Flash Fiction – July 24th – Essay

This week’s flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s Blog is an essay on why I write. . .what makes me a writer? What compels and drives me to do this? In contemplation of this I have come to understand something about myself hitherto unknown or at least unspoken. I am not a writer.

I am a storyteller.

Writing is one version of this but I also enjoy telling stories orally. My artwork tells a story . . .at least it does when it turns out right. That is what compels me, the need to tell stories. Though, I will admit, the “I can tell stories through interpretive dance” thought line was a bad idea from the get-go and I do apologize for that, it won’t happen again.

The reason why I write is that it is one way of telling stories and a way I can tell the stories to as many people as possible. So then, the question is not “why I write” for me but rather what drives me to tell stories? The answer to that is rather simplistic and straightforward. I tell stories because it makes me happy to tell stories.

The why’s and how-comes of that would keep a therapist in business for years trying to untangle. Was it a lack of attention when I was a child or a sense of narcissistic egotism that makes me feel that my stories are so important they must be told? I don’t know. One thing I have learned is that sometimes, it doesn’t matter why, it simply is what it is.

I write because I want to share my stories.

Where I get the stories is something I don’t know. My mind just works that way, it creates even when I don’t try and create. It fabricates from things I see ideas of what could be or what might be hidden right behind plain view. It just happens. It is just who I am. There is no poetics to it, just a simple fact of me. It is just how my mind works

So the final answer would be, I write because that is what I do. The why of it doesn’t matter except to my therapist. I do it because that is who I am.

Though I do feel in a strange way that I should now stand up and say, “Hi, my name is David. I’m a writer.” And wait for the twelve step crowd to welcome me. . .

Flash Fiction – Random Phrase

This is my flash fiction based on the random phrase “grisly calligraphy” from Chuck Wendig’s Blog . . .it’s 994 words long.

Masterpiece

Andrew carefully painted the wall with the blood of his victims. The painstakingly written text told of his sins. He wrote about the lust invoked by the woman, the envy that she carried another man’s child, the greed in coveting her for himself and wanting to possess her completely. He described the gluttony of drugs he took before and during the attack, the sheer power of his wrath upon her as he had cut her and her unborn child to ribbons and the pride he had knowing the world would remember his name with fear as the embodiment of evil itself. Then lastly he spoke of the sloth of not trying to hide it and of not cleaning up afterwards. He just couldn’t be bothered with the effort. His story of sin, written in grisly calligraphy on the wall declaring evil and defying the world to ignore him.

In the very center of this masterpiece he painted the outline of a door and the handle, rich with extra blood to drip and ooze down to add the final touch to the work of art. This door, he was sure, would swing open at any moment. It would be a doorway to the infernal regions and the princes of hell, seeing his work and reading his words would welcome him as a kindred spirit. They would embrace him as the embodiment of evil that he was an he would be exalted by the damned, made a prince for his work. This he expected so he sat and waited, bloody knives in hand, excited by all that was about to come to him.

“Stupid, petulant boy.” A voice said behind him.

Andrew spun around to see a man standing there. He was very non-descript and ordinary. As a matter of fact, although he was attractive Andrew would not even be able to begin to describe him even as he stared at the man. He just seemed to blend into the room and be quite unremarkable. Andrew was going to speak but the man put a finger to his lips and made a shushing noise.

“Don’t.” The man said. Andrew complied and stayed quiet. He was rather dumbfounded by the man being here, confused and worried because the man did not at all seemed even the slightest bit shocked by the scene all around them.

“You think that this, “ The man made a sweeping gesture to the room and carnage around them, “Makes you evil? This is not evil. This is a stupid boy acting out for attention . . . a mewing waste of life screaming for more breast feeding.”

The man laughed and stared past Andrew at the wall. “And that is just. . . disgusting. Self-serving sure but, vulgar, wasteful, and in the end quite useless. You have not the slightest idea of evil boy. This, all of this, is just an act of stupidity. Evil is more insidious . . .long lasting. . .pervasive. This is a moment of dumb-fuck.” The man said with disdain.

Andrew’s confusion grew as well as a feeling of dread deep inside him. He could not speak to argue, he could not move to look away. “Evil is so much more.” The man smiled at Andrew and then, quite suddenly and without any discernable movement was directly besides Andrew whispering in his ear.

