What gives you the write?
A few nights ago, I was fortunate enough to be in Park City, Utah as a patron of the Sundance Film Festival. For me, the goal of being a worthy patron is to see every single bit of footage that plays and consume every word spoken by the creators of the cerebral stories and imagery. Following the midnight screening of “THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID” [written by Kellie Overbey and directed by Carrie Preston], the festival busses had ceased to run and there were no cabs [or life] in site. I found myself standing outside in an effective blizzard with time to think. What came to mind initially was the festival. It was inspiring to be there and mingle with writers, producers, actors, fellow patrons, locals and directors of the films I adore. As I reflected on being in the midst of such a stimulating assemblage, I experienced an inward confrontation with my ego who asked, rather abrasively, “What gives you the right to regard yourself as a writer?”
There have been isolated instants of pondering in which I have tormented myself and demanded an answer to that very question, “What gives you the right?” I have considered what it really means to even be a writer. I contemplated the possibility that a person is not technically a writer, at least by title, if he or she is not getting paid to do it. I have badgered myself into thinking there is no way I can ever really be a writer without the backing of a framed university degree protected from wrinkles and bent edges by a thick layer of perfectly fitted matte cardboard tightly pressed against the perfectly level, slick finish of a slate glass plate with preventive elements to fend off UV exposure and prolong the array of colorfully engraved accreditations on the lone sheet of paper that is a testament to my ability to attend classes and think critically in all manners of academic discipline for 200K a year or less. I have slandered my work of prose and poetry that either sits inside of an unkempt and forgotten folder on my laptop or appears somewhere I posted it bereft of a publisher’s endorsement.
I am human and am therefore capable of doubting myself [worth / efficacy] at times and have wondered, “What am I even doing here?”
Thankfully, a very real meanness is harbored in the steel cage that is my heart and those moments are fleeting and don’t stagger away from me without a head full of broken teeth, two black eyes and tears that stream down the proverbial bridge of their non-corporeal, metaphorically mashed nose.
So I stood outside the theatre at 2 in the morning getting pelted by chunks of ice lobbed by the apparent sidearm of a low hanging cloud. During the film, I misplaced one of my gloves and I forgot to pee before exiting the theatre and the accumulated snow on the ground outside the theatre was enough for a person to sink into near their waist [or crotch, depending on the size of the person]. A number of patrons hovered around a bus schedule taped to a wooden fence that declared the property line of the theatre’s lot. The patrons mumbled things like, “Oh, this just can’t be right.” They checked their wristwatch, whisked their furry boots through snow gingerly placing each step into an existing footprint carved into the stark white powder at their feet and waited in an impossible queue of other callers hoping to secure a cab. I thought of the barriers the characters in the film I viewed mere moments ago were faced with. I thought about the conflict present for the characters in all of the films I love and it occurred to me, “That’s it. I connect with those characters because I can relate to their misery on some level.” I already knew that, but it was nice to remind myself of the strong connection – ordinary routines often distance a person from that very important bond they hold with their fictional heroes [that is true of me, at least]. In that moment of realization, I knew what I had to do. I puffed out my chest and I actually said, “Fuck it” and trudged out into the street to walk back to my bed where I’d sleep for 4 hours before peeling myself from a mélange of warm and cozy sheets to view ARBITRAGE [written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki].
As I high-stepped through the snow in the infantile hours of morning, I revisited my momentary doubt [likely provoked by the awe-inspiring talent of the festival] about the right I have or do not have to consider myself a writer. I viewed the doubt as my internal critic chirping loudly caused by an overdose of caffeine; we all have one, some more boisterous than others. In response to that little bastard’s prodding, I said this: “What gives me the right – what qualifies me as a writer, you little shit, is this all around me.” I made a sweeping gesture with an extended index finger for dramatic impact as my feet crunched in the snow. I continued, “I live and see and think and absorb and I absolutely dread the thought of one day not being able to write all about it. I don’t do it so that I can cash in and quit living my life. Winning a few contests and getting a script made into a film and getting a book of poems picked up by a publisher is certainly a goal but it’s not why I do it. I do it because I absolutely need to so that I can remain generally sane. Now get back in your hole before I let the motherfucker living behind the steel wall of my heart out again to lick you.”
As I made my way home with sopping wet socks, one of my hands exposed to the elements and a bone chilling gale force gust screaming into my face, I cackled wildly and felt more confident than I have ever felt. I thought of THIS poem by, Charles Bukowski that I read before I could drive legally. I thought, “Buk, it is alive in me just as much now as when I wrote those angst filled poems that probably rhymed and didn’t make any sense from the dank basement of parents’ home when I was 15 and you showed me the way to the keys and I finally spoke through my true voice.”
With that, I was no longer cold or filled with doubt. My only concern was getting to the keys so I could whip out the next line. The need to reach the keys was what drove me to carry on. And that… is what gives me [and you] the right to do this.
Benjamin Green © 2012