One word in front of the other

I’ve spent the last few weeks – months? – suffocated by the incomplete post I’ve just uploaded in its still fragmented form. I don’t know what it is about me, but I want, need to be perfect in everything I do. Especially when it’s something I’m creating.

It’s a fool’s errand. I sit here having watched the arguably pointless film American Splendor, based on the similarly arguably pointless comic book American Splendor, which is based on the perceived to be pointless life of career grump Harvey Pekar.

Of course it isn’t pointless. Even if, more than 30 years after Harvey first put pencil to paper to draw the stickman frame of his comic book story, the only thing it has achieved is to kick me in the figurative teeth and remind me why I started this blog in the first place, it isn’t pointless.

Of course, it isn’t pointless because it’s a story, and stories are never pointless. But most of all it isn’t pointless because the creativity came from Harvey’s heart – he did what seemed right to him, what came naturally, he brought his truth out and made something with that.

Of course, it can feel pointless. This feels pointless. American Splendor was moving, but in the selfish way I’m moved by anything that details people’s internal quests to finding the truth that’s reverberating like a beaten drum in their souls – whatever that truth is and whatever form it takes.

Of course in a way this is pointless. I ought (ought!?) to be writing something I can call writing, or call truth, or show to someone and be proud of, point to and say ‘I made that. I made that’. Pride, selfishness, introspectiveness, self-examination, guilt… All these are stopping me writing something true to me while clawing at me to create something true.

Of course, feeling that way is pointless.

Writing to me has for a very long time been about banging and hammering something into a form that’s recognisable, that fits a genre or a type or a style or, whatever. I want to be Stephen King, I want to write RedEye columns until my rage is exorcised, I want to create characters of fibre within stories of meaningful power, I want to be a thinker, an action-packed author, a writer of imagination and scope, a man with a viewpoint and a message.

The reason – selfish, selfish, selfish – that movies like American Splendor really move me so far as to reduce me to tears is that outside of watching these movies (or the few minutes of grace immediately afterwards, sat in front of a keyboard with the DVD menu score looping endlessly) I forget to be myself, and to put that into my writing.

My fiancée and I don’t always match up on movies. I like films where nothing happens, while she just gets bored, and American Splendor is another of those films that I have to watch alone because Jen would find it pretty boring. Not because of quality, or of her own perception (she’s sharp like a surgeon’s blade) but because Jen already has her truth and watching other people search for theirs isn’t enough.

Sadly I go on watching dramatised versions of other creative people find their truth (I’m beginning to think ‘truth’ is terribly mawkish for this) and tend to try to follow their path instead of finding my own. And then, finding something that might be close, I fret about making sure I’m not messing up, confusing my points or basically not creating something perfect that can’t be picked apart.

By this point I’ve already stopped writing from the heart and have started thinking about the next paragraph, the perfect ending, the summing up. So I’ll just end it there and make sure to come back.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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