“I am going to tell you what is going to happen to you now Andrew and this may help you understand evil, so listen closely. Now, you are going to be caught by the police because I have already called them. You are going to be convicted of being stupid and sentenced to a very bad place for a very long time. In this very bad place you will be attacked daily, beaten often, raped repeatedly, and live your life in fear. Then every 10 years you will go before a board of people and they will ask you if you have learned your lesson, if you have reformed and for just an instant you will have hope. You will beg and plead and they will almost do it but then, they will send you back to that hell hole to have it all start again.”

The man laughed. “And the best part is that when you die you won’t know because it will continue on in hell just the same way until your mind crumbles, breaks, and finally shatters into a million pieces. When that happens Andrew, at that moment when you go completely mad, I will come back and I will touch your greasy forehead and restore your mind fully and then I will bring you here, right here, right now, so it can start all over again and again and again.” The man’s voice trailed off into a chuckle. The man grabbed Andrew’s head and turned him to face the doorway to hell.

In that moment Andrew realized it was in fact a doorway to hell but it was not going to open to bring him to hell, it already had opened to bring him back from hell. That feeling of dread within him was not Deja-vu, it was nagging memories too painful to completely wash away. This was not the first time he realized this either. Finally able to turn his head to look at the man Andrew spoke, his voice cracking and trembling with fear.

“Why?” Was all he could get out.

The man smiled and leaned in close to whisper in his ear speaking slowly and clearly to make sure every syllable was understood, “Just because I can.”

Andrew felt all hope fade from him and all that remained in him was fear and shame and guilt. He began to weep uncontrollably. The man smiled at his soul crushing epiphany.

“Yes. You are starting to understand.” He laughed a wicked, mocking laugh and vanished just as the first police officers on the scene kicked in the door.

Who am I writing for?

That is the question that has been bothering me for the past few days. . . just who am I writing for?

This is a question that has gotten into my mind the past few days because at 25k into my novel  I am reading it and realizing I may or may not continue reading on from that part. I might not even make it that far. While the story is good, the dialog witty. . .I am writing for someone else.

So I am left wondering if maybe I just have not found my voice yet. Pounding out more writing will help with that but I am also left with a nagging feeling that I have been writing for someone else. It reminds of something Neil Gaiman said in his speech (Which is really awesome and worth watching)  “Make Good Art”: The only projects he regrets are the ones he did for a reason other than really wanting to do them. That he writes things he wants to write so even if they fail, he still has the fulfillment of having written what he wanted to write.

So I am looking over what I have written and am left wondering if I am writing for me or for some idea of what some unnamed reader might like and buy.

So, lesson of the day, write for me. Combining that with the lesson before I am not going to restart, but from this point forward it will be what I dig. I will go back and renovate the rest later, redo it all if I have to. But from this point forward in my book, it will be shit I dig and how I dig it and fix the rest when I get done.

Still Kicking

Fear

It is a powerful motivator. . . or should that be de-motivator? Fear of the inevitable rejection that is part of being a writer. It happens and will happen and you can’t stop it. It is part of the writing process, not everything you write will be gold. Sometimes the things you think are best no one else ‘gets’ so they are rejected. Sometimes the things you are really, really unsure of hit the spot and people like them.

In most things there are benchmarks that if you strive for them you’ll fall within acceptable parameters. Things can be measured and calculated so that your efforts have a good certainty of success if you follow those guides. Ys, writing does have some rules but even if you follow them, it might still suck. Even if it doesn’t suck it might fall outside current trends or needs. Even if you hit the right time with the right idea inside the guidelines. . . sometimes the current trend is to color outside the lines. All of that uncertainty creates. . .you guessed it. . .

Fear

Then there is another kind of fear. It is a lack of faith. Sometimes you look at words you wrote the day before and though you were sure they were rock solid then, now you are not so sure. You second guess, worry, and that restricts further words. Lack of faith in your words is a huge fear.

Fear.

The worst fear though. . .at least for me. . .is being irrelevant. What if my best words at the best time about the best ideas are just. . . .nothing? That is the biggest and worst boogey-man in my writing closet. Irrelevance.

So I sent off several short stories to editors yesterday. They were sitting here and I had done nothing with them for over a year. I tweaked them and read them and I am pretty dang confident they were really good. I was also pretty confident that I am tired of fear. So if they are accepted, hooray for me in getting published. If they are not I will submit them someplace else and keep writing.

