign will probably just confirm their suspicions of a government-fairy conspiracy theory. Do I post a sticky note with my name on the copy machine every time I fill the paper tray? No. That would be ridiculous and narcissistic. I could spend that time it took making a sticky note oh, I don’t know, reexamining the budget or planting more flowers. And what’s the point? Do they want a cookie? Should I call my senator and say, “Well, I can’t say I’m too pleased about Amendment One or the education budget, but woooweee – the roadside enhancement sure looks gorgeous in the armpit of the state!”

Ok. I’m back. Yes. These are the kinds of things that go through my head and that I want to share, because, well, it gets really loud in there if I don’t let the stories out somehow. But is this the crap that goes into a book? Are these the kinds of stories and thoughts that need to be shared with the world? How could I focus my energy into describing my biologically defective dating genes or the paradoxes of dairy products when the world is crumbling around us? People need to laugh, duh. But we also need to know about the truths of factory farms, the plight of farmworkers, religious diasporas, energy alternatives, natural healing methods, and the good work people are doing. I’m trying to save the world here, people, or at least tell the stories of those who are. So how do I choose what words to say? If anyone has any suggestions on how to marry these facets, feel free to contact me, or have your publisher call my people. In the meantime, I’m just going to continue writing about the ridiculous shit that falls in my lap. Thanks for reading.