The Authenticity Experiment, the make America great again edition? That’s right, a question mark. Because I wonder what America we’re trying to make great again. Is it the America where the trains still ran and coal provided good jobs for people? Is it the America where one generation could succeed, economically-speaking, better than the one before? (Because, really, that one typically only happened for white people.) Is it the America that’s been sold to us by Madison Avenue? The one where the sun shines, coffee is always plentiful (and cheap), jobs pay well, and amber waves of grain move us to pledge allegiance?
Because here’s the thing, I think I understand some of the desperation that underemployed and jobless Trump voters feel and the America they want back. I think I understand it because the company I’ve worked with for the past 13 years is losing thousands of employees today. But you won’t hear 45 talking about these folks because this layoff isn’t making the news. This company is forcing people to relocate to “colocation work centers” (if that doesn’t sound like ominous propaganda, I don’t know what does). And if you “choose” not to uproot your life and family and relocate—to San Francisco, to Austin, to Raleigh, to New York City—well then you get three months to find another job within a company that already relies on contractors for half its work, and then you get your walking papers.
That’s today for guest writer David Harlan. David wrote this piece for me last year when I was soliciting guest posts and while the writing was solid, I thought that it was a little too dark. I felt a little uncomfortable with seeing his bare process on the page—even though that’s what I do week after week. It. Was. Just. So. Raw.
Yet in these last three months, I’ve watched the man I’ve known for more than 30 years devolve because the company he’s worked with for 17 years has said the millions of dollars of business he’s brought them and the team he’s managed doesn’t matter because he wasn’t doing it while sitting in a grey cubicle in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Suddenly, his guest post made sense. This is what happens when we treat people like commodities—disposable commodities at that. This is what happens when we simply give someone an ID number and fail to view the person behind the number. They doubt themselves. They hang on the cross of perfectionism. And then, just maybe, they find a way to remake themselves.
So go get some coffee, sit down, and read what my friend David Harlan has to say—then go make some art and maybe remake yourself, and stop worrying if you are good or bad. Just worry that you are.
There was a time in my life when I was convinced I could do anything. Well, almost anything. But I clearly remember as recently as maybe about five or six years ago that I was convinced that I could write anything that needed to be written. Poems, plays, prose, pop songs, personnel manuals, pithy ad copy. Send the assignment to me. I could do it.
This was me. This wasn’t that long ago.
Fast forward to few hours ago when Kate asked me to write a guest post here. Immediately after saying, “Sure, Kate.” I thought oh shit, I can’t write… and what followed was a string of thoughts such as: …like Kate,…stuff that people would want to read,…quickly enough to get it to her in time, and the final ending that came to mind was simply a full stop. A period.
The thought became: I can’t write.
But I’m a writer. Professionally. Pathologically. Many other adverbs that start with a “P”.
And some verbs: Published. Produced. Praised. (And, yes, panned.)
And yet, the thought was I can’t write.
I know I can write. I do write. Daily. For both of my jobs. But in my mind right now, the stuff that comes out of the tips of my fingers isn’t “enough” and what does come out is all crap.
And this, right now, these words are crap.I look back and up come the thoughts: You forced the alliteration up there, Dave. Why all of those one line paragraphs, Dave? What’s your point, Dave? You’re babbling, Dave. No one cares what you think, Dave. You’ll never get it done in time, Dave. Just tell her you can’t do it, Dave. Who the fuck do you think you are, Dave.
Who the fuck do I think I am?
And now the thought is Kate’s readers are going to say ‘oh isn’t that a cute little writer’s block piece that amateur wrote.’
The backspace key is calling my right ring finger. It really wants me to just press it and hold it for a long time. (Oh good! Personify your computer, Dave.)
But here we are. I resisted the urge. I have words on the page. Someone once told me that we need to put words on the page. (We all know that, Dave.) We can’t get anywhere unless we put words on the page. And maybe that’s the lesson I can take out of this blog post. I put the words on the page.
And some days – some years, perhaps – that’s all you can do.
You look at your life: The loneliness. The deaths. The separations. The perfect “money” job that is tumbling into idiocy. The artistic path that seems to be turning from a highway to a goat trail. The loneliness. The pains in your shoulder and your foot and your hand and your knee. The climate and the shootings and the politics and the refugees. The loneliness. The routines that you hope are keeping you sane and you worry are turning pathological. The loneliness.
You look at all of this and you do what you have to do. You get out of bed. You drink your coffee. You eat. You work. You walk. You find some pleasure in something—watching a football game, reading a book, building something. You go to sleep. And you do it all again the next day.
And because you’re a writer, you try to put words on a page. Because you’re alive and that’s who you are.
So, to answer the earlier question: right now, sitting on this bed, typing on this computer, that’s who the fuck you are, Dave. A writer. You’re a writer. Period. Full stop.
David Harlan is a writer and theatre artist in Moscow, Idaho. He is the founder of Moscow Art Theatre (Too) which produces both classics and new work, sometimes in a converted grain silo, sometimes in what you might call a “real” theater. You can learn more about David and some of the cool things he does at www.david-harlan.com.