An Un-Drunk Un-Rant

7:49 AM – Been awake awhile. Reading. Walking Chicken Dinner. Making and drinking coffee. Today is a whole day that can start and end whenever it pleases.

***

“The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published. You’ll never get to where you want to be that way, I tell them.”  – Anne Lamott

Yes, this is the sin. And here’s my confession.

I find it interesting that people who play guitar or piano or sing for a hobby or at their local church are not expected to cut records, just as the fellows who play basketball every Monday night at the gym or in the park are not expected to make pro-teams, and the expert cook or grill attendant who gives new definitions to something as simple as grilled cheeses and hamburgers is not expected to open a restaurant, but someone who writes is often not considered a writer – usually or even especially by themselves – until they publish on a grand scale. It’s a bizarre pressure, the one that writers place upon their own heads. And it’s a strange dichotomy, one that pertains primarily to writers and rarely elsewhere.

Thus far, by age 35, my writing life has consisted primarily of small pieces in quiet pages and Word documents, in notebooks that now belong to my friend Sean, in letters and criticisms that have sometimes hit the web and sometimes touched print and sometimes scored two points landing in the trash. I can safely say that I have written something for some length of time every single day for the past ten years. At least a single sentence. Perhaps only to jot down a quote that made me jealous enough to jot down that quote. Unfortunately, these pittered things have been so unrelated and scattered and even lost that the record and proof of them speaks against me. I write at times and share with others. I write at times and toss the pages. I write at times and then hit Save or Delete and never look back. But I have written. I do write. Something in my bones demands it of me.

For several years the majority of my writings, seen only by my friend Sean, took the form of drunken rants. Sean loved these rants. Sean often said these rants were the greatest things I ever put on paper. He said these rants revealed unwavering honesty. He told me to reread them and then take long walks and then write them again without all the slurring speech and real names. “Here’s your stories. Here’s your novels. Sober up and write about these things,” he’d say.

Well, Sean, I sobered up. And now I do not remember why I ranted. So that leaves me spinning words for other reasons. Creativity. Argument. Criticism. Correspondence. Anne Lamott and Lena Dunham. Rashida Jones and Gator Boy. Gender qualms and celebrity dreams. Tim O’Brien and my father’s war. My sweet Latonya and Chicken Dinner. Jesus Christ and Old Scratch. Dramatically: my bones demand it. Honestly: it’s that time of day. I’ve got plenty of reasons to write long before publication should enter consideration. And I know which one I’m choosing today.

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About Kiki Malone

Girding till the break of dawn.
This entry was posted in Bird By Bird, Books, Stories, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to An Un-Drunk Un-Rant

  1. sethhaines says:

    Malone,

    This is one of the best pieces on writing I’ve ever read. And in case you’re wondering, I’ve read some good words on writing.

    More dead bodies,

    Seth

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Seth,

      I take your words as the highest of compliments, as if Strawberry Shortcake approved my Herbal Essence shampoo scent. Thanks for calling on Friday make sure things were moving in the right direction. And thanks for the Tweet that made my WordPress stats spike. I know that was you!

      -kiki

    • Tanya Marlow says:

      He’s right: this is brilliant.

      • Kiki Malone says:

        Tanya,

        Thank you greatly. You are the kindest stranger I’ve met today, if you do not include the elderly lady who sold me my Skittles at Wal-Greens and said, with full earnest, “Now you enjoy these.” She said it like a blessing, and that’s how I accepted it.

        -kiki

  2. i think i’ve had this conversation a million times – are you a writer because you write or because you’ve got something in a bookstore to show for it? THIS is my favorite argument to date for the in-your-bones of it.

    also – is chicken dinner a dog? i hope so.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Abby – These are good questions because they apply to so many areas of life: am I [fill-in-blank] without public recognition?

      Also, slightly related, I heard fantastic debates this week concerning the definitions of art galleries and marriage. In the first, a local tattoo shop, where I’ve commissioned and received most of my work, wants to move into the downtown area that has strict zoning codes on what businesses can set up shop. Arsenal Tattoo is attempting to move into downtown as a working “art gallery.” They have a compelling argument. Secondly, I heard a wonderful discussion on Fresh Air this week about the ways our same-sex marriage debates have challenged the definition of marriage at the lexicographical level. Dictionaries are having a heck of a time with that word!

