My kid is turning 6 tomorrow. As some of you stalwart dogs of war probably remember, the entire reason I started this blog was because, six years ago, I found myself trapped in my home and taking care of a baby full time. Before that, it may shock some of you to realize, I was in a band that toured full time. It seems like a pretty distant memory now, but the band I’m in, the Lawrence Arms, was on the road constantly from when I was 21 until I was 31. It was pretty liberating and great, even if we weren’t always greeted as liberators everywhere we went. Living in a van, being drunk and young and constantly one day away from leaving the mistakes of yesterday behind you forever was a great way to spend my 20’s, which is why suddenly being at home with a baby all the time was such a brutal series of kicks to the dick.
At the point when my son first came on the scene, I’d never had a real job in my life. As a teen, I’d worked at McDonalds (3 months), I’d been a camp counselor (1 summer) and I’d worked at Ben and Jerrys (2 weeks. Good stuff, that job. The boss smoked crack at his desk, and Jose fucked Maureen in the walk-in cooler and legend has it that Maureen found the condom still in her a week later. Party time). I’d done some freelance copywriting work for a few marketing agencies and I’d played in a band, and that was it. Suddenly, I went from travelling around the world playing music for people who didn’t care (an extremely low pressure situation, since no matter how good you are, the kids are just waiting for Yellowcard, so fuck it), to being a new dad and a grownup tied to a residence and a family, with no experience in parenting, working or even really being a stationary grownup. It was pretty fucking terrifying.
Once my son was born, I realized that I couldn’t even write songs the way I used to. Pre-kids, I used to sit down and write maybe 10 songs a day. I’ve talked about this before here, so I’m not gonna waste time rehashing it too much, but the long and short of it is that it’s my opinion that to write one good song, you need to write like 100 bad songs. So, I’d sit around banging on acoustic guitars all day whenever I was off tour. Suddenly, with a baby, not only was I too exhausted to think, much less write songs, but my hands were full 100% of the time. The few moments of downtime I had—when he was napping –there was no fucking way I was going to spoil the silence by playing guitar. Waking a sleeping baby is not just mean to the baby, it’s completely insane. If you have children you know what I mean, but if you don’t, it’s a little like setting off a smokebomb in your house for fun. It’s loud, stinky, and in hindsight, a terrible idea. What were you thinking?
SOOOOOOOO, long story continued, I started writing this blog as a way to keep some sort of contact with the outside world and maintain some level of semi-creative output. The first couple of entries are pretty weird. I remember I did a guide to drugs which I thought was very funny at the time, but I bet if I read it now I’d be bummed. Regardless, I learned a lot about writing and a lot about my own opinions about stuff over the course of doing this poo-and-snot colored page every day for the first few years of my kid’s existence. For example: I learned that if you want to write something funny, you should just write about whatever your subject is without trying to be overtly hilarious. That’s a recipe for disaster. If you’re funny, your writing will be funny because it’s coming out of a funny person, but to make a piece of writing funny by starting with a hilarious, illogical premise (top ten ways to quiet a crying baby: number 10-spray him with a hose! Number 9- have him watch a Woody Allen movie! etc) is just cringe inducingly stupid, desperate and never, ever funny. It’s heavy handed and generally whack. Don’t do that.
Another thing I learned: write as simply and as quickly as possible and then go back and spruce up the gash (so to speak). Clarity is key, and when you talk, you usually make sense, right? Sure you do. Keep your writing as close to your casual speaking voice as possible and you’ll be fine. This is true regardless of subject matter and anyone who tells you otherwise is a snob or a dumbass or (most likely) both. If you’re, say, Andre 3000 and you speak really idiomatically, well, maybe tone that shit back if you’re writing about the history of the American Interstate system, but generally, clarity is king and the way you talk is the best example of clarity your dumb brain has, whether you’re writing erotic fiction about your neighbor or a biography of Sophocles.
As for things I’ve learned that aren’t about the craft of writing: Don’t say shit that’s controversial or antagonistic unless you’re sure you mean it or you REALLY don’t care. The internet is full of trolls and all they want to do is hurt people who make stuff (even stuff as inconsequential as a dumb blog or thought catalog listicle). That’s just their general MO. If you insult something they like, watch the fuck out. For example, if you say you think REM has some shitty-ass songs, prepare for aging hipster-cum-nerds the world over to point out that YOUR band sucks vastly worse than REM, and YOU have no command of the English language and your semi coherent rambling is not even worth responding to (I know…I know. I told you, they’re stupid). You’d better be either so confident in your opinion of REM, or at a point where you genuinely don’t care what people say, or you’re gonna be bummed and hurt, and uh…cool hobby you’ve cultivated that makes you bummed and hurt. Why don’t you just take up drinking?
Finally, in the last 6 years of doing this blog, I’ve learned this: Time speeds past us at a rate we can’t even comprehend while we’re in it. I never noticed getting older or growing up or slowing down or anything until one day it had just been like that for a long ass time. Suddenly, we hadn’t put out a record in almost a decade and I’d been at a real job (my 3rd!) for nearly 2 years? You gotta be fucking kidding me! It’s crazy. Beyond that, my tiny little shit machine of a baby is now a big, strong hilarious guy who I can play football with, who tells dick jokes and who has his own likes and dislikes and opinions on things. His little sister is out of diapers and she tells jokes and makes up songs and shit….Look, I’m not trying to gush about my kids and the cute shit they do. That’s obnoxious. My point is just that they’re fully formed, realized people and they’ll never be tiny again. And even though I’m so proud of both of them, my soul just hurts at the idea that they won’t be these sweet little bitty people much longer. Soon, they’ll be telling me to go fuck myself and stealing my whiskey and dating people that I think are morons and doing things that I’m sure I don’t even want to know about. These little ones, who I just love so much, they’re gonna be gone and they’re never gonna be back. And I am so excited to see who they become, because I’m sure they’re gonna be great, but man…sixth birthday blues, y’all. I’m a little heartbroken. Fuck. How lame am I? See?!?!? It just happens.
Good thing Riff Raff is playing tonight. Let’s party, turds.