John Buffalo Mailer - Introduction / A Writers Prayer <|>

When I was growing up, in our house, the house of Norris and Norman Mailer, writing was our religion. When he was working, Norman (or Pop as he was known to me)  would not allow interruptions unless the house was on fire, literally. Of course we all respected Pop’s rules when it came to his work. Writing was sacred, not something to be distracted from needlessly. The unparalleled level of focus and concentration he believed one’s writing required was ingrained upon us, his children, as the given. “When I go into my office to write,” he would say, “pretend I’m in Africa.” In my own relationship today, my girlfriend being a writer, as well, we still hold to the Africa rule. 

Yes, writing was our family religion, and the writing desk was our altar. I can’t tell you how much I miss those days when my parents were alive and the three of us would spend our time working on our individual projects, seeing each other only at breakfast, lunch, and finally dinner, when the work day was done and we could have a drink and either celebrate or commiserate on how good or bad a day we had had pushing the novel, or the play, or the memoir forward. No matter how the day went, those nights were always a blast. I don’t know that I ever laughed so hard and so much as I did with the two of them. On top of being extraordinary parents, they were my best friends.

It is overwhelmingly thanks to those nights and to my parents that to this day, I never feel more at home than when I’m in a room full of writers. It’s as if we have our own tribe. As if all those who are serious about the art of writing are a band of merry mutants, outcasts on the inside of the tank, foraging our psyches to find the balance between our own inner pilgrim and pioneer. And we do it in the most shockingly vulnerable and public way. What is it that drives us to share with the world our personal exploration through everything that is lewd, righteous, fucked up and tender about us? What possesses us to stick our chin out to the world like that, hoping that they will simply ‘get it’?

As you can probably tell, I’ve thought a bit about this. And after all the thought I’ve put into it for the past twenty years, the best answer I come to, is that ultimately, everyone who is truly made of the stuff to be a writer (that extraordinary combination of iron strength and immense sensitivity that seems to be required of us), we are simply fueled by the hope that somehow, our words will penetrate the modern day muck we’re all wading through, and actually reach someone who may be in dire need of a reminder that they are not the only one. That someone else, someone they’ve never met, from somewhere they’ve never been, knows exactly how they feel. And the satisfaction of knowing you did that, it makes all the rejection and bitterness and doubt and hard ass work that goes into writing, so worth it. I mean, knowing that what we wrote actually spoke to someone else, and not only that, but made sense to them, that’s better than candy. It gets us higher than any drug, and satisfies us writers more than lighting up a cigarette in bed after a great lay.

It’s our addiction, and we must feed it. Because we know that as writers we’re part of something spooky and beautiful. We are the voices that help people make sense of our time here. Regardless of how much they are aware of it, the world needs us. The world needs its writers. Perhaps these days more than ever.

I’d like to finish off with a piece that came to me a few weeks back. I’m not sure what to do with it, as it seems like somewhat of a writer’s prayer more than anything else. But here goes:

A Writer’s Prayer

Long-Form Journalism is back in style! Hallelua! 

Extra Extra Read All About It!

It was reported earlier this year that the immediacy of news being broadcast through the multitude of outlets at its disposal today, has rendered immediate journalism utterly useless. 

For how can we believe that our President has been shot, or that we’ve planted a colony on Mars, or that Aliens have landed and are in actuality the Illuminati, when we live in a world where some teenager in a basement in Des Moines, Iowa, can start such a rumor on a global scale?

We see a trend on our social media of choice, and take it as fact, with no idea of where this information is coming from or what agenda might lurk behind it.

The stock markets of the world are effected by said trend. The lives of Common Joe and Fat Cat alike are truly altered by the musings of a fifteen year old hacker with a particular gift for the tool who happens to live in a basement in Iowa. 

Let Anarchy reign. 
Or at least let us acknowledge that it does.
For the moment.

That sweet spot in time which is so hard to grab, perhaps impossible, when the truly powerful ones of the world have yet to figure out how to control this new found territory.

But they will. They always do. 

And perhaps, where it truly counts, they already have.

For how are we to know whether it is that brilliant but naive fifteen year old mind that has come up in a basement in Des Moines, or some political PAC that’s financed by a corporation who’s got its own reasons for wanting you to believe the world is a certain way?
At least for a few minutes.

This is why it is still on the shoulders of the Long-Form writers of fiction and journalism to help us all make sense of the world. Make sense of the Time we are living through.
This is necessary, because we as a people have simply lost the privilege of being able to believe what we see in the moment.

And so, if we are to continue this journey of democracy our forefathers and mothers set us on, then we have no choice but to demand nothing less of our writers, than that they take the time they need to document and digest what we are all witnessing today. We must demand that they hold a mirror up to our faces, so that we might see where we are, and have yet one more tool in our box, designed with the purpose of figuring out together, where we all want to go.

John Buffalo Mailer   
6/29/13 - Wilkes University