I am done letting fear guide my hand.

Ya. . .some stuff will suck but even if it does I will learn from it and move on. I used to tell students that the first hundred round-house kicks will be bad, the next thousand will be better but in the end, by the time they hit black belt they will have thrown an average of 25,000 roundhouse kicks. . . they’ll finally be doing good kicks. By the time they hit 4th dan and are a master they will have thrown over 100k and finally, they will be doing really good. If they ever hit 9th dan grand master, then they will be perfect. But each failure teaches a lesson. A slight modification of technique and timing that teaches us but only if we allow ourselves to throw them knowing they might fail. It is that willingness to be imperfect in our efforts that will guide us to achieving success.

So I threw a few kicks yesterday. I’ll throw some more today.

Some might hit.

Some might miss.

In the end. . .its ok either way.

Because at least I am still kicking.

Randomness and Rambling

I have, over the years, started many a blog. I have tried to be clever or introspective or informative. I don’t think I have ever just tried to be myself though. Thinking about it, I wonder about my reasoning behind the blogs I have started and then, eventually, abandoned. Was I seeking social connection? Was I trying to create a platform. . .? A writer’s platform. . .makes it sound like I might just tip over while writing doesn’t it? Like I need scaffolding to keep me upright. . . Oiy! Get some blocking under ‘im. . . he’s listing to the side again!

The writer’s platform. . . it is an odd concept to me. I get why it is needed in this day and age with the sheer volume of new fiction but, at the same time, I have a hard time planning one out for myself. I have a hard time thinking of “I should create this platform to attract that kind of reader to sell . . .” I know I should. I know it is stupid of me not to. I read other writer’s blogs, successful widely published writers and they seem to weave promotion so effortlessly into their blog. It is not pushy or too timid but just right. They slide the promotion in and do it in such a way that it is enjoyable and unobtrusive.

Me, on the other hand, well I always end up feeling like I put off the image of the neighbors horny dog that kept humping everyone’s legs when I try and do it. No matter how much I plan or don’t plan. . . .if I am spontaneous or operating on a thoughtful, systematic plan. . .I still get the feeling I come across like that horny puppy. It was a nice enough dog but once Rags got that sparkle in his eyes, you knew to steer clear of him cause someone or something was about to be dry humped.

 

Daily Progress

At 20,294 words now. Was up to 23k but deleted a bunch of stuff I really didn’t like. Finding it hard not to get lost into banter between the characters in the story. I periodically have to kick myself and remember “show, don’t tell” to get myself back on track. So I deleted about 4k worth of words and wrote back better stuff. Still fighting the urge to edit myself as I go along. . . but that section just went spiraling off into the “who gives a shit” area of playful banter. It had to go to get back to the meat of the story.

So back on track and moving forward.

The Archer

A long time ago when I learned martial arts my master used to use stories to teach me lessons. Some people might see it as sappy but, I loved them. More than that though, I remembered the lessons that each story was about. Years later when I taught martial arts I also told my students these stories. Now I will say that I most likely did not get them exactly, word for word the same and may have added a wee bit of flourish and my own style to them. The lessons though stayed the same.

So the other night I was going through and sorting some old documents on my system and I came across the lesson of the archer. It is a detailed account of all the work it takes to make a bow and then the work to make each arrow and fletch it. The point of it is to emphasize the amount of preparation so it is wordy and long and I will not rewrite it here so you don’t fall asleep on me. After all that preparation in making the bow and the arrows it talks about the process of shooting an arrow, the allowing the breath to escape as you aim until you are fully calm and steady and then you loose the arrow.  Then you don’t sit there and watch it go because there is nothing you can do once it is fired. You grab another arrow and shoot that or the enemy army will just run up and then you are kind of screwed cause, you know, you got a bow and not a sword.

The point was to teach students that once they throw a kick or a punch in a competition to not focus on it. If the kick sucked, it’s ok. If the punch failed, don’t worry about it, move on. The time you spend fussing over the botched kick or punch is the time that you should be continuing the fight and the time the opponent will use to beat your ass because you aren’t paying attention.

Then it hit me. This lesson that I was taught over 30 years ago and I had memorized to such a point that I was able to bore many sets of students with its retelling over and over, was a lesson I never thought to put outside the context of martial arts and yet, it is the exact lesson I needed to hear.

Sometimes when I write I get caught up in my own wordiness and try and get a turn of phrase just right or a description just perfect on the first draft. I can get bogged down on it and it just stops my flow of thought. That section consumes my thoughts and getting it perfect becomes more important than getting it down on paper. I need to let it go. I need to let the words fly and then grab the next handful of them and toss em at the screen and keep writing. Editing and second drafts are the times to fuss over exactness. First drafts are the fight, the kicks and punches you just keep throwing and striving to make the next better than the last. You get it done and worry about the clean up later.

It is humbling to realize that the solution was in my head and I never stood back far enough to see how it fit into other aspects of my life. I’ve known what I needed to do for over 30 years and I swear I could hear my master’s voice saying “duh” when I finally figured it out.

I can be kinda slow that way sometimes.

Morning Coffee

I was sitting outside today having a morning cup of coffee and I noticed something. It is the time of year when the spring eggs from the geckos and anoles and salamanders are hatching.  Most of the eggs look like tiny whitish-greenish balls stuck under leaves and blend in well (thanks Darwin). I happened to see one this morning just as the baby anole was starting to emerge. It was struggling, it’s egg tooth pushing and cutting and it was fighting with all its might to escape and be born.

You can’t help them. Even if you did have some technical way of actually providing assistance they would never understand and they’d just see this huge, overly hairy thing trying to mess with them and freak. So you just have to watch. You can only sit there and cheer them on, hope they make it, and witness it. That is all you can do.

Sometimes, when I am writing, I swear I see that same look from my girlfriend. That same pained “I wish I could help you through it but can’t” look I give the lizards. I know that at times when I am struggling with a passage or area or just with the writing in general she watches and wishes and hopes for me, but she can’t do anything. All she can do is witness it. That has to be hard to do for her. To watch someone she loves struggling and know that she can’t do anything to ease the struggle. The process is mine and I have to own it.

So I sat back and watched the lizard extricate itself in a long and arduous struggle and sipped my coffee. All the while I kept thinking, I bet she doesn’t know that I see those looks. . . that I don’t know she is watching, hoping, wishing she could help. Maybe I should find some way of telling her that I know.

The coffee, by the way, was Blue Mountain Blend from Fresh Market and was amazingly tasty today.

Progress for the Day

Well, started off with 14, 120 words today and am ending with 17, 244 so far. so about 3100 words and will try and get more done tonight. Feeling good about it.

The Hemingway Fail

Write Drunk, edit sober

Those words always encompassed the true grit of masculine writing to me and of course were uttered by the immortal Ernest Hemingway. The idea that when slightly inebriated the ideas would flow easily, albeit rather sloppily and you could bang out large sections of text that you could then go back and edit when sober and clean up. I want this. I strive for this. I try again and again for this. . . .Unfortunately for me, there is a stumbling block of the modern age.

In a word. . . .Porn.

I get myself a buzz going on Angry Orchard hard cider and then sit down to write. I am feeling creative. I am feeling energized. I am feeling like I could write great stuff. I am expecting the alcohol to loosen my inhibitions and allow me to write in a gushing flow of ideas that, while grammatically challenged, tap into some deeper portion of me cut off by my sober mind. I open up word, prepared and resolved to write and create mind blowing story lines and in depth characters that pull at the very soul of the reader and then. . .

Porn happens.

It is not so much a conscious choice. It is not planned. It is not even anticipated really, it just happens. Somewhere between opening the word document and starting to write, I get distracted by sparkly things and wander off into a half drunk, gluttonous storm of porn. I lose track of ideas and think only in basic, primal urges I will not discuss here. . . but you get the basic idea.

I often wonder if Hemingway would have been able to hold fast to the efforts of writing had he had the internet and non-stop streaming porn of every flavor possible available at just a few clicks away. Would he have been able to resist the siren like lure and call of debauchery or would the world be starved of his brilliance due, at least in part, to Big Booty Latex Housewife Sluts parts 1-4?

It is a failing of mine but, once I reach a certain level of intoxication boobs are far more interesting than plot line development. I know. This is wrong but I also know, it is somewhat inevitable. The best intentions of banging out five thousand words while intoxicated becomes a point and click frenzy of clips, searching for the perfect one that fits my current mood.

I could be Hemingway . . . if it weren’t for “The Best of Big Boob Bangaroo”.

It just happens.

I swear to god I don’t even remember opening it half the time. .it just happens.