I drove from Ohio to Tennessee yesterday. A little over seven hours. It’s a journey I often made when living in Tennessee. Now that I live on the other end, not as much. The drive isn’t as scenic as I remember. Nostalgia and all that, I suppose.
Through most of the trek, from just outside Dayton to just beyond Nashville, I listened to Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur as read by Tom Parker playing on my phone via an earbud in my right ear. The car I borrowed lacked a radio. Despite having read On The Road five times in the last 12 years, this was only the second book of Kerouac’s I’d read. The two books were published only 5 years apart, but there seemed to me, at least, a noticeable difference in style which if I had to put a finger on, I’d say was due to Kerouac’s evolution as a writer.
I’m no literary scholar. Let’s get that out of the way right now. Neither am I an expert on Kerouac. My assumptions of the differences between these two works could be and probably are stupidly erroneous. Whatever. I guess that’s not really the point I’m making. It made me think about how writers mature and how that maturation reveals itself in the writing. Mostly because I’m going through the same.
The guiding philosophy of my writing has been the same since undergrad; “Everything is Broken,” like the Bob Dylan song off 1989’s Oh Mercy. I used to believe that. Part of me probably still does if I cared to delve. But I’ve changed not just as a writer but as a human person in all those years. By God, I hope so, anyway. It should go that my philosophy should change right along, too. And then it came to me.
I’m not getting into details or personal emotional, psychoanalytical, Myers-Briggs, woe-is-me, personality plop. Nope. But I will say that as I sat at my mind-numbing, mind-eviscerating temp day job a few weeks ago, my brain coughed up this little loogie-gem from out of nowhere. Wasn’t even thinking about it. “Your stories are haunted by the inability of characters to ever truly connect with others.” I wanted to dramatically fall out of my chair as a sort of acknowledgment and respect for the revelation, but work wasn’t the time or place. If a writer must write of which he knows, and as I’ve written, he does, then this guiding ideology is my special domain.
It’s a special kind of realization, recognizing what you’re meant to write. It’s like if someone dropped a calculus textbook in my lap and told me to memorize it, but when I opened it I found I’d written it. I’m home. And I’m so excited to write.