I'm looking for literary/media outlets specifically relevant to purveyors of rambly, tangential narrative mostly-autobiographical non sequiturs (i.e. the sort of writing that's my stock in trade). The recent death of David Rakoff has managed to make my old joke about just accumulating all my writing in a well-marked little box so I can be discovered posthumously seem a little less funny, given that I'm only a few years younger than he is and have been steadfast in my dedication to purposely sabotaging every opportunity that comes my way. Thing is, I have a terrible confession—
—I don't read.
, well, I read, but I read science and gearheady stuff and Make magazine and stacks of old Popular Mechanics from the sixties and history and biographies of interesting people and Tom Swift and The Bobbsey Twins and that sort of thing. Since I started writing in earnest, I stopped reading work that had something in common with the kind of writing I do because it has three complicating effects on me: (1) I either end up emulating or trying too hard not
to emulate, (2) if it's bad, it makes me feel like a loser because people who aren't good writers are better at marketing themselves than me, and (3) if it's good, great, or transcendent, it makes me feel hopeless, because I'll never do anything that good, and I already have a serious cosmic issue of hopelessness in that I'll sometimes just sit back, overwhelmed by the immensity of human existence, and say "what's the point
of all these stupid stories?"
All the clouds turn to words, all the words float in sequence, no one knows what they mean, everyone just ignores them.
I've gotten amazing support from people here at MetaFilter, which is why I started clogging up comment threads with my long-winded and occasionally relevant replies to posts that catch my interest, and I've been making a little list of the venues people list as possible outlets, but I just flat-out suck at the R&D side of trying to get into print and usually give up after hours of finding nothing but content farms and advice for writers about how to find inspiration to write, which isn't a problem for me, as I either write or I become completely insane.
The last straw of late, beyond Rakoff's death revving up my hypochondria to new heights of panicked urgency, has been seeing Mike Birbiglia all over the place, which has ironically put me into a frenzy of sleepwalking in which I keep waking up in an apron after a night of nocturnal housekeeping—whereas he's the more dramatic sort, leaping through windows, I'm a were-Donna-Reed, doing laundry and packing wonderful lunches for the next day and inspecting the air conditioner for birds
, and though I was writing and doing arch, Laurie Anderson-aping performance pieces about sleepwalking
way back in the nineties, I've blown the chance to be the sleepwalking guy. Now, I think Birbiglia's great, and funny and smart and interesting, so it's not that I begrudge him being out there, but shit
, I am my own damn obstacle way too often.
I take some comfort from the fact that my older work just wasn't all that good, and I believe that Fran Lebowitz is right in saying that there's a reason why there are so few writing prodigies—you just need to live to write well, and have age and experience to polish good ideas into great ideas. I just wish on some level that the notion of self-promotion didn't make me feel sick to my stomach (which is why I've written, edited, and abandoned variations on this Ask MeFi question for some time now).
I've heard I should look into McSweeney's, and got the app for my iPad to read from there. What else should I be reading, and where should I be submitting work? I've been stuck in a mid-edit panic with my manuscript for a collection of narrative essays, Scaggsville
, since 2004, which started out as an attempt to prune away the "blogginess" of their structure and pacing and became a tribute to Ralph Ellison's self-destructive editing process, but I'm working on a new performance reading that I hope to have ready by next spring and writing lots of smaller pieces that I'm told could go somewhere, but I'm just too ignorant of the actual literary world to know where
I've sworn myself to send out something every week through the end of the year, because there's no way to get through the world without a first step, and I'm motivated by the lingering bitter frustration that I'd managed to start to get a foothold at least in terms of developing a small audience in Baltimore and then just let all the leads go cold during my big ponderous career change.