I woke up this morning excited about my battle cry from yesterday. After I posted it, I celebrated by listening to some Minutemen songs, reading some interviews with Mike Watt, watching parts of the documentary, We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. I want to jam econo. That’s not easy. I learned how to be an artist in a setting that valued — still values — gatekeeping. I’m still on the outside of that gate. I feel like it, anyway. Now I intend to take back control of what I say, how I say it, and disregard what happens inside the gate.
I’ve been writing a long time — close to thirty years. I got the most joy from writing when I was experimenting with blogs. I wrote a lot. I wrote what I wanted. It felt like a commonplace book — a place where I could put all sorts of things (words, sounds, images). It felt authentic, cathartic, artistic, journalistic. It meant a lot to me. I stopped doing that because I was scared: scared that nobody cared or that nobody got what I was trying to do. I started to feel embarrassed that so much of me was on full display like that.
But nearly everybody whose art I love (particularly music) is on display that way. Raw. Strange. Real. Unabashed — or unapologetically abashed. Somehow, strangely, both. People like D. Boon and Mike Watt and George Hurley. Three super earnest dudes from San Pedro who subsisted on their unvarnished love for one another and for the music they made together. And not just the Minutemen. John Prine too. And Uncle Tupelo. Drive-by Truckers. Jason Isbell. Sturgill Simpson. Arcade Fire. Neutral Milk Hotel. Lisa Hannigan. The Frames. The list goes on and on and on. They all do their own thing, in their own way.
I have to unlearn some lessons because I learned many years ago that writing doesn’t work like that. Not least because publishing doesn’t work like that. Every time I hit “publish” on my blog (or send tweet), I devalue my words. Piss into the wind. Rain in the ocean. Tears in rain. When I was getting an MFA, you weren’t even supposed to publish your work in online venues. Paris Review or bust. That’s changed, but the idea that you’d publish yourself — like nearly all of the above musicians have done — is still, to some degree, taboo. I want something different.
Starting next Monday, I’m going to do it differently. I’m going back to writing the real-time commonplace book that gave me so much joy. I’m going to try really hard not to be embarrassed by what I really think. I’m going to write regularly, not labor over it, and I’m going to put it all out there. No gatekeepers. No gates. I’m my own bleep and blorp. I know from experience there isn’t a very large audience for that sort of thing. There are a lot of kindred spirits, though. Fellow laborers. I hope I find them, and they find me.