You can’t regret what you can’t control. It’s impossible.
I suppose that is the conclusion I’ve come to in regards to my book. I’d been thinking about taking it off the shelves because I’ve been having crazy mixed-up feelings about it. Mostly, a lot of regrets.
I’m talking about my memoir, for those of you that are coming in late to the party. I put out Shrapnel in the San Fernando Valley over a year ago now. It took me nine years to accomplish that thing. More–because I’d written parts of it even long before that. I wrote short stories about my weird family back in my twenties with lines I’d even used in the book. I mean, it seemed like I’d thought about writing that book for my entire life.
I’m going to get into this now, so it’s gonna get wordy here. I get to be a real windbag, as most of you know. (All three of you!)
I always knew I’d write that book, but I didn’t realize I’d publish it. I also didn’t know much about real writing for a long time. Not that I do now, for that matter. But nine years is a long time to work on something that intense. You learn a lot.
The first five years I spent on the rough draft. I took about a year off in 2014-2015, and spent the remainder of it as a full-time endeavor. I breathed it night and day–ate it, dreamed of it when I slept (when I slept), and hardly ever took breaks. Those last three years were an absolute bitch. I wrote it, rewrote it, edited it, and then edited the shit out of it again.
But I was scared to put the story out there. I was exposing the Chuch of Scientology, and at the time, I was frightened of them and what they’d do to harass me. They didn’t, or haven’t anyway. I may have delayed publishing it because of that, but mostly, I waited because the writing was not good enough. And it still isn’t.
Finally, I realized that it would never be good enough. I had to stop fucking with it. I stopped thinking about it and put it out there anyway. And also, my reasons for publishing it began to change as I worked on it too.
In the end, it became more an act of bravery than an act of pride–having the courage to expose my Scientology experience and my childhood sexual abuse. I was also addressing the realization and meaning of rape. I was slowly understanding what that meant in the process of writing the book. It took forever for me to even realize I’d been raped.
Now the stuff about the band might seem entertaining to the reader and all, but the details about our conflicts seem so petty to me now. Those memories are intertwined with my life in music, so that’s that. But all that being said, I regret there being a documentation of my bitterness–that anger and rage with band members and family. Feelings change. I don’t necessarily feel that way anymore.
And some people might think I’m fragile, hurt, fucked up, screwed over, victimized, traumatized, or still suffering the effects of the horrible things in my past. But I rewrote (and reread) that book so many times over that the shit just started to fade away. I’ve also had thirteen (more) years of therapy. I’ve grown a helluva lot and have lived more life. The book doesn’t mention that, but the timeline ends when I turn forty. If readers don’t take that into consideration–I can’t control that. And I can’t control what people think.
Also, I couldn’t write about every little tiny thing. It’s a memoir, after all, not an autobiography. What I really wanted with this book was to put a story out there. Did I want it to be well-written? Yes! That was extremely important to me. That’s what I regret the most. I do not think it’s written well. But I’ve had to ask myself, is the story clear? And yes, it’s clear enough.
Another reason I wanted to take it off the market was because I can’t control who reads it either. Ultimately, it would be great if only strangers read it–strangers who I will never know or meet. I don’t want anyone who knows me to read this thing, especially people that don’t know me very well.
Because of this damn book, I’ve had people who think I’m their best friend–like I’ve shared these intimate stories with them–personally. But I haven’t. I can’t control this either! I wind up rejecting them as they inappropriately reach toward me. You try to do this as politely as you can, but it’s almost impossible.
The same thing has happened when certain people have purchased my art at times. There’s some expectation I should have a deeper relationship with them–deeper than I’m willing to give. And why am I obliged? I don’t know. When I don’t fulfill their expectations, I’m some kind of asshole.
But here’s the thing (and a realization); if someone wants to buy my artwork, great. go ahead. I really do appreciate it more than they know. But if something more than art is expected in return, I can’t control that. I don’t have it in me to give. Therefore, how can I regret how that makes them feel? That is an impossible regret.
But talk about regret; if you think publishing Shrapnel was hard, my original rough draft was more than 300,000 words. It addresses hundreds of different things about me–drug adventures, sexual escapades, crazy friends, my identity, you name it. I could only focus on so many things in one book, so I decided to keep it on the sexual abuse, the cult, and my life in music since it corresponded with my time in Scientology.
Most of the time I worked on my book, I thought I was going to write another one. One that would address gender, sexuality (having nothing to do with abuse), drugs, and identity. So because of that, most of those things are pretty much left out of Shrapnel–saved for Queer as Mud.
When will Queer as Mud come out? Maybe never. I still don’t want to work on it too deeply until after I recover from my surgery, and who knows if I will publish it. I don’t think I’ll want to.
But for now, I’m leaving Shrapnel alone because the story is clear. It’s out there for sale. People can still buy it–whatever. I just needed to share all my crazy mixed-up feelings about it, and so there they are.
I told you it would take another book just to explain all this. Thanks for reading. 🙂
Shrapnel is way (way) better than “good enough.”
Thank you Love. You are too kind.
I remember how jealous I as that D had read parts (& he NEVER read shit) & I hadn’t & whined at him to get me a copy (of which I now have 2) & then sadly did what I so often do with books I now own which is set them aside for the next shiny book on my ever expanding list of TBR books. Partly I think because I was mad & jealous that I hadn’t been personally involved in the stories if that makes one lick of sense-lol
It makes some sense, but I didn’t know you, especially in the timeframe the book covers. It ends when I turn 40. I knew you, but it wasn’t about anyone we mutually knew in the second half, and wasn’t even “about” anyone in particular but me. D read some unpublished parts (about the neighborhood) from the first draft and you’re welcome to read some of that if you want to.