Thursday, October 4, 2012

Skippy Was Here

I recently finished reading the book Skippy Dies by Paul Murray.  It's a wonderful book.  The character Daniel Juster (nicknamed Skippy by his classmates) is an Irish lad attending a boarding school who finds himself caught in a perfect storm of emotional turmoil, eventually killing himself.

I can't help but wonder if I walked past Skippy a few nights ago.  This kid stopped me to ask directions.  It was pretty late on Tuesday.  In hindsight, so many things occurred to me that was wrong about the situation. Initially, I only kicked myself for the poor directions I gave.  But did I just abet Daniel Juster?

As a writer, I'm constantly wondering about these things.  I wonder about them in my head.  I wonder about them in my writing.  I wonder about them when I consider other people's writing.  I'm something of a Daniel Juster myself.  I'm not good at processing things that bother me.  And a lot of things bother me.

But I'm a writer.  Having a rough emotional life comes with the territory, right?  Except it's one thing to read about Hart Crane tossing himself off the side of a boat and quite another to be living the life yourself.  It sucks.  There's a whole group of writers I'm very loosely affiliated with who write about it.  But I don't feel like I'm connected to them.  I don't feel like I'm much connected to anyone, really.

I'm not asking for pity.  I'm simply explaining this writer's life.  I tried participating in some writing groups over the summer.  Well, got all the way through with one of them.  Quit the other.  This did not help me.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why I should be alienated from what seems to be my own kind.  This is some of what's bothered me in my writing career for many years.

But I get that not all writers write the same way, write the same things, have the same thoughts.  That would probably be more than a little boring.  But I keep thinking that it should be easier to find actual kindred spirits.  Maybe my kind really doesn't play well with others, even among our own kind.  Maybe that's it.

Murray wrote a 600+ page book about a bunch of characters who are experiencing very similar problems, and they all end up converging thanks to Skippy (well, I don't think anyone thanked him).  Maybe that's a little of what life's really like, even a writer's life, a life that seems predestined to misery.

Again, not looking for sympathy here.  This is what my journey is really like.  I figured it ought to be documented on the blog, is all.  This week I thought I would feel a little more triumphant.  I started writing my next book.  I got in my last book, which I had to order myself because of the way it was published.  I loved looking at it.  I loved holding it.  I loved starting to write the next book.

But the steps in the process are lonely, no matter where they might lead.  That's a little of what God (or whatever you might believe in) must experience, knowing how everything turns out but unable to change anything.  What happens happens.  It's not fun to experience.  The arc of it might work out better than the individual moments, but what can you do?  You're stuck in those moments.  Even God can't change that.

(A special assist to David Maine, whose Fallen I'm now reading.)


  1. 600 pages? I thought my one novel was long at 520. Writing groups are annoying. All you need is a good beta reader or two, but finding that is really hard.

  2. That is strange that you're not able to find your niche Tony. I wish I could help, but I'm not a writer and know nothing. I'm sure you'll find your place soon. Just keep trying man.

  3. I am extremely lucky to have stumbled into an amazing writer group. Everyone has different strengths which really helps. We did switch from the page-critique format to beta reading for each other. Much more productive. Writers are artists, and the artistic temperament sends us on some rocky climbs.


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