Several years ago, I (Lily) took a great writing class from Seattle writer Nick O'Connell. For the month or two that we met, each of us worked on one main piece. I attempted to write about two scenes of men and food and me. The whole thing was an embarrassment, and Nick kindly hinted that I needed to find the "universal truth" (a.k.a. The Point) of the stories to tie them together and to draw the reader in. I never quite got there, and I scrapped the whole thing, but I revisited one half of the story on Typetrigger not long ago.
In writing again about something I had struggled with before, I had the embarrassing epiphany that I had never quite gotten the concept of universal truth right. I had somehow assumed that the "average" reader to whom I was supposed to address my writing was expecting something moving, or lovely, or sweet or maybe profound. No one wants to be hamfisted. Plus, I didn't want to write something that would fit the bill for the "average" reader. I didn't really think they'd understand what I really wanted to say, so I overexplained, to position myself as somehow exceptional. Needless to say, this led to heavy navel gazing.
Typetrigger is helping me escape my own innane definition of universal truth, because in 300 words I don't have time to think too much about it. All I have room to do is to try to write something good, and to do that I have to write something that carries. (This is what I meant when I referred in my interview with Paul Constant to looking "like an asshole.") I don't worry about what it carries, but lo and behold: what tends to work best for me is the simplest observation. I can't tell my reader what to think of me or my story, and I realize no one will like me more for being the most incredibly profound, meaningful, sweet, unique person ever. It's rather refreshing.
I am sure that this epiphany of mine is well understood by folks all over, but I also think it is hard to get a hold on until you truly try to engage a reader for the first time. Once you realize how quickly 300 words go by, you realize how much can be wasted. The next time, you go back and tighten it up. Before you know it, you've got universal truth, right there. I have noticed that Typetrigger has opened things up for several writers. It is a real pleasure to read improvement in writers, to see good ideas develop into good storytelling as they get a handle on pacing and point.
I have really enjoyed a lot of the writing by itsalrightma, a writer from Georgia who has been on Typetrigger for a while. She writes personal things that don't make me disdain her or myself (which confessional writing can often do).
Waking at ungodly hours with a racing heart and a heavy mind, I find it strange to think that these are the best years of my life.
Maybe if I was content with getting drunk and fucking the first man to enter my line of vision every night, I would understand why people classify these years as such. But really, why do I find myself desiring, even momentarily, the things I’ve never wanted from life? It all comes back to Henry David Thoreau for me, as it often does. I sometimes feel I use his words more than my own. Anyways, he once wrote that “a stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind." Social novocain works for some, but the constant pursuit of such empty affairs just leaves me hollow. Whether or not the insignificant conquests are there, the despair will remain. Try though I might, I've accepted that some voids cannot be filled with liquor and lust.
Despite the inherent anxiety and occasional anguish of such transitional periods, I am determined to believe that these are some of the best years of my life. Not because of the supposed absence of responsibility, not due to the prevalence of revelry among my peers, but because these are the years that will prove that my own two feet are more than adequate enough to carry me through the years to come. Thoreauvian self-sufficiency isn't about the exclusion of others, but the importance of acknowledging and supporting yourself- and I'm starting to realize just how much I've neglected her lately.
And really, when it comes down to it, I’d much rather have a lifelong relationship with a dead author than a one-night stand with a deadbeat.