Monday, January 28, 2013

That Great Cathedral Space: My First Year Post-MFA, Part Two

“I don’t know. Emma as you see is the foundation
of my house. Toni is the perfume in the air.”

~ Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method

Everyone believes they’re a writer until they realize the expenditure. It is only then that most (not all, but almost most) recognize that they were only pretending.
            I’ve found myself having to mistressize my writing. I’m forced to hide it away in my office (when the baby is napping and the wife is busy struggling to decide how to properly consume her own little crumb of free time), at work on my breaks, in the “super-secret” notepad app on my IPhone, and various writing journals I’ve covertly deployed throughout our townhouse. I hide it from friends. I hide it from family. Most importantly, I hide it from my wife because—in the event that we do have free time—she (as well as I, because I am the caring husband-type, despite what I’ve written beforehand) usually likes to spend it together, given that we never, ever, ever get any time alone. And there is where the legendary “rub” lies.
            For persons like myself who didn’t grow up with a whole lot, survival becomes a desperate game of shadow boxing against your environment/condition, because poverty behaves like a bully: every day slapping you across the face and kicking you in the solar plexus. You’re left with no choice but to develop an imaginary feud with it—a feud you learn to carry every single day of your life, for the duration—until it carries you out of that margin and into that great cathedral space that you can’t help but only imagine exists above it.
            Now, as it relates to writing and the writing life, this is an approach that the serious writer has to assume in order to survive. I’m not advising writers to approach writing with a combative attitude—save that for Call of Duty marathons online. I’m simply suggesting that an aggressive attitude can and will keep the keyboard, and you, alive. Let’s face it: this lovely game of ours, in its own twisted way, does function similarly to online battle games, save for one major difference: even though failure begets the same sort of figurative death, the aim is survival and not just mindless carnage.
            I’ve managed to lift myself out of that margin and into a better place, however, not without a few spells of knuckling-up. And even while I am more than happy with the situation I find myself in, I’m still not completely satisfied with it—not without the level of writing/professional success that I’ve come to expect out of myself. My wife, my daughter are the foundations of my life. However, writing will always be that lovely “perfume in the air.” It’s another little feud I’ll have to carry-on forever, but one what I’m willing to uphold at any and all costs.
            Why? Because a writer lives the way a shark does: we swim constantly and endlessly or else we float to the surface and die off. 

A graduate of Florida Atlantic University's MFA program, Michael J Pagan's work has appeared in The Rumpus, DIAGRAMThe Coachella Review, The Nervous Breakdown, CommuterLit, Gone Lawn other publications. He is a fiction reader for Burnside Review. He lives in Deerfield Beach with his wife and daughter where he continues work on his first poetry manuscript, With a Bullet, Sparrow Voices, along with his first stage play, PING. You can read his blog, The Elevator Room Company, here:

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