      But all this goes back to your original question because it’s stabbing at the heart and core or what we actually mean – and what may be the peripheral possibilities – when we invoke a particular word. Writer. Art gallery. Tattoo Parlor. Marriage. Civil union. These to me are debates I’m shocked more people do not find interesting.

      I should have written a whole post about this.

      Also, yes, Chicken Dinner is our pug. We named him Chicken Dinner because he’s a Winner Winner.

      -kiki

  3. E says:

    Write on, writer

  4. KellyR says:

    We used to write a lot to each other…I miss that. And I have this inner debate every time I sit down in front of my blank Word doc.

  5. Chad says:

    Kiki–

    It’s been a pleasure reading your writing and having you read mine. That you’re gone to this shit is obvious to anyone who knows you. I’ve been thinking of late about the nature of publishing, and in particular, the role of a writer in community. People who have a personal need to write are fulfilling a unique need in their community. The question then; who is your community? If you want community on a massive scale, then you must publish with a big publishing house. If you want community mostly with your neighbors, then all you need is a pen and a paper sack. There is that thorny issue of a livelihood, but this is why we should support (and be supported by) the local arts.

    Speaking of the un-drunk, Anne Lamott started as a pretty good novelist. then she sobered up and wrote a book on writing that was amazing, BUT she made bank with all those terrible pieces of saccharine quasi-spiritual parenting, woah is me non-fiction. It was her non-fiction that put her on the NYTimes Bestseller list. So…do you think she would have kept writing pretty good novels (that no one read) if she stayed a drunk?

    And with that, I’m off to buy a chapbook.

    chard

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Chadlicious,

      I appreciate everytime you read anything I’ve written. I also consider you an authority, and I look forward to a chat and a bowl this summer. Expect me to call soon for and with details.

      And I would be lying to say I don’t think about publishing. I think about it greatly. This post is my confession that I often think about publishing to the detriment of creation. Which I do not want. I’ve got to trust that I do what I do regardless, even though I really want the print and praise. I’m not faking any funk there.

      As for my audience, that’s a tough question, and one I feel that I’m revisiting even now. Which might be why I felt willing to begin a new blog. Several things in my life feel like they are in flux because the way I was doing things wasn’t working. Therefore, I needed new ways. And I feel open to anything, really. Which means I may be open to new definitions of “audience.”

      About un-drunk, I can’t go back to drunk. Even if my writing suffers for it. I’d prefer to steer clear of the “saccharine, quasi-spiritual” stuff because that stuff makes my stomach churn. But I can’t steer clear of God anymore than you can steer clear of the Lord. It’s a fine line to walk : to believe something and to have it bleed into our language, but to have it do so honestly and without fear of publication or unpublication. You can bless me in these matters.

      – kiki

      • Kiki Malone says:

        (Chadvantageous, I’ll also confess that I have never read a novel by Anne Lamott, mostly because there’s always something else to read and, as the Brits would say, “I can’t be asked”. Also, I did not finish Traveling Mercies because, at some point on some page, I lost interest. But Bird By Bird is a bit of a bible. I’ve read it several times. And I’m glad to read through it again – even if it’s all the Lamott I will ever actually read. There. I’ve said it. Feel free to recommend one of the good novels.)

      • mwerntz says:

        Also related: how on earth did we get to be 35?

  6. mwerntz says:

    Wonderful. You’re already a writer. The sobriety, I think, means sharpening those words, refining those points, so that publication is just the natural conclusion.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      That’s a fine vote of confidence, and I thank thee for it. You wouldn’t know the words are being sharpened by this 5 AM drivvle I’m publishing in the meantime. But we shall see.

      How long you holding to Bob Barker? I love it, but I’m still curious.

  7. Winn Collier says:

    Kiki, you’re obviously a writer, a word I don’t use lightly. You’ve made friends with the words, and they’ve made friends with you. You did good listening to Amber.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      Winn – Thank you for the kind words. Amber’s never led me astray, even and especially when she suggested I try mustard on my sausage biscuits. I’ve never looked back.

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