Henry Rollins: Why I Write
PHOTO BY TIMOTHY NORRIS
Editor's note: On the occasion of his new book, Before the Chop: L.A. Weekly Articles 2011-2012, this is our special Henry Rollins issue.
The opportunity to write for the L.A. Weekly has been one of the better breaks that has come my way in a long time.
This job, cool as it is, comes with challenges. I am loath to disappoint and do not want to deliver work that is below par or past deadline. It is that latter detail that keeps things brisk. I am often on the road, on location or in some other low-on-sleep/high-on-obligation environment. From backstage areas, various modes of transport and hotel rooms, I do my best to hand in my humble contribution not only on time but, whenever possible, early. Putting the punk in punctual, if you will.
Like anyone else, some days, I just don't have it. I have burned more hours than I would like to admit in slow agony, ransacking my brain for an idea to write about as the deadline, the Damoclean sword over my head, increasingly tests the strength of the single horsehair that suspends it. Once the idea miraculously arrives, the words come pretty quickly. The first draft is handwritten and then, often moments later, is rewritten into a computer for the second draft and worked on from there. When I am off the road, this is often my big Friday night out.
But what I most wished to talk about here is you.
The reason for putting myself through this weekly wringer is knowing that you might pick up a copy of L.A. Weekly and read this small contribution. More than that, I hope that you might even like it. I am not one of those "I don't care what you think about what I do" types. I would much rather you like what I do than not like it or not care. "I am desperate for your attention and approval!" is what I have been saying to audiences all over the world from the stage for many years. They laugh, but I am not joking.
I try to write this weekly piece as an ongoing conversation. Any editor worth his weight in salt might call this rambling! However, my attempt is to make a genuine connection with you and Los Angeles. This is why, whenever possible, I try to reference L.A. localities, venues, intersections, etc. As much of a stucco-coated sprawl as L.A. is, I am trying to pull it all in a little closer somehow. That which separates us is, for the most part, a scam. Isolation is not necessarily safety, and stagnation definitely isn't stability.
When I go to shows or to the grocery store, etc., and meet cool people I share this city with, I know that it is this interaction, this breakdown of barriers, that is precisely the ass-kicking that fear so sorely requires. When someone tells me they dug the thing I wrote, I absolutely beam. That I did something that you liked is so cool. This is the main motivation for the 1,000-word-a-week jam session I send in to the editor.
I have been living in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. I never really felt it was a place to call home, just a place to work, leave and return to without any emotional tie. I chalked that up to the place being an artificially hydrated, baked patch of earth, full of fly-by-nighters. But I realized I was one of the aforementioned, and the only way to improve my evaluation of the place was to contribute.
Writing for the L.A. Weekly has furthered that effort. I have the publication and you to thank for that.
See the rest of our special Rollins issue:
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