I’ve been trying to work on writing something by hand in my journal every day. I have a portable one that I write a single page entry in, and I have another covered in a houndstooth design that I have two entries in.
The project has been… interesting. I’ve only spent about a week writing in it, and I’m already enjoying it immensely. The first entry in the houndstooth journal, (henceforth known as Clarence) was really good. I spent about 3 pages externalizing my internal dialogue on why I don’t write stories anymore.
I recently watched this video (the quote is by Ira Glass, by the way). It sparked part of the internal conversation about why I don’t write anymore.
I’ll get back to that in a moment, though.
So, at my friend Chucker Tilds’ suggestion, (that’s not his real name; that’s just my nickname for him) I’ve been reading Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters” – The Remix edition, since that’s all the bookstore had. I made the mistake of telling him, and Jenn that I would love the book after reading the first two pages of the foreward. As it turns out, you can’t judge a book by its cover, or its foreward.
I have not fallen in love with the book yet. But that might be on purpose, from the book’s perspective. It’s trying a different form of narrative – one that works more like a magazine, where you jump from beginning to end and then back again. The idea is that you never quite know where you’re going to end up. There was even an allusion to bouncing around the book without knowing if you’ve read every page or not.
So far, that has not been my experience. I think I’ve read ten chapters, maybe fewer, and it just jumps from the beginning to the end, and then back again. 40, 1, 39, 2, 38, 4… Oh, wait, I think I started the book on the wrong chapter. I was supposed to jump to chapter 41. The books promise is now fulfilled, because that’s what it said might happen. (And yes, I noticed that 3 was missed, too)
I feel good about that; and the story is immediately more appealing, even if the contents of the story are not, at first blush. The contents have not engaged me. The descriptions are fantastic. A sanguine depiction of a world from the eyes of a super model who lost the ability to be super. But the depth of the description doesn’t seem to be there, and I wonder if that’s because this was his first published novel?
During the foreward, the author paints a picture of the Sears Catalog (which I knew about, so the ageist jokes he makes fall flat on my brain as I read them.) The comparison to modern media viewing is fantastic. He talks about the hollow look on your face as you view devices, and it’s true. When we look at our phones, or gaze at our computer screens, we don’t smile. We don’t laugh. (Not often, anyway.) – We gaze so intently at these devices that we forget we’re operating heavy machinery and drive into the back of a stopped car at the red light.
The way he described the fact that our faces are superimposed, faintly, over everything struck me as an apt description of the way media is taking over our lives. We’re becoming desensitized to violence, to hatred, to malevolence because we’re not experiencing emotions while we’re viewing it, because that’s how we use our phones, computers, tablets and TV’s.
There’s something I like to do that I haven’t done for a very long time: Sit around a fire with friends or family, and tell a story. The last time I did it, we told stories about our lives. We caught up, we laughed, we joked, and we didn’t really have computers with us. I brought mine, and checked my phone several times, but it wasn’t really there because I didn’t have signal.
There’s something emotionally uplifting about the smell of smoke drifting on a warm night breeze, while the crackle of wood burning acts as the background music to your story. Whether you’re reliving a funny story about the time a bee flew into your Grandmother’s hair because she used Herbal Essence shampoo that smelled like apples, or recanting the near death experience you had when a cow started to crush your chest because you were too slow shoving a board behind its ass, there’s a certain energy to your tale.
Everyone tells their best stories sitting around a fire. Not just any fire will do, though. It needs to be a wood fire, and it needs to be visible. I firmly believe that. Scary stories are scarier when a living light is the only thing separating you from the darkness beyond. Funny stories are their funniest when there are unexpected pops and cracks from the split of wood. Sad stories are their most hopeful when light comes from the destruction of something else.
It’s Cathartic. It’s real. I hope to do that again real soon.
Back to my original point about losing the will to write: I don’t think I have good taste. I think I create because I have an urge to. My problem is generally that I lack the motivation, and when I do have the motivation, (like tonight) I don’t have characters that I’m in love with.
While at a book signing, listening to RA Salvatore speak about his experience writing, he said two things that I found really profound:
If you can stop writing, stop. Because writing for a living is tough.
You have to love your characters.
When I think about writing, I think about the things that I’ve read in the past. I try to imagine a character that I’ve enjoyed, and model another character after some of their features. Jenn once told me I was creative in a formulaic way. It hurt my feelings a lot to be described that way, because it sounded like an insult. Of course, she didn’t mean it as an insult, and I knew that, (or maybe she did and I’m too stupid to realize when an ex is trying to score cheap hurt-points) – so I didn’t confront her on it.
She has this way of getting into my head and making me think about things from a new perspective, though. This was another example of that. I am very formulaic in how I create things, and that’s my problem. I think about everything in terms of dollars and cents,
That’s a whole conversation for another day, but I wanted to bring it up so that you understand why my creativity is formulaic. But it hasn’t always been that way. Several years ago, I was dealing with the first woman I ever felt like I actually loved.
You know, that first person you fall for after having a series of crushes, but them BAM, it feels like the real thing? The falling down a well, hoping it never ends because the white rabbit is leading you through an amazing adventure kinda feeling? That was me and this woman who was 20 years older than me at the time.
Of course, that only lasted a few months before I realized that she wasn’t the right kinda woman for me at all. Being 20, though, I didn’t know shit about how to handle that. So I got depressed. I was having money issues, I was in love (hah) with a woman who didn’t really care for me (not even as a friend, though she pretended) – so I wrote. I had interesting ideas and I wrote about stories that were playing out in my head, and I had characters that were borrowed in part from my friends. It was a seriously creative time in my life and I loved it.
I had dreams of writing something big one day. I had wanted to write a novel since I was a young child, and I thought this was going to be my chance.
But I grew up. Got a full time job, eventually, and started pulling myself out of my money issues. The things that sent me spiraling into a depression disappeared, for the most part. There were still the occasional bad-girl issues that I had, but I had other ways of coping with that. Sex and insomnia filled most of my life when I wasn’t at work, and I texted people non-stop so I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts.
So I thought maybe being depressed was my catalyst for wanting to write, and that the will to write was lost to me forever because I wasn’t depressed. But I would find myself alone for periods of time and I realized, as most people who have been depressed, that it wasn’t really gone. It just sits there in the corner, waiting for you to let your guard down.
That was when I realized that depression was not the catalyst for my writing.
I used to game regularly with my friends. We were teens with nothing to do, so we would stay up for 30 hours straight drinking Mountain Dew and playing Dungeons and Dragons. Breaking every few hours for Pizza and X-Box. This was all ten years ago, but I was constantly flexing my creative muscles.
I can’t remember the name of my first really bad-ass character, but he was a cleric that was chaotic evil and he killed giants with a single spell and rivaled some of the deadliest gods. I played D&D a lot with a guy named Dan back in those days. He was a fantastic storyteller, but a terrible person, and as a result we stopped hanging out with him as much. Over the years, trying to get back the spark of those days has been my continual quest.
If I could feel about Dungeons and Dragons like I felt about it when my Aunt, (an alcoholic drug addict) told me I was addicted, I think I would be in a far more creative space for writing.
In a previous post, I mentioned how I got into the world of Fantasy novels. There was a voracious hunger to read more stories of that kind, I haven’t experienced that for a few years. Not since I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire. (And I’m not sure that I would consume The Winds of Winter if it was delivered tomorrow.)
That could go back to the depression and needing to escape my life, though. When it was an active, gnawing presence in my life, (like it was when I started A Song of Ice and Fire) I was in the deepest throes of my depression. Harry Potter 6 came out while I was dealing with the “First Love” girl, (she wasn’t, in fact, my first real love; I just thought she was) and I stayed up all night after my shift ended to read the novel. (I sat in the back room of McDonald’s and read until 6AM rolled around, and then for free food I helped my manager Lisa get everything ready for the morning rush.)
So I don’t think I have good taste, although I can recognize good, engaging drama when I come across it. If I were to read “Invisible Monsters” as a prospective editor, even though I don’t much like it yet, I would have thrown money at Chuck to get him to publish it. The guy obviously has a ridiculous amount of talent and needs to get his words out there.
That brings me back to the Ira Glass quote – You don’t get good unless you do a lot of work. A huge quantity of work. So that’s what I’m trying to do now. Write a lot so that I get out a huge quantity of work. I’ve taken it upon myself to bring the caveman out of his cave, and send him to town on the keyboard, or journal, with reckless abandon until the fountain pen runs out of ink and I have filled up several journals with written word.
Because maybe I am formulaic in the way I write. Maybe my creativity comes from a certain focus, and that focus is the wrong way to attack this problem. But I’ll be damned if I let my flaw get in the way of doing something that I want to do. I want to write creative fiction that draws at the heart and makes the reader feel deep emotions. I want to inspire people to read, and not just the things I write, but the things other people write. I want…
I want a lot of things. I think I’m just starting to figure out what I want out of life.
And fuck. At just shy of 29? I don’t think that’s too bad. Of course, I still have a lot of work to do. This blog post doesn’t count, and I don’t want to have it figured out any time soon.
The journey is where all the interesting stuff happens, not the destination.