Of late, I feel like I’ve been running into an increasing amount of trouble.
As a writer, I don’t always exercise the best judgment. I mean to, but sometimes things backfire. It’s what happens when you tend to write off the cuff; or write with emotion; or write passionately; or don’t always measure what the emotional reaction to your words will be.
That whole sticks-and-stones thing was heavily quoted when I was a kid, and it’s actually true. Words can bruise more than people realize. You see that as a writer, because not everything one writes is met with the soft landing he’d expect. When did I first realize this? Hmm … trying to think. I was definitely taken aback by the whole John Rocker aftermath, but that wasn’t entirely unexpected. Actually, I know when it was. Shortly after the Rocker piece, I wrote a profile of David Wells for Sports Illustrated. Wells didn’t talk to me, because he had some grudge against SI. No biggie—he was polite enough, and certainly didn’t make my life miserable. Anyhow, the lede to the Wells story was about how fat Wells was. I made the point over and over again—his chin is fat, his fingers are fat, his tattoos are fat. The point, though, wasn’t to mock Wells—it was to celebrate his athleticism; to say, yeah, he’s huge … but look how good he is.
Anyhow, I was sitting in the press box in Seattle when I saw a headline on SI.com or ESPN.com: WELLS FURIOUS WITH SI WRITER. I couldn’t believe it. The story was positive. Right! Right? Uh … right? I thought it was. Wells, however, took it differently. I was shocked, and sorta crushed.
Through the years, there’ve been many more experiences. You write one thing, convinced it’ll be taken a certain way. Then, when it isn’t, you’re baffled. You wind up re-evaluating and re-examining who you are. As a writer. As a person. You wonder why this happens to you again and again—then come to the conclusion that this is writing, and part of being, uh, different is taking risks and taking shots and experimenting with words and emotions and feelings.
I can’t write about what, specifically, has me emoting. Only that I’m very down and feel like crying.
It hardly helps that I’m listening to The Mission soundtrack on loop.