Ashton Goggans? Are you still there li'l pussy?
Did you know that November is prostate health awareness month? Of course you did. But do you participate? Do you grow your moustache in order to celebrate Movember? I hope you do. Prostate health is very important etc. I’ve been sporting a moustache for the past two years but shave it off every November just so passerbys don’t confuse me for someone with a moral conscious. I don’t have one and it would be a rude sleight of hand to pretend I do.
November is also National Novel Writing Month and you didn’t know that but should. Novels are more interesting than prostates, or I’m guessing. I’ve only written one and started four and none will ever see the light of day. Even so, my literary agent (the absolute best in the world) allowed me to write a piece on “Why I Write” to celebrate NaNoWriMo and I decided to share with you too since you are the ones who put up with me every single day of the week, multiple times.
Sorry but without further ado…
I like to write more than almost anything. I like to write more than I like to surf, more than I like to shop in label-hooker shops. More than I like feeling the warm sun on my face. Writing came to me not because I have any talent, at all, but because I fell in love with writers. I wanted to be Albert Camus with his flipped collar and jaunty cigarette. I wanted to be Tom Wolfe in his impeccable white suit. I wanted to be Norman Mailer, boozy Norman Mailer, getting in fights, getting beat up by rivals, getting laughed off the stage after delivering an awful boozy performance.
Writers eclipse all the stars of the universe, who could possibly disagree, and the only way to become a writer was to write.
Just after 9/11 my two best friends in the world and I went to Yemen to be the first ever surfers up its mainland coast. I had heard on the news that Osama bin Laden’s family had come from the hills surrounding the city Al Mukallah, found it on a map and stared at the coastline. There had to be surf there. Just had to be.
We financed the trip, partially, by pitching stories to surf magazines even though none of us had ever written more than a school paper. My friend Josh would write for Surfer and I’d write for Australia’s Surfing Life. Months later we were there, wild explorers living literary dreams. We were like Livingston, Burton and T.E. Lawrence with his steely blue eyes pointing out across the desert.
We found surf, yes, got in trouble, very much so, and lived by the seat of our threadbare boardshorts for three months. Al-Qaeda chases, shootouts, pirate encounters, etc. The story should have written itself.
Except I wrote it.
I remember feeling like a future Pulitzer Prize winner as I punched my computer keys. I was doing the exact same that Evelyn Waugh, Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson had done. I was one of them. Maybe not exactly one but in the room or maybe in the yard. I emailed the story to the editor, pleased as pie, then went out to the mailbox to wait for the issue to arrive in the mail.
Three further months later it was there. I ripped off the plastic sheath, threw the surf DVD aside, furiously pawed through the pages and found my story.
It was the worst thing anyone had ever written on earth. Pompous, ill-informed, narcissistic, horribly paced, littered with first person-pronouns. I buried my head in my hands, all dreams crushed, all hopes dashed.
I would never be a writer.
A few months later found my two best friends and me in Lebanon, working on a story for Vice. Josh, writing well and smartly, kept sending stories in which came back with notes before I decided to give it a crack, writing a pompous, ill-informed, narcissistic, horribly paced piece littered with first-person pronouns.
Vice accepted it instantly and look at me now. Look at me, damn it. In all truth, though, I have fallen deeply, hopelessly in love with writing and will never stop again even if I’m my only audience.