When shows in Portland first shut down and there were few public spaces to socialize in the evening, I spent nights writing alone in my shared rehearsal space. I put a Scandinavian happy light next to my face for, probably, too many hours. I borrowed a friend’s projector and pitched my laptop screen up on the wall. The rightmost edge of the light touched the other band’s whiteboard.

I started wearing drawstring pants so I could tie a small, Bluetooth keyboard to my lap whenever I sat at the drums. Every twelve minutes, I’d switch: drumming, writing, drumming, writing. Bouncing between music’s whole-body somatics (with attendant trances and boneheaddom), and the cerebral sorting of narrative storytelling (chosen psychosis? I invented friends because the pandemic precluded me from seeing mine) felt pretty good. I probably got worse at drumming after a year of splitting my attentions like that, but I finished writing the novel, TAKING NAMES.

Today, I celebrated having written two hundred pages of a new novel. Possibly titled FLITCRAFT. It’s about spirit surgery, I think. I have no idea where the characters are taking me. My friend Maxx and I have food and sex celebrations—really for any accomplishment at all. They let me read over their shoulder while they read my drafts. It’s so helpful. Who else would let me do that? I’m like, “What?! Tell my why you giggled?” for 330 pages.

Sometimes I feel that I have some catching up to do. My writing MFA cohort has Emmys and MacArthurs and third books and tenured professorships by now. As soon as I graduated, I started touring a lot with my bands. Whoops. I have a couple 7.0 Pitchfork reviews. But the feedback cycle in the writing world was painfully slow, glacial: Congratulations! Your poem of questionable consequence will be published in this magazine of questionable consequence in sixteen months. When I played music for an audience, the response was instantaneous, we were connected, affecting each other.

But I kept writing. I thought of myself as a Rothenbergian Technician of the Sacred—more intuitive creator than craftsman. I was never good at diagramming a sentence and told myself I needn’t be. Grammar is about exclusion, I shouted, dying on a weird hill, language rules are about keeping others out and maintaining power for an elite, inner circle. Do you know how many verb tenses there are? But my idealism was fueled by a cocktail of laziness and self-preservational denial. I gave myself poetic license so as not to have to learn the hard rules. Do I offer everyone such license? Who cares what I think.

I can’t get myself to even buy my own projector. All of my paltry “output” has remained loyal to the impossible values of my juvenilia: DIY. Punk. Subculture. I’m realizing the striving for purity inherent in those ideologies is not helpful. DIY is a thin wall away from some scary, individualist ideologies, yeah?

DIT: do it together, maybe.

But still, I consider the sadness of the middleman. Agents and PR hacks. I’m sorry my crafts seem to require their existence. I was happy just to spiel around the campfire forever if you fed me. I, job creator.

And, subculture? Please. It’s time to acknowledge that I am squarely establishment: Iowa received loads of federal money from the Fairfield Foundation, the CIA’s cultural propaganda arm. For decades, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was under thumb. The same fund that secretly glowed up Pollock. I wish I’d known. I am a product of that influence and others equally sinister. Sorry. I think I learned the wrong stuff.

Photo by Marcel Grieder, used and adapted under CC.