THE ONLINE WRITING CLASS continues, and it’s kicking my ass in good ways. Since I’ve last written, we’ve spent a week on Shape/Structure and a week on Character. The week on Themes has just started, but I haven’t dared open the PDF yet. I’m still spinning from the previous weeks’ lessons.
As always, there is far more to talk about than I have time to type up, so I’ll focus on the Character work I’m doing. The first thing I noticed was that all of the work I’d done in the previous weeks—on Time, Space, and Shape—were really mostly about Character…so that at least meant I’d gotten a head start on last week’s work. It also made it feel like I was repeating myself at first, but then I found my explorations going deeper.
Developing characters—or, to get right to the point, developing a main character that happens to be an awful lot like me—turns quickly into a kind of self-guided therapy session, the only limits to how deep one goes being time and energy and guts. It feels sometimes like a bottomless pit, though I suspect there is a floor down there somewhere; I just need to keep spelunking.
To say that my character explorations inform my real life would be an understatement. And it’s all good except sometimes you just want to live your life without thinking so damn much about every move you make and what it all means. All this character analysis makes me feel like I need analysis and that maybe I should write about vampires and unicorns instead.
To give a fun example, I fretted way more than I should have over whether or not to go to the Folsom Street Fair. It’s not just a simple case of FOMO (fear of missing out; now that I have a 20-year-old intern at work, I am learning all these new acronyms the kids are using). I’m really not a FOMO kind of guy. At all. In fact, I like missing out on things. Honestly, I do.
This felt a little different because it’s FOMO on a specific kind of experience, a sex-charged special opportunity that comes along but once a year (well, twice if you count the Dore Alley Fair, which is really the same thing, just smaller). I was trying to figure out why it mattered, why I was even considering going when I’ve been probably 25 times before and it’s basically the same every year.
Consider this: I don’t own leather products other than shoes and belts and photo albums, I don’t like big crowds, and I only like getting flogged in a spa setting. In recent years, I’ve added new reasons to skip it: keeping my clothes on while in the sun and not drinking. And here’s the newest one I’ve found: I don’t need to go.
Lest you get the wrong impression, I think the Folsom Fair is a really wonderful thing. I have had my share of fun there (and have the pictures to prove it); so have a lot of other people. It’s a wonderful reminder of what makes San Francisco unique. I’m glad it’s happening. And I’m glad I don’t feel the need to go.
Here’s what I discovered, thanks in large part to all the character exploration I’ve done this week, which brought out issues of sexuality (among many others): I was still holding on to some old wounding that told me I needed to go to this event every year. The Folsom Street Fair is all about sexual liberation and acceptance. It has always represented a chance to freely express myself sexually. On a more basic level, it was usually a chance to have some sex as well.
Those are not bad reasons to go to the Folsom Street Fair. I think they can be very good reasons. On a strictly personal level, I was slightly bothered—not bothered by the idea of going to the Fair and getting out of it what I thought I needed, but by my attachment to those goals. My compulsion to go was what stood out.
I guess what made it stand out as compulsion (though that term seems a little strong) was that I had a lot of good reasons for not going and no good reason to go. Mind you, it was not that big a deal, far from overwhelming. If a friend had called and invited me to go, I probably would have. That would have been a good reason to do it. But I skipped the Fair this year. I didn’t miss out. I did other things.