Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Cowboy Writer Manifesto

Sunday night, I returned home from three days in Big Sur, feeling strange.

I drove up there Thursday in a 1983 VW Westfalia van with five friends and a dog. We arrived to a campsite edging up to midnight with friends already there. Over the next day or two, friends poured in. Saturday night, we had about 30 of us goofing off.

After spending the summer in an office building, I went to the annual surfer gathering to relax and, sometimes on the beach and sometimes in the campsite, I had nothing on the brain. There was no frequency but laughter. I was at total ease. Days felt like memories and nights felt like dreams. It was unreal, everything from Frisbee William Tell to listening to an acoustic guitar as I fell asleep on a board bag staring up at the stars through the bony limbs of trees.

But between the many cigarettes, beers and sips of whiskey, I also felt a gathering storm inside me. I observed the interactions of the people around me, as I always make a point of doing, and did some serious thinking without really making the effort. I couldn't quite point out what it was, but there were a few moments of something resembling pensive worry mixed in with the instances of invincibility. I enjoyed the hell out of the weekend, but was ready to leave when we were supposed to on Sunday morning.

And then came the feeling I couldn't shake again on the way back to Southern California, heavier and stronger. As we swerved along the beautiful California coast, I grew anxious to get home, though I had nothing I desperately missed there. Family, friends, women and work would all be there, but there was nothing time-sensitive, but I still felt like I had a schedule to keep. The last hours of the drive pulled on me. My head was sleep-deprived and my stomach and lungs were full of vices. I had a hard time being quiet until we edged towards Los Angeles. Then I felt the weight of anxiousness. By then, I was fidgety and annoyed that I wasn't yet home to deal with this nonsense bullshit. I didn't even quite know what it was, but I felt that I could sort it out once I was in my bedroom with the many tools and prizes of this radical adventure that I might as well just call existence.

Finally, I arrived home, dumped my stuff in a pile by the door and sat down at the dining room table. Within minutes, my sister and mother were telling me what was on the television. I realized how little I cared and so, without words, I stood up and left for the the bathroom where I shaved off my facial hair before buzzing my head (on its longest setting, as change isn't always big).

I took a long shower and thought about things, realizing that I needed a new course of action. I returned to my bedroom, telling my family that I was going to bed. Instead, I sat down and wrote something called The Cowboy Writer Manifesto. It's ten rules that I printed out and stuffed in my wallet. It's a mix between promises to myself I plan to keep and a new code of living to go by. It's like new year's resolutions for machines, as that's how I've felt since returning home. It's like The Cowboy Spirit meets Ayn Rand's objectivism (or how it's been explained to me, as I am still only 50 fucking pages into The Fountainhead). I just know that I used to cultivate who I was as a teenager (as teenagers do when they aren't lying about everything and getting awkward/sexy). I've long believed that a person can be the person they should be, but it requires time, energy and effort. Everything of social interaction to creativity can be worked upon like existential maintenance. If you don't focus on yourself some nights, you're just a lonely train sounding in the night with nobody on board. Especially in the transition into adulthood, this is the year I figure I'm supposed to really get it all down to the bare wires and string them up like Christmas lights.

So, once I had my manifesto, I changed my sheets and cleaned up my room in silence before sitting down and writing fiction until I was falling asleep at my laptop. This was a good start (no joke).

As I have gone through a chaotic variety of elaborate plans, stages, alter-egos and even a fake death hoax, I have already admitted to myself that this could all very well be nothing but a passing phase. However, this seems stronger than other promises I've made on whims. This doesn't feel forced. it doesn't feel like I'm making an attempt at building anything. It just feels like I'm doing it whether I like it or not. Maybe this is the quarter-life crisis everyone's been foretelling like psychics. Maybe this is the very exciting beginning to a thrilling nervous breakdown. Maybe I just felt like crap from putting so much alcohol and smoke into my body that I'm now mistaking a good cleanse for productivity and an exhilarating life change.

Whatever it is, I noticed a change on Monday. I tried to live according to The Cowboy Writer Manifesto. Instead of hitting the snooze button almost a dozen times, I got up immediately and was fully dressed before I was sure of what day it was.

After work, I kept it going.

1. I wrote fiction. I'm done with this whole bullshit of not writing every day. Enough of this fucking around shit. Right? Well, actually, I take that back. I'm going to find other ways to fuck around. Maybe they'll involve balloons. Maybe confetti. I don't know. I haven't really thought it through yet. Also, I read rejection letters from three respected publications and saved them like the rest. It feels good to send stuff out again and I continue to enjoy the shit out of rejection letters.

2. I bought new clothes. And I bought them because I thought I should have them. It had nothing to do with an specific event or a gift card. Also, I'm pretty sure the two female employees at Macy's could tell that I hadn't shopped in a long time. As I just made it before they closed, they watched me like an harmless animal who just wandered around smelling stuff. I felt like they were asking each other (in Spanish), "Should we get it out or will it find its way out eventually?" Well, guess what, bitches? I did. And I did it with two new shirts.

3. I went for a run with my dog. I collapsed in the backyard, shirtless and sticky. I sat in the surfboard chair and sounded like somebody had stabbed me in the chest, wheezing like I was trying to give famous last words. Once I stood up and made it back into the warm house, I felt like the Human Torch if he ever got all sweaty from the flames.

4. I cleaned my room. As I was nearing the end, the lights went out. My entire house went black. I checked the fuse box, but nothing I did work. So I went into the streets and watched the whole world be dark. The block's fuse had done something screwy. I stood there on my front lawn and noticed that the only light in my neighborhood was from the stars and moon above. Then I took one last sprawling look at the houses around and all the lights came on at once. It was magical realism cinema. Maybe that's what those plastic townsfolk feel like when someone finally turns on the train set.

5. I went to bed at a reasonable hour. I fell asleep with all the windows open and the ceiling fan churning, and I woke up refreshed this morning.


jason daniel said...

yes YES YESSSS!!!!!!!

Dude, so stoked for this entry. I feel like we live similarly different lives simultaneously. If that makes sense.

For me, the 1/4 life crisis has been a few years, and not just specifically 25. As I'm well into 26 and still evaluating the world around me.

We should chat soon friend. I had something else to say and forgot it.

Oh, everytime I travel away from home I get extremely contemplative as of late, as if I'm not doing something right. Or, as Thrice said, there can be more than flashing lights and sound.

Keep writing. We fail so that we will triumph.

Celeste Hoang said...

i think i've said this about several other posts you've made but this one really is my favorite. so far.

cheers to writing every day!

Eyvette said...

My favorites:

I didn't even quite know what it was, but I felt that I could sort it out once I was in my bedroom with the many tools and prizes of this radical adventure that I might as well just call existence.

and the bitchy Macy's employees made me laugh.

and the plastic people with the train set.