By: Ben Johnson
The problem with being a writer, a problem with being a writer, is…
Actually, using the phrase “the problem with being a writer” is a problem with being a writer. That’s such a douche phrase. Could you imagine if you said that out loud? Like to another person, in a conversation, and the other person in the conversation did not start that conversation by asking you “hey, Ben, what is a problem with being a writer?” I would die of embarrassment the instant I became aware that I used those words.
You know in old cartoons where Bugs Bunny tricks Elmer Fudd, and Elmer Fudd is walking, and he realizes he’s been tricked, so he turns and looks at the camera and turns into a lollipop that says “SUCKER” on it? Well realizing that you’ve just used the phrase “the problem with being a writer” is like that, except instead of a lollipop you turn into Ira Glass. It still says “SUCKER” on your Ira Glass face, though.
Nobody has asked me, and probably nobody ever will ask me, to articulate a problem with being a writer. It’s very likely that nobody will ever care what I think is an example of a problem with being a writer. It’s supremely, extraordinarily likely that if you are reading this right now, you’ve read the last two sentences and taken them as permission not to care, and if you still have any interest whatsoever in reading the rest of this, you’re at the point now where you consider it a slog. Because I haven’t gotten to the point. I’ve only been overly self-aware so far in a transparently neurotic bid to get you to like me. That’s a problem with being a writer too.
The problem I’m experiencing most right now is that I’ve spent so much time writing things that this is now how my brain works. I process information like I am writing that information. I summarize and reorder, and try to find the most precise description of my feelings, and I distill everything I experience and think and feel that passes a basic threshold of importance of “this is a thing I am experiencing and thinking and feeling” into these whimsical little bon mots to publish and disseminate and then either move on from or be able to look at later if and when needed, and I have done this often enough for it to become the only process I can use to get through anything. THAT is a problem with being a writer.
I’m in the middle of something massive and confusing right now, with massive and confusing and conflicting feelings, and my goddamn writer brain is going to work on everything, like stomach bacteria, breaking every damn thought or feeling that pops into my head into little Ira Glass “SUCKER” metaphorical turns of phrase for me to listen to while I walk around like I’m a goddamn podcast of myself. “Stomach bacteria” for example. It’s not like fucking stomach bacteria at all. It’s the passage of time and the normal, massive, confusing changes that life brings to a person. It has nothing whatsoever to do with stomach bacteria. Stomach bacteria are for digestion, this is the emotional equivalent alternate meaning of the word “digest,” so, fuck, actually that is a pretty good metaphor.
ACT 2: The Things We Say to One Another When We Know Things Aren’t Quite Right…
Ira Glass. Oh man. What a chump. He understands exactly how to be Ira Glass and how to do exact Ira Glass things in the perfect Ira Glass way where you can hate Ira Glass all you want but you are still interested most of the time when Ira Glass is doing a thing. Ira Glass is exactly so much Ira Glass, and for so long, that he sometimes sounds like he’s going to explode on the air, like the whole of his being is an overripe pimple and one day it’ll just pop and there will be no more Ira Glass, and we’ll all just go, “oh, yeah, got it. Whew, that was a good one.”
I do not want to process information that way. I want my life to be a big stinky mess, and I want to sit in it, a mess myself, and I want to be able to write in a way that is also a mess, that reflects how messy everything always is, giant limpid pools of cess-riddled mess, piled pet hair, permanently itched nostrils, dead time with people in it, some arguing crows too lazy to even fly, suffering from Time Disease, and here I am, walking distance to two dildo stores now. There are bricks in the sink and I wash them. My life is a new job. My hands are made of hand meat and hand skin. They are not for anything. I’m bruggled, and torp a chough to shand with. I’ve possened. I’m a me machine. Kept her motor clean.
I’m being cryptic. My mother is reading this and she is worried. She cannot stop herself from worrying about me because she is my mother, and then I give her a reason to be worried, like a paragraph that doesn’t make sense, every word I say to be pored over like a suicide note because I don’t talk because I can’t talk because she worries whether I talk or don’t talk, and I am worried too and just want to not be worried, want to sit at the bottom of the ocean for a while even if the pressure is so great it squishes my head like a rotten pumpkin, long enough that when I come up I am not defending myself to my mother or myself or God or anybody else.
I am fine. Everything is fine. I just have a lot to deal with right now. I promise I will reach out if… I reach out. I will do that if I do that. I will do everything I do if I do it, from now on, and I do not want or need anything to make sense anymore, and I damn sure don’t want to be an Ira Glass stomach bacteria about it, converting my whole life into LOLs to be shit out and favorited and liked and shared and retweeted and understood by anybody, especially me.
I do not want to do that. But I can’t stop it from happening inside of me. It sucks. I’m my own least favorite subject. I’m as bored as you probably are, and I’m sorry. I should have kids by now. I should have already turned to dust and been sucked up to the moon. I don’t have an excuse or a gramble to fust. I’m Borgnine.