I've learned a lesson today.
I finished reading a man's novel. He's seeking a publisher. His novel is brilliant. It's a masterpiece. Truly. It's praiseworthy; it's prize worthy.
Yet it had one blemish.
And when I saw the foible in his fiction, I saw the flaw in my fact. His error is one sentence; my flaw is my writing philosophy.
Now I'm going to illuminate my flaw by describing his misstep.
His novel is written in a first person present tense stream of conscience format. I wrote to him, "... in the section in the shower you break the scrim of your novel and talk to the reader ... the sentence "Nothing for you to worry about." I hate it. I think it's nearly a fatal flaw. And I'll tell you why. I don't want (main character) to be my friend. It's too close. The writing is too real and the pain is too intense in his life. It's so jarring for him to talk to me.
Now this sounds odd - but stay with me ... Okay, (MC) is a real man. He reads real. I could be friends with him. Well, because he has a conscience and a heart. And he's an ass too. But he reads real. Now in the section about the shower ... is one of the truest things I've ever read. It's completely true. All men have had that moment when he had those thoughts. But no man would speak it aloud or tell it to his friend. Because, he'd feel like a fool. And honestly, if a guy would tell me that - I'd back away and think he was a sick fuck. I'd wonder why he was telling me. Now I'm a very open man. Anyone who reads me knows I bleed my words and thoughts constantly. But some things are too personal to share. I can read the words about how (MC) feels and love him. I can. But if (MC) pulls the shower curtain back and says the words out loud - it's too uncomfortable. You know? It's too intimate.
Okay think of this - if you and I are standing somewhere and we see the same thing - and it's an intensely personal moment - we will look at each other and our eyes will talk to each other - but we will never put it into spoken words. It's too close. I don't think it's emotionally possible for a man to tell everything to anyone.
That you write the secrets about how men feel is so fucking wonderful I could seriously weep. I love this novel. So bro - write it. Oh Christ. Write it. But leave me a bit of skin over all the wounds. Please. (MC) can't break the scrim and talk to us. It's too close. I hated that he talked to us. It ruined all the work you've done. Because it was so close I had to emotionally back away from your words."
And that's my flaw: I broke the scrim. I've written my life and loves and losses and splayed my sorrows and sins and supplications and I've displayed them for all the world to judge. It's left my soul too bare. My mind is too accessible. My heart is too vulnerable. Constant exposition has made my relationships too intimate. It's all too close.
Do you know, we all claim to have friends. And I'll grant you that I have more friends than many fellows. I am an astute judge of character. I can see the goodness in men. Yet I can see the naught with equal clarity. It's ironic I have as many friends as I do because I have nearly impossible standards. I expect others to clear the high bar; I expect myself to hurdle it and land on my feet without a wobble or a flop. And we do. Not always. Sometimes we rebuke each other because we haven't ; sometimes we reassure each other that we have.
Last night I spoke to one of my friends and we discussed the distinction between being friendly and being friends. I have a handful of friends; I am friendly with many people.
Yet when I sit down with myself and think of my life, I have three closest friends. Of the three - only one has read my novel. This fact broke my heart. It saddened me that something so important to me mattered so little to them.
Well, it broke my heart until today. Today I realized that my words are too close. My novel is too intimate. It puts too many words in our vocabularies. It asks someone to crawl inside my soul. It places a disproportionate burden on revelation for amiable equity. It's too much to ask. Well, because it's too much to take.
And I won't anymore.
I won't anymore because it's also too much to give.
Every morning I look at my work and feel shame and humiliation from my exposition. Each morning I decide to take a step back and step away. I decide to close myself off. Each morning I vow to exercise my write to remain silent. Each mourning I remember my purpose and my intent. I titled my blog "The Obligation of Enlightenment" for good reason. I wrote out of obligation. It's duty that makes me divulge.
I know all of this sounds like drama. But I want you to consider something. I want you to consider the risk of standing up and knocking on the door across the fence and telling the face behind the screen your sins and fears. Reveal to him why a loved didn't want you. Explain to him why you can't befriend. Share with him why you feel afraid. Confess which deed fed your pride; whisper which choice shamed your soul. Seep the sorrows that belong in the lone ear of God.
It's frightening. It's off-putting too; who in the name of God wants to hear all of it? It's too much to ask another to take.
I can't do it anymore. I can't walk around my block anymore and feel ashamed because I've shed my skin. I can't sit in bars anymore and discuss my life like it's a flickering film plot and not allow myself to flinch at each flash. I can't scroll my socks off my toes everyday and ask people to review the cleaved and the carved. I'm not that good of a man. I'm a quiet man who seeks the shadow of silence and solemnity.
I want to be clear. I don't regret the exposition. I regret the regret. It shouldn't have felt obligatory. That's my sin. So why don't I delete it all? Because it's historically important. My writing redefines the way man engages with his God and reflects the way mankind interacts with its brethren.
The work stands regardless of whether or not I kneel. It has the legs of legend whether or not I retain the legs to hold my pride firm.
Will I write again? I don't know.
I know I have to step back while I still have the feet to walk a new path.