Sunday, December 30, 2007

2007 (e) - Looking Forward

And here comes 2008. A leap year. I love leap years. An even number. I like even numbers. A holdout from my "I <3 Math" days, I think. 2008 is going to be a very interesting year.

2008. 2008 is going to be the year of accomplishment. IS. Not hoped to be. It will. There isn't an option. I've always toyed with not leaving myself options, and now I know that its truer on a deeper, fundamental level than I had even thought. It's how I define my accomplishment. I make it truth. Then it just happens because its true.

So what's the goals for 2008? The goals are pretty straightforward. This is the year I get my shit together. I'm going to edit MS, and work on getting it published. I'm going to keep writing, keep editing, keep getting better at this craft that I try to do. I'm going to pick up my pet projects. I'm going to explore interests and hobbies. I'm going to read a shit ton of books.

I was tired of the way my life was going, so I built up a new direction for it. And it seems to have worked. I'm full of hope. 2008 will prove whether or not I did a good job with it. If all goes well, by the end of the year I'll have one finished book, looking for an agent, one at least edited once, and three new ones in the can. I'll have a podcast, an audio drama, and a webcomic. I'll have a new computer and be nearly out of debt.

There's a lot I want to do, and there's no time like the present. So it's going to be a wild ride. It is a wild ride. Sometimes good and sometimes bad but never not worth doing. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

And this is short, but I've found that I don't really need to talk much about this next year. You'll find out. I'll find out. My goals are written out quite neatly for myself elsewhere, and I'm following them like a mantra. It's going to be a challenging year, but I don't have enough challenges in my life. It's time to push beyond my comfortable boundaries. It's time to live the dream. It's time to rock out.

Onward to 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 (d) - How do you measure a year?

Here I am, days left in 2007. Looking back on all the things that have happened. I started the year on an entirely different note than I began it. I began the year hoping that I could make something of myself. That I could do something worthwhile. Now, ending the year, I've done something and I'm about to do a whole lot more as I march into 2008.

And maybe that's really the biggest thing I've taken from this year. Quoth the Connor: There is no future but what we make for ourselves. That contains within it all truth. All importance. All potential.

I'm still prone to angst, especially right now when winter's descended upon everything and it's dark so much. But I don’t bother with indulging it. What would it give me to do so? Nothing at all. Instead, I've decided to say 'the hell with it' for all sorts of major procrastination and struggling and waiting. I was never gifted with patience, why did I think that I needed it? That's a foolish lie. People don't need patience, not really.

I wanted to be a writer. Now I am one. I wanted to achieve something. Now I have. I am. I will. I wanted to feel worthwhile. Done that. I know the truth, now. The truth is what I believe it to be. That's been proven to me time and again, and I've finally accepted it. I wasn't a writer until I believed I was. I couldn't accomplish anything until I believe I did.

Finishing a novel and writing two more to completion is a good accomplishment for the year. Getting a new job and figuring my issues out has been a great accomplishment. Getting over a lot of my baggage has been a necessary, painful experience, but I feel a lot better for it.

This year has seen the birth of my LRS-philosophy. The Literary Rock Star title isn't just something for laughs. It isn't just me wanting fame and fortune (though those would be nice, don't get me wrong). The Literary Rock Star is a philosophy for life. For writing, mostly, but for life in general. The Literary Rock Star is taking no prisoners and making no excuses. It's dreaming big dreams and making them real. It's excess turned into energy. It's getting up on stage, no matter how coked up or exhausted or whatever you are, and rocking out. A Rock Star has a job to do. His job is to be larger than life. He dreams the dreams that others don't dare and strives to make them real.

I've discovered my EELOW. The EELOW is Tony's term, and I love it. It stands for the Ever-Expanding List (or life, I suppose) Of Wonder. The EELOW is my gift and my curse. The EELOW is what drives me ever onward and pulls me away from things I should be doing. The EELOW is what happens when I want to do a thousand things at once, when I find new things to capture my interest every day. When my goals are constantly fluid and insane and I can never settle onto anything. When everything I do is the most important thing in the universe at that moment, and then is suddenly insignificant. The EELOW is a tornado ripping through the mundane and banal.

Look out EELOW!

The future is what I make of it. And I'll make it real. I'll dream big dreams and throw them together out of whim and air and ignite fire into them and they live. This looks, to an outsider, like either incredibly hard work or goofing off. It depends on who's looking, how deep you see. And it's both, you know. And its neither. It's incredibly hard work, and I drive myself near to exhaustion time and again because of it. It'll only get worse. It's also goofing off, because at the end of the day it's pretty silly to do many of the things I do, if you're a normal fellow on the street.

But I'm not goofing off. I'm deadly serious. I'm also just kidding, it's all a big joke, hey dontcha have a sense of humor about these things, what's your big deal, lighten up and laugh a little.

I laugh and joke and I mean it. That's a pretty amazing thing, if you ask me.

So here we are, at the end of the year. The fires are hot and so are the irons. I will strike now. Strike again. Strike forever. 2007 began with hope and died into a whimper and nearly went out entirely, but it's become the roar of the tides. The tsunami of revelation. The fires of rebirth. The fancy metaphor of proving my point.

I'm ready for you, 2008. You better be ready for me.

Tomorrow: Looking ahead to the New Year

Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 (c) - A Fall into Madness

In October, the writer went insane. He was tired