Since I had my first child almost 18 years ago, before I’m anything else I am glue. I am what holds other people’s lives together. To be glue, I need to be both invisible and reliable. It’s quite a glamorous adventure.
I don’t think I’m any different on the page. How could I be, when for most of my adult life I have been trying to write directly out of my own lived experience?
And by ‘directly’, I mean, directly: without the medium of media acting as a buffer between the day-to-day grind and the tomfoolery of my imagination. I work without reading, or watching, very much stuff.
I read a lot of fiction as a kid, but in middle age I haven’t had the same freedoms. I watch some light and fluffy TV with the family, but lately not much for myself, and looking at Twitter I feel like my intake is lower than average. I can’t really figure out how people consume so much material when, for me, going into these media experiences is intense and mind-landscaping and takes a lot of processing time that I don’t really have (because glue). Maybe other people process things faster.
I feel like a big weirdo for admitting the above. I would love to read more, but not at the expense of neglecting my gluehood. Based on scuttlebutt since forever I’m pretty sure that I am supposed to be aspiring to be a big shot with my bigbrain. I would like to do more but the unsolvable problem is that the people who are held highest in the culture are those who leave the gluing to others and then pretend no glue exists even though, without a shit ton of invisible help, their eyeballs would fall into their cognac*. This reality-warping elision leaves gluefolk to get on with it in humble fashion, which is not the worst thing unless you care about recognition, as everyone in the media seems to (I guess that’s something of a circle jerk), or survival. After all, these same elision-artists are the beaters of a world that is enthusiastically falling apart, in case anyone failed to notice that no glue can withstand a sustained and deliberate assault.
If we made Glue visible, would that help the situation for everyone? To me, being visible has always implied becoming a target, so I have mixed feelings on this subject. It shouldn’t be necessary to be up on a stage to be accorded value. Worms do important work, too, and fungi and plankton and microorganisms and so on. There are many stories underground and in the air and earth and water that have not been found or formed, surely. In fact, the telling of untold (and especially untellable) stories is the very difficulty and challenge in science fiction.
In the end, it is because I am looking for the unseen that I don’t try harder to ‘catch up’ with all the latest media output. And you know what? With respect to any work, my own or a blockbuster piece of media that I munch with Doritos, when all of the bells and whistles are stripped away I am only ever working with the primary source of my life. I’m trying to take the many hours spent putting stuff back in order in the kitchen, negotiating homework, shopping, organising car repairs, and so on and alchemise them into the gold or silver or wood or plastic of a true story. The story is a residue of my life, not my life’s purpose. As a corollary, I’m not writing to escape my life, but to enter into it more deeply.
* I’m not sure about the beverage here, but I’m definitely positively certain about the eyeballs part