On freedom.

I got my mind soundly blown yesterday.

It was Alumni Day for my MFA program, a day for graduates like me to invade the residency in progress and get our semiannual fix of high-level literary exchange (and cheap wine and friends).

I almost didn’t  go. I was driving north on 95, toward the little island where the residencies take place, and I almost just kept driving: out of Connecticut, into Rhode Island, and back to the dark silence of my apartment, now cat- and wife-free. It had been a long week for me, and so much of me just wanted to collapse in on myself and not think, or talk, for a while. The thought of having to tell a new audience how “okay” I was in spite of everything, after doing that non-stop with friends and family over the holidays, drained me before I even took the exit.

But I had to go. Because Baron Wormser was going to talk about Emerson.

(If you don’t know Baron Wormser, you’re doing it wrong. And by “it” I mean reading, and living in general. His creative works are rich and introspective and fresh and can be so damn funny. He reads a passage of poetry or prose aloud and a new, deeper meaning slides into place. I had seen him give a seminar in the past on James Baldwin and ran out and bought Notes of a Native Son. In short: read everything Wormser has written, and then see him in person if you can.)

I can’t capture everything Wormser said about Emerson and put it here for you; even if I could, I wouldn’t. But what I can tell you is that I am still thinking about the seminar twenty-four hours later. I am still thinking about freedom.

In the passages of Emerson that Wormser presented and analyzed, the idea of freedom was always in the foreground: the freedom to know one’s true self, the freedom that comes with genius, the freedom of writing what others are scared to say. In America, the word freedom has been manipulated commercialized to the point where it’s hard to know what it means to be truly free anymore. But to Emerson, it was simple: freedom is the opposite of security. Freedom is fear.

We’ve put a premium on security. We surround ourselves with stuff: tangible, material goods that make us feel prosperous, important, safe. Feel real. But if Emerson is right, and I think he is, all this stuff that we touch and hold is a wall we build between us and the knowledge that reality lies in the intangible and the abstract. And that’s scary.

Maybe I’m way off. Maybe this isn’t what Emerson meant at all. But as Baron read his words aloud and as people around me weighed in, I sat quietly and wrote only this, because it buzzed in my head and wouldn’t stop until it was down: what you fear most is the only thing you can know for sure.

I am afraid of many things right now. Nothing is stable; nothing is certain. But in Emersonian fashion, I’m letting myself feel the fear and the instability. Security rushed out, and I’m not filling the vacuum with stuff or meaningless relationships; not this time. I’m sitting with the uncertainty, and with my fear.  I am face-to-face with this very human terror, but it’s as if I am outside of myself, above myself, able to acknowledge that I am scared, able to experience the fear, but it doesn’t consume me. I am leaving the void open, and rushing into it is a deeper understanding of not only myself but also the nature of fear. And I am freer than ever before.

The terror we feel about the unknown is more real than anything we can hold in our hands. Security is an illusion that shackles, stunts, suffocates life and creativity. Embrace fear, embrace the void, and you are free.

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THANK YOU: Updates on my open letter

First off: I want to welcome all of my new followers! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my stuff, leave comments, and generally be awesome.

The past forty-eight hours have been surprising and wonderful. It was wild to wake up this morning and see over one hundred new e-mails about the post: likes, comments, follows. And all of this? Yet another gift from How I Met Your Mother. 

You see, it all started with this: a simple post, and a simple tweet:

firstpost

I tagged the creators and cast on a whim, hoping that one of them–ANY of them–would see it. I didn’t expect much, considering the amount of comments they must receive from fans like me.

Well. Not even two hours later:

OMG

I need to point out that this screencap is saved on my computer as “OMG.”

I saw this and couldn’t speak for a moment. My wife, thinking I was reading something awful, just kept yelling “What? What?! WHO DIED?!” Eventually my vocal chords and mental faculties came back online.

A few hours later, CARTER BAYS RETWEETED MY LETTER. I am still in utter disbelief that this happened, but the meteoric rise in followers, retweets, and visits to my blog confirm the facts.

Twenty-four hours passed. My letter had nearly 2,000 views. This is probably small potatoes to most bloggers out there, but my past posts have gotten, like, twenty views, tops…and I’m pretty sure most of those were from me, checking in on different computers. So. Huge deal for this kid.

And then, this happened:

I really need to thank Cheri, the editor, who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

I really need to thank Cheri Lucas Rowlands (@cherilucas) who wrote me this letter. So thoughtful and personal!

And yesterday morning, there I was, on the front page of WordPress.

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The retweets and comments continue to pour in. Thank you all so much for being here and reading and joining the conversation. Some of you are even sharing your own deep connections with How I Met Your Mother and other TV shows, and this is the most astounding thing to me of all: that something I wrote could resonate with you on a level that goes deeper than a specific show. It has been enlightening and touching to hear from you. Thank you for sharing such deep emotions with me.

You know, I’ve been focused lately on finishing up some short stories to send out for publication; the curse of the MFA-holder. I truly never thought a love letter to my favorite show would be the first thing to make any kind of impact. It gives me hope that I’ve got some stories to tell. And once again, I have HIMYM and its creators to thank. And WordPress! And you, too.

I know this has to end sometime, and probably soon. But I will always remember the day that Carter Bays reached out, when he didn’t have to, and held me up for the world to see for a moment. Eternally grateful.

Thanks for being here. I hope you will stick around.

The write brain.

I’ve been feeling quite restless lately.

It’s something that happens to me from time to time: an itch to change course, start over. I am rarely, if ever, at liberty to do much with the feeling; change of this kind usually requires a good deal of cash, or time, or both. So I let the feeling stay for a while, and eventually it passes.

But this is different.

For two years, writing was mandatory, thanks to my MFA program. I had books to read, chapters to write—deadlines, even. All of that went away in January, and into the vacuum of structure rushed a whole lot of great stuff. I became an adjunct at a community college and the editor-in-chief of my program’s lit journal (which is accepting submissions, by the way). My library writing class continues, and I was asked to judge a fiction contest for Fordham University. I even signed on to write a critical review of The Color Purple, with all that spare time I have.

It is, as I said, all great stuff. Great for my resume, and for me professionally and personally. But part of me wonders if I haven’t overbooked myself with good things as a way to avoid the truly hard thing that I’m meant to be doing—finishing this novel—and if this buzzing in my head is just words, backlogged.

I haven’t added a line to my novel since I handed in my thesis (the first third of the book) last semester. Hell, I haven’t written anything creative since then. There was so much momentum in the MFA: the good kind of pressure on which I thrive. And now, I’m left to my own devices to create my own routine. And I’ve failed, so far.

I keep thinking that some sort of left-brained calendar will help, and maybe it would. Maybe it would at least silence the buzzing and clear the cobwebs if I knew that I’d put time down, on paper, to put things down on paper. But I turned 27 this year, and I know myself pretty well by now. The calendar will fall prey to my right-brained aversion to routine for the sake of comfort, and I will be here again, whining on WordPress about my mental constipation.

I think it’s time to give in to the right brain, to listen to the buzzing instead of trying to manage it. Lefty, you’ve done right by me for some time, saving me from panic with spreadsheets and lists. But I’ve got to turn the keys over to your counterpart and start listening to the only schedule that matters.

Starting now.