So, there you have it. After eight years, two books, 1260 essays, thousands of comments and millions of hits, it’s finally curtains for The Communist Dance Party.
When I started the CDP, I did so on a crappy Hewlett-Packard PC under the stairs of my studio apartment. Today, I write within the masculine confines of my own office inside of my own home. In 2004, Celia was my 20-year-old fiancée. Today, she’s my wife of nearly eight years. Back then, I was an unemployed, rural transplant fresh out of college. Today, I’m a grizzled Madisonian and a proud employee of the state of Wisconsin. At the age of 22, I weighed 150 pounds, ate no meat and drank no caffeine. In 2012, I weigh 160 pounds, sporadically eat shrimp and drown every possible sorrow with a four-shot latte. I consider that last one more of a parallel step than anything, but you still get the point: Despite my repeated missteps, things apparently turned out okay for me.
I started writing stories online so I could stay connected to my friends and family back home (in 2004, MySpace was horrid and Facebook didn’t exist), but deep down, I always wrote as a therapy for never being able to properly verbalize the things that I was feeling. One facet of my writing that showcases this heavily is the fact that every essay is almost always 1% dialogue and 99% inner dialogue. For every embarrassing situation I shared with the hopes of making a connection with other downtrodden dorks, I also did so because I desperately needed to know that others had shared the same feelings and instances. My public goal may have been to create a like-minded community of people who saw the humorous absurdity of the world and experiences around them, but privately, I really needed to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling so alien. I always needed your words a lot more than you needed mine.
We’ve all had rough childhoods; I don’t care how privileged or lucky you think someone was, I’m certain they suffered at some point in their upbringing. My parents messily divorced when I was 10, and for the next eight years, my life was in complete disarray. None of my friends noticed due to my constantly cynical and upbeat nature, but I was forced to be an adult from a very early age, and the things I learned about myself even then are ethics I still hold close (and mostly secret) to this day. My escapes from reality were innocent and typical, yet integrally vital: Music, Television, Movies, and above all else, Writing.
Most people think that the concept of “I write because I have to” is bullshit cliché. Those who claim they write without the goal of income and popularity are branded as liars; merely a snooty defense mechanism when they inevitably don’t achieve the writing goals they’ve set for themselves privately. This is simply not true. I am a person that does things until I do not enjoy doing them anymore, and then I simply walk away from them when I feel they’ve run their course. I’ve made money doing this. I’ve also turned down a lot more money to do things I didn’t want to do. These decisions never took more than a second to make in my head, and there’s nothing more to it.
There aren’t many things in our lives that we get to be 100% in control of, so when these moments arise, you should hang on as tight as you can, and not let anyone take it from you, ever. If this opinion means that I’m not a ‘professional’ writer, then fine. I don’t want to be one. Still, jaded and pompous know-it-alls will stubbornly try to convince you that nobody does things (even artistic things) without personal gain in mind, and even if I burned the next 10 books I wrote before anyone got the chance to read them, they still wouldn’t be swayed to believe otherwise. If I’m nothing but a hobbyist writer for the rest of my life, that would be okay with me. And it had better be okay with me, because that’s probably how it’s going to turn out.
If I’m allowed to give you any writing advice (and I usually didn’t), it would be to ignore this talk altogether. If all you want out of life is money and popularity, attempting to achieve these goals through writing is about the most futile, soul-sucking and roundabout path possible. If you simply want money, work harder and buy fewer things. If you simply want notoriety, murder someone. If you want to be an artist, find the thing inside of you that you want to say, and find the best possible outlet with which to say it. If it can be said with a painting, paint. If it can be said in a song, sing. And if you think it can be said in a book, write. The end. Nothing else can matter. Not money or success, not embarrassment or failure. Nothing.
Also, if I may be hypocritical for the billionth (and perhaps final) time, I’d also encourage you to stop listening to anyone’s advice about how and what to write. I’ll never be the best at what I do, but one of my skills is that I’m prolific concerning content. I can write a ton of stuff in a short amount of time, and I didn’t do that by frequenting sites about motivation for writers and words of wisdom from those at the top. Shut the computer off, close your office door and say what’s on your mind. If you really want to do it, you’ll find the time and motivation. If you merely like reading self-help, you’ll find plenty of time to do that, too. Choice is yours.
For the last time, I want to sincerely thank each and every person who has ever read and enjoyed something that I’ve written. I cannot tell you how much that means to me (I’m not that good a writer). Your comments, e-mails, camaraderie, friendships and stories of your own have permanently and positively shaped the last eight years of my life. I have legitimately made friends with a lot of you, and for an introverted shut-in from an unincorporated town in Wisconsin, that is not lost on me. Most of you are more talented, more motivated and just plain funnier than I am. I’ll continue reading your stuff, and I hope you’ll still want to read mine.
Thanks to you, I have a filing cabinet full of handwritten letters, a CD rack full of unbelievable Mix Tapes and nearly a decade of positive memories. You gave me the courage to say what I wanted to say, the platform from which to say it, and the encouragement to work extremely hard to succeed at something I thought I was good at. I sincerely will not let you down.
Thank you to my family, especially my mom and sister. I do my best to not drag you through the mud, and it makes me very happy to know that you’re proud of my existence. There’s a fine line between encouraging your child to be anything they want while still reminding them how much of a no-nothing dumbass they are, and I think every woman in my life has towed it perfectly where my ego is concerned. As I continue to write about my experiences and the people that I love, it’s my goal to have as many people as possible see what strong, creative and loving people you both are.
Finally, I want to thank my wife. The Missus. Celia. Not only did she have to edit nearly everything I’ve ever written and pretend it’s James Goddamn Joyce, but she had to listen to every nervous breakdown, drunken tirade and egomaniacal rant about the world not going the way that I want it to (a shocker, I know). She understands the territory that comes with being the husband of a delusional, wannabe writer, and she also understands that the next chapter is going to be even smoother beyond the horizon. We were both insanely emotional people eight years ago, and we still are, just now in the correct ways. She also had to see me naked and be my best friend for the last 12 years, a job I wish on no upstanding citizen of this planet.
Thank you, Celia; because of your radiating love and awesomeness, I’ve completely run out of unpleasant stories to tell. You’ve exorcised every last demon that made my work relevant, and for that I thank you immensely.
We’re almost done here. The CDP ends tomorrow. Thanks again.