I decided for my birthday this year that I would try to set myself up for being able to not just relax throughout the day but also to feel accomplished, responsible, and so I’ve spent the past few weeks picking up the pace on a novel I started working on back in February, Cubatooth Camgirl, so that it would be finished and presentable by the 24th. Photogenic.
I wanted to be able to brag about it.
I’ve also taken the first section of a novel I wrote two years ago and published it as a standalone thing. It’s called Horny Nuns and you can buy it here. I’m kinda worried to be sharing it because even though it’s gotten closer to publication than any of my other books, insofar as a few agents asked for either larger samples or the whole manuscript. But they all said no, finally, for one reason or another.
The reason I’m posting Horny Nuns (Editor’s Note from the Future: I’m noticing I shy away from saying “self published”) is partly cuz I’ve got this new novel, Cubatooth Camgirl, that I can work on and get my hopes up about.
Another reason is I’ve come to embrace this mindset that, years ago, was also the impetus for writing [this] long essay about Kevin Smith (and, at the end of it, about the possibility of putting the book out there myself. It’s a long idea, I’ll spare you the details, but he puts it pretty succinctly in a recent podcast, talking to his daughter, where he says that if he had waited for somebody to give him an opportunity to make a movie, he’d still be waiting. What he says is that you’ve gotta make your own opportunity. If nobody’s giving you something to act in, you’ve gotta write, direct, shoot and edit something of your own. If no eminent person is gonna listen to your EP, you’ve gotta put it out there on your own. And, in my case, if nobody’s gonna publish your writing, well, maybe you’ve just gotta publish it yourself. Smith says of his movies (which are an acquired taste, he’s aware) that they might not be great, but they’re all he’s got, and it brings him joy to make and share them.
I might not have written a great book, but I did write a book, and I like that book, and I’d be happy to share it with you.
I do kinda feel—if I spend too much time dwelling on it—that self-publishing even just the first chapter of Horny Nuns is a sign of defeat, a submission to the fact that I can’t make it in the publishing world just yet. But—to mention him a third time—Smith also mentioned, using the Coen brothers as an example, that if you do your own weird little thing for a long enough time, if you do it efficiently and consistently and with kindness and good intentions, it’s likely that the Powers that Be, the gatekeepers you could never win over at the outset, will come to you., You’ve just gotta prove yourself. Create a platform and show that you’re born for this.
And I don’t think I’ve done that yet.
To think of where I was a year ago today is sobering because in some ways it was better, in others it wasn’t as good, but mostly I’m haunted by how recent it seems. How clearly it plays in my head. The things I watched and wrote, the places I went, the perfect company in which I spent the evening.
I think it’s been about five years now that I’ve been writing annual posts about getting a year old and I tend to make it a slideshow of memories from the year, a chronicle of hangups, but seeing as I’ve got such a blissfully huge amount of very personal and exciting work on my plate for this particular birthday (two novels to play with, the podcast, the diary posts, the movie essays), and in part because the past year was characterized largely by an absence, a shitshow of booze and regret, as well as an unprecedented (and duplicitously motivated) obsession with and doubling-down on work—all of which has been laboriously chronicled in the past six months of essays on this site—I see no need to do all that.
What’s better to focus on, I think, is this newfound appreciation for friendship (key players of the year have been Laz, Ana, Bob & Lynda, my friend and colleague Jesus, and Sechina) and also an appreciation for the sanctity of good work. I’ve spent a couple hundred hours this year in the employ of somebody who’s pretty demeaning and the stress and indignity of that job has cemented for me the idea that, no matter what, I need to make a life of the things I love and I need to do them on my own terms: the writing, the reading, the movies, the podcasting.
And I’m realizing that the way to make that happen is to just do it. Show up at the desk, the laptop, the mic—write about whatever’s consuming me and be sincere about it, revealing, and to not focus so much on the stats page, and wondering whether people are reading the work, listening, sharing, liking. I think the goal is to be too preoccupied with a given project to worry about whether the last one was well-received.
Smith kinda touches on this issue too in that recent podcast with his daughter: she’s tryna get into Hollywood, wants to be an actor and a filmmaker, and he’s telling her that the industry is characterized by so much hurry-up-and-wait, such long gaps during which a project has to be filtered through a buncha different channels, that she’s gonna need to have other projects to occupy her lest she find, after four months waiting to hear back about something, that it’s not gonna get a green light, or that it’s just gonna fizzle away, cuz then you’ll have been out of commission for nothing. So you’ve lost all this time, burned all this energy—and you’ve got nothing to show for it. Not even a good experience.
So ahdunno. I’m not all that anxious about being a couple years from my thirties, but maybe next year is when that’ll hit me. Frankly, I’m not even all that flustered to think that I haven’t made it yet, professionally (although it’d be cool if Horny Nuns were out there in the world already, published, and I were kinda building off of that), because I honestly don’t think I’ve done enough to earn it. I need to be posting every day and I need to be doing that for a really long time.
Going into my twenty eighth year I think I’m more confident about just doing my thing. I’ll confess that one of the inhibiting factors in self-publishing that first part of Horny Nuns is that when people search my dad’s name, or my mom’s, they’re gonna see a link to something called Horny Nuns and, if they’re asked, they’re gonna have to say, “Yeah, that’s my son.” Or not, actually, I suppose they could lie.
But yeah: I’m slowly acclimating myself to the fact that it isn’t my problem if people are gonna cringe and feel that they have to explain their relation to me. If anything, it’s something to be proud of.