Trying to write my goddamn ACID HEROES book

 

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Writing my ACID HEROES book was a fairly painful experience. It took me 7 years to write the damn thing. 2002 to 2009. And I wrote like 7 different drafts. But the weird thing was, every draft improved it in some ways, but made it worse in other ways. Which was maddening.

I had never gone through anything like this before. With all my other projects, the more I worked on them, the better they got. It was like carving out a sculpture. I’d slowly but surely cut out the parts I didn’t want. And the image I was trying to create would get clearer and clearer. Until I was finally done.

But with the ACID HEROES book, the more I worked on it, the worse it got. It was like I was going around in circles. Flailing away blindly.

Part of the problem was that the subject matter didn’t play to my strengths as a writer. Generally I like to take a small thing, and extrapolate that into a bigger thing. Like with my previous book — SURVIVING ON THE STREETS. I’d write about a little thing, like the best kind of boots to wear when you’re on the streets. And extrapolate that into a larger meaning about life on the streets.

But with the ACID HEROES book I was coming from the opposite direction. I was taking this big thing — 50 years of my life, and 50 years of the cultural history of America — and trying to boil it down to this little thing, this concise little book. It was like making a documentary where you got 50 years worth of footage, and you got to edit it down to a 2 hour movie. So it required some pretty precise editing. Which didn’t play to my strengths as a writer, which tends to prefer a more meandering approach.

Adding to the problems, when I finally got down to working on the final draft I was homeless and living on the streets. Try writing, editing, and self-publishing a 300 page book while living out of a sleeping bag in the middle of the rainy season. No easy task.

And by that point I had already written and re-written every sentence 7 times. And I had gotten lost within it. I could no longer tell which was the best take.

On top of that I was going through an extremely stressful period in my personal life. I was in the middle of on-going wars with 4 different street people — lunatics all — and the kind of feuds that involved physical violence and dealing with the police. So that distracted my attention. On top of that I was dealing with my best friend who was in the process of dying a hideously painful death. On top of that I was working full time at my job as a street vendor, which was another source of stress. On top of that I was diagnosed with glaucoma and the docs were telling me I could blind at any moment. So it was like, what the fuck?? A complete over-load on my senses. Meanwhile I’m still striving to create immortal literature.

So it was hard to distinguish the forest from the trees. I was so immersed in the details of trying to get every sentence exactly right that I lost sight of the bigger picture. The actual concept of the book. And the pacing and the structure of the things. And I made several crucial mistakes on the final draft that irk me to this day.

Oh and one more problem. I was trying to write about the psychedelic experience and hallucinations. Which any writer will tell you is difficult to capture in words.

When I finally managed to get the damn thing published — almost exactly 10 years ago from this day — I was so stressed out that I contracted this disease, Shingles. Which is largely caused by stress. Half of my face was covered with these incredibly painful festering sores and scabs. I still have the scars from it to this day.

In a way I never really recovered from the experience of writing that book. I had spent the previous 35 years doing one artistic project after another after another. But after ACID HEROES there would be no more projects. I was fried.

People often say to me: Ace you should publish another book. Or put out another CD. Or do another calendar. Or publish another zine. And I’m like: “No. I don’t think so.”