You ever have a moment that makes you feel like a teenager again? I don't mean like you're recently divorced and having your first super charismatic first kiss on the front porch again (though I've had that moment, too). I mean a reigniting of all the energy and optimism, all the big emotions you didn't have words for then, and maybe still don't. I mean like - the first time you heard a song that filled you up and made you want to scream with the joy of being understood and cry at the same time, or the first time you wrote something you were proud of. The way you felt when graduation was only thirteen days away and it was so goddamn exciting that you didn't have time to be fucking terrified of whatever came next.
I had a moment like that last weekend, and the next day I spent the whole day recovering from it just to suit up and head out to do a little book promo at San Diego Comic Fest. The weekend was a whirlwind capped off by finding a big Rubbermaid tub full of shit I kept from high school. It was all there - the good, the bad, the "fuck you, you are never going to see this shit, I don't care who you are." I'm talking about poetry. Poetry written between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. A box full of half formed story ideas, song lyrics, poems, a file I kept on my favorite filmmakers, a few embarrassing photos (I looked really stoned through a lot of high school even though I was so straight edge I didn't even drink caffeine).
I went through that box and still felt good about myself, which is saying something.
The point is, I feel reignited. On Sunday, our panel was asked when we decided to "get serious" about writing which is always a funny question for me. I've always been dead serious about writing. I spent more time with my headphones in writing longhand than I spent doing literally anything else. I carried my works-in-progress with me all day at school waiting for a free moment to work. At college, with time management firmly in my own hands, I barely pulled a 2.0 the first semester because all I wanted to do was read and write - just not the stuff I was supposed to be reading and writing.
I don't count that as being serious in the context of a career, because I was still writing with that intense need. Scribbling with any pen I could find, no concept of the business side of things, no concept of what was good or bad - just filling pages and feeling good. Of course, being a writer was easier then. Lonelier, too. It was pure energy and everything else was secondary. It was writing song lyrics without knowing how to write music, and writing novels without knowing (or caring) how to outline. It was the feeling that it was important to do it, and everything else would work out eventually.
In a way, that idea worked. I had some pretty low lows, where writing was the last thing on my mind because I spent a fair amount of my early adulthood making decisions on the fly and hoping for the best, only to learn the hard way (over and over again) that there were some upsides to having a plan. The way "everything else worked out" was that I got older, less dumb, and more focused. I learned about the business side, I learned about the craft, I met other writers and started building something more than a Rubbermaid tub full of loose-leaf notebook pages. I'd be lying if I said that all that learning the hard way didn't snuff out a few sparks.
Maybe you read that and you feel a little sad, but remember how this blog post started. I've been riding the high of finding that excited, passionate, crazy ass kid I used to be - blasting my favorite punk rock and getting excited about art and writing, getting excited about possibility for nearly a week now. What's curious about it, but in the context of my life, fairly unsurprising, is I found that spark in the same place teenage me always found it. Riding the barricade at a punk show screaming my lungs out.
I've avoided shows like that for awhile because I've got a bad leg, a bad back, and a kid that requires babysitting. I was thinking I couldn't hang or I didn't belong. I was listening to other great music and only dipping toes into punk music when I felt like I really needed it. But riding that barricade again was like coming home, going to church, and finding a time machine. I've wanted to write about the odd connection aging punks have with crime fiction for awhile, before that I spent hours trying to find the right words to communicate exactly what it feels like to be in a sweaty dark club listening, screaming, mashing bodies to bodies. I haven't managed either - but I think we'll get there. Remembering what was so fucking special about it is a good start.
Oh, and I got a new shirt...