BY CHARLIE CY
‘The writer’s only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.’ –William Faulkner
If you are obsessed with becoming a writer, I challenge you, after you read this hackneyed self-serving self-help screed, to go look in a mirror at yourself. Don’t laugh. Well, maybe laugh a little. Life is a bit of a shart joke. Nevertheless, go look at the dying animal staring back at you, desperate to have its thoughts read.
Ignore your face. Focus on your consciousness. Study the story of the universe trapped behind your eyes. Study the common beastliness of how you were created, how you evolved and the ghastly reality of how you will inescapably die. Study the shadows. Study the light. Study every corrupt angle of civilisation. Every lie, every myth you were ever taught or told yourself. Study the incessant need to breathe, eat, defecate and sleep to survive. Study the inevitability of suffering. Of Darwinian competition. Faction. Greed. Violence. Tribal feuds. And war. Study the ethereal beauty of pink dusks, the libidinal smell of honeysuckle, the curious intrigue of how a voluptuous breast or erect penis instinctually arouses you. Study the disorienting chaos of losing a loved one.
Study everything you desire to say … and then ask yourself: are you obsessed enough, are you disciplined enough, to do whatever it takes to affix your thoughts in the eternal fires of print no matter the cost?
If you want it, you need to make a choice. Your need to write must trump every other distraction. Nothing can stand in your way. Not morality. Not pride. Not even logic.
You may lose your job. Go broke. Get kicked out of your home or just lose your ability to live comfortably. You may have to forgo health insurance, a 401K, a retirement plan, or any stable semblance of the middle-class lifestyle you were once accustomed to or envisioned having. You may max out your credit cards, become indebted to every family member, friend or acquaintance you ever knew. You may need to panhandle. Sleep in a shelter. Do unsavory things. Gamble, cheat, trick, steal, slang dope or even go to prison. You may become a drunk or junkie. Go mad. Become disillusioned. Suffer from anomie. Jeopardise your health or standing in your community. You may lose faith in humanity or conversely alienate a whole sea of loved ones who cannot comprehend why you’ve chosen this manic path.
You may realise you’re not half as bright as you thought you were when you read The Masters while coming to terms with your own shoddy output. Your inferiority may make you more neurotic because you can only do what you can do, not what someone else did. And besides, they’ve already done it. If you must, imitate, steal, ‘appropriate’ from the greats you adore. Or write about how, try-as-you-might, you can’t write as well as Hunter Thompson, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison or George Orwell, and see what that looks like. There aren’t enough honest writers outlining how they suck, which may be a whole new niche to explore. I’m frankly tired of posers telling me how brilliant they are, and yet we still have very few answers about existence.
Whatever you do, keep writing, reading and gaining experience to keep pushing the limits of your prose.
About the Author
Charlie Cy is a writer and day trader based in Louisville, Kentucky. Writing has always been an obsession of his across various chapters in his life.
Raised in Richmond, Virginia, Charlie was deeply influenced by the ideologies and myths that have long plagued The South, and by the religious fundamentalism espoused by his father.
In search of experience after high school, he roamed from coast to coast. Lived abroad. Worked a myriad of low-wage service industry jobs. Bounced in and out of small community colleges and state schools studying creative writing. Collected several writing scholarships. And devoted the lion’s share of his time to drinking with a motley crew of individuals from around the world.
In 2011, after a decade of living in San Francisco, he took a polarising road trip through the Deep South that would uproot his career as a budding sommelier and alter the trajectory of his life. In a state of paralysis, he moved into his Mini Cooper to live out on the streets of Los Angeles where he could digest his thoughts and assess his next steps.
During this self-imposed exile, he knew he needed to write. But it became self-evident that he was ill-equipped to articulate his thoughts and required more education. Since graduating from Columbia University in 2016, he’s been fixated on exploring the relationships between class, identity and power. And he’s particularly interested in internecine conflicts, stock market manipulation, corporate hegemony and the atomization of society, as well as the big existential questions like: ‘What are we doing here?’
Charlie is currently working on a collection of non-fiction essays loosely entitled The Bowels.