I’d rather be Kilgore Trout

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” — Kurt Vonnegut

I recently decided something: I’d rather be Kilgore Trout than not be a writer. I’d rather be a piece of satire than just another stretch of silence.

Trout, Kurt Vonnegut’s prolific science fiction author insert, is a constantly shifting joke, his biography changing from book to book. The sometimes-author of 117 books, with a whopping 3 fans, he is also a perfect example of a creative’s defiance. He writes and writes and writes, despite any acclaim. He won’t shut up. He won’t stop trying.

If I can’t be anything else, I’m going to be Kilgore Trout.

I’d rather be Kilgore Trout than publish nothing, waiting for the perfect draft, the perfect circumstance, the perfect amount of encouragement. I’d rather die in obscurity, prolific and unappreciated, than give in. I’d rather say everything than say nothing, I’d rather show my hand than keep it close to my chest. I’d rather be Kilgore Trout than wait to be noticed, wait to be validated by some exterior authority.

Of course, there are some differences between Kilgore Trout and I. Primarily, I am not a man, so endless creative confidence on me looks less like a virtue and more like a sin. And yet, for me, Kilgore Trout resonates. I don’t know if Vonnegut meant him for me. I don’t know if he’s meant to be a beacon for the ironically optimistic and constantly daring, but he’s mine now anyway.

Because here’s the truth of it: There are always going to be people with less talent and more confidence than you. There are always going to be people with less talent and more confidence and more acclaim than you. And if you dare to publish, dare to paint, dare to create and tell the world about your creations, you are also going to be that to some other more talented, less confident person.

But every so often, in a blue moon, someone will look at your art and get it. Someone will laugh at your joke, or get that fierce look on their face that means they understand your anger. Maybe you’ll even get three fans.

So fuck it. Ignore comparisons. Be the one who goes for it. Don’t be the sad thing in the corner griping about how you could do better if you only showed off. Be a modern Kilgore Trout. Post your selfies. Read your shitty poetry aloud at parties. Sell your art for more than your family thinks it’s worth. Write a blog that no one reads and keep posting about it even though your friends find it embarrassing. Follow every idea that stirs your passion, no matter how absurd, no matter how unmarketable.

Oblivion is unavoidable, so there’s no point in face-saving silence. Keep writing. Keep saying things. Refused to be restrained. Be Kilgore Trout.

The Visionary

Her fingernails snip the stems of daisies and dandelions as she dreams of rings. Another flower crown, another fairy ring, another circle of friends, another playground game. “What if we were a spaceship?” she asks the other kids. “I saw in a show they can make them this way. We could spin through space.” The grass isn’t green, but these flowers are hardy things. If they can survive the playground, surely they could survive space.

Her parents watch early morning shows. More murders, more police killing children. The suburbs are vast and strangers are frightening, so they drive her to school every morning. In class she practices hiding in case of a mass shooting. Under her desk some former student drew a flower. Another drew a rocket. She traces over them with her own pencil carefully.

What if I could grow spaceships? she thinks. While the teacher talks about closing blinds and escape routes, she draws a tree around the rocket, making it into something living. “What do bullets do to trees?” she asks, hand raised. “If we had school in trees would we be safe? What if we wore trees, if they grew around us like clothing? Could trees be spacesuits?”

She loves what thrives despite everything. Not her momma’s orchids and lilies, but weeds growing unwanted in the driveway. She makes a chain of dandelions grown entirely from concrete. She isn’t sure what it means, but wears them as a crown above her pigtails long after they fade. They are a force field, unlike her age. She feels, even this early, the weight of history. An inheritance of violence and greed, already turning against her. She knows, in her soft child way, that evil things loom heavy over her family, but her dandelions weave golden armor around her, and she walks through a world capable of healing.

Everywhere, growing things.

“What if?” she asks. She wants to know what space is. What it’s made of. What grows there. If it might be safer than here. Sometimes teachers know the answers. Sometimes they just want her to stop questioning.

She doesn’t. She asks librarians, asks her phone, asks everyone she meets. The dandelions taught her all about thriving. About wiggling into places no one wants you to be, or dreaming up schemes no one wants you to think. Eventually, like them, she’ll get what she needs.

“A torus spaceship is like a somersault,” she tells her friends. “The outside is moving, but inside you feel safe.” They tumble down a grassy hill and into space.

How to be a successful manic pixie dream girl

Forget whatever you might know of your origins. Forget what you love, and especially forget what you hate. Shrink into toddlerhood – make sure your waist shrinks too. No one over 110 pounds could possibly be eccentric.

Fall in love eternally. Love the carpet, the table, the dogshit on the street. Don’t admit to loving any one person. Love everyone, but not faithfully. Your fickleness is your most charming feature. Kiss strangers. Ignore any flickering doubts of inappropriateness or unease.  Do somersaults in dangerous neighborhoods. Never feel alarmed. No one can be more eccentric than you, so no one could possibly cross your boundaries. Ignore financial, political, and civil rights concerns. Who needs rights when you have imagination?

Develop a unique giggle. Be sure to laugh more than you speak. Dye your hair, or at least cut it short. Only eat adorable food. Pickles. Popcorn. Cupcakes. Don’t shy away from adorning yourself in vegetables, trash, or clothing you find in the children’s section of Goodwill (you should be small enough to fit children’s clothes by now).

Remember, you have no boundaries, no needs, no past, no future. You are the moment. You have no concerns, and your only love is transformation. Take delight in your imaginings, but never write them down. That’s too permanent, too serious. You need to become a creature of light, as insubstantial as a cloud. Allow your insignificance to grow until you become significant though it. Walk down the street like it doesn’t exist. Only the moment exists, and you are the moment.

You’re almost ready! Go into the world with the sole intent of finding sad chaps and making them happy. Find the most mundane schmuck possible. Approach him unforgettably. Remember, your charm depends entirely on your ability to slink out of reality. Leave. Leave and don’t come back. You’re not a person. You’re an experience. Don’t be easy to find again. Never pursue. Introduce, enchant, and fall back. Let the world’s saddest schmucks come to you.

Steal their wallets, their cars, and their bank accounts. After all, your fickleness is your most charming feature.