It's a matter of self-analysis. Putting yourself on the couch, understanding the hymn to the great personal depths that are private that a writer can reach, the privacy of Proust, of Kafka, Kundera, Vonnegut, Knausgaard... Has to be true, thus potentially embarrassing. That's why I liked working in a pub, a bar, that there was conversation, the climb, the peak up above maybe never reached, where people really talked to each other, talked about their old man's death, the deeper things you wouldn't share without some ritual like Mass, like your Delphic wine server, clown on the heath, person to talk to in flux. Could you find such a person at a booth in Penn Station? Well, maybe. The species is still sensitive to itself. That's maybe why people ask me for directions. I must look like, or act like, someone you can talk to. I guess that role is like that of a therapist... you could go this way, or you could go that way, I'll tell you a bit about them, maybe, but it's up for you to choose, to do, to discover...
But, the understood privacy, entered into, between the writer, his/her self, and the distant potential reader, who exists only as the vague possibility of a person who might ask for directions over some simple matter, "I'm at the Japanese Embassy, how do I get to Connecticut Avenue..."
So, the writer listens:
I guess it was like it all hit at once, around the same time. The spiritual view, given what I was learning from Eastern religions, of passivity in action, that intersecting with meeting that girl I liked, rather awkwardly, that intersecting with that strange pull of writing, the commensurate withdrawal into an arena too private for normal people... Even while wishing and believing in and enacting the most perfect of communicational habits... Or can it be too solipsistic? I don't know.
This writing life, to me, old, and new. Was it unhealthy shyness? Well, you feel the way you feel sometimes, and I could get down about all that, or I could try to understand it and put it into some form of perspective to make sense of it, which is work to do on a daily basis. That work itself is done in writing.
Of course, in many ways, it all fell apart then--well, I won't say, 'fell apart,' just, got real--the descent of a strange spirit, the shyness to constantly battle, the job an extension of anxiety to be met, in a good way. That shyness drew me into the work, like you go to work in a vineyard... It's work. Go face people. Prune vines so they stand and produce good fruit. Tend to a garden. It's work.
Shyness, the need for privacy, other peoples will interpret, seeing things, judging, qualifying, suggesting. In the end, no, you're just a writer. An odd bird, maybe... A hell of a habit to have, or claim, or use, but maybe, principally, the work matters more than any final product you could, say, sell. You could only sell as it an industry, as if to say, we all, at least some of us, need to make our Model Ts, an assembly line, a finished thing with wheels...
Writing you can't be afraid of. It's more innate than anything. No particular talent. It's like breathing, inherent, a property. People try to put it in boxes, but it's everywhere, waiting for you to catch up with it when you can. Just write. Even if... maybe it has to be, embarrassing.
That great need for privacy, the nerves, those are just part of the writer's habit, and not much you can do about it. But that is all related to the detachment, the perspective, that path to the Bhagavad Gita and the awareness of a different kind of action... Buddhist philosophy.... Grabbing on to calmness as best you can, staying within the boundaries of your mind's comfort. What were the last words of The Buddha?
On days off from work at the bar, the need for privacy is intense. Yoga and meditation, done alone in the apartment, going to a class almost too much for all it will open up to the still tender mind. Peaceful calm, even if it sounds anti-social. Away from decision-making in a world broken into dualities. Digesting. Working all you saw and did, all you heard from people, all the interactions, taking all that and putting it to that anvil, putting it back into the sphere of the practical measures of thinking that are the legacies of psychological wisdom of spiritual health, the walk, the hike, the meditation, the headstand, the lotus seat... The shitty thing, the Dostoevsky office hours of writing, when the world has gone quiet, 3, 4, 5 in the morning... The time that vegetables do their thing between water and earth, energy of sun.
Find a writer who is not deeply perplexed by the world, from the perspective innately his. In a world where people like clear answers, event he writer's profession, his work, his calling, his path is all a mystery to him, and yet he knows it's all there, away to an understanding deeper than conscious thought and rule of logic. Thus there can be a soreness attached to his efforts, his steadfast perspective, his point of view.
About the restaurant business: I'd long outgrown the desire to go to the bar open late after a shift. The work was too hard anyway, you just wanted to get home with the energy you did have. Oh, sure, there had been some stupid misled stuff early on in one's career, the convening of elders at the old Grog &Tankard, beer, avoidance of a shot of GM or Jamo, restaurant people, Tim and Daphne, Herb, Pedro, Tom... But generally, the professional life, Generally, I'd eat a plate of dinner, at a thirty percent discount, at the bar by myself when I was nearing done, have a couple glasses of wine, usually all alone, or close to it, maybe listening to the chefs talk about food costs, service, specials, differences in the restaurant. There could be long monologs, with some mysteries, ended by, "okay, I have to go," and I'd be left there still with things to do. Maybe Pandora. Bike home. Have a last glass of wine, watch some TV, PBS, Weather Channel, History Channel, Vice Network, News, RT, NHK, On Demand, maybe a little YouTube, maybe play a little music myself, the long quieting down process, the therapeutic stuff, epsom salt bath, candle light by the Buddha statue, the quiet of night time. The bar was a very studious business, after all, and really it required out of you a sort of Zen monk kind of a life, awakened by green tea whenever you could get up, listening until the water in the kettle on the stove sounded like wind through pines up on a mountain, steeping three minutes, also hot water with lemon, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, the green tea with a tablespoon of flaxseed, a burger patty, grass fed, iron skillet sear, into the oven, for breakfast, when the shift meal turned to chancy things, things I shouldn't eat, pasta, filling but detrimental. And how did all the years go by? Well, they did, honestly enough.
On the one hand, a huge amount of wasted time, on the other, attempts... honest as anyone else's, a need for an MFA perhaps...
All along, the message, the story, the reality, was compassion, plain, bare, compassion, as long as I was a vessel of it. We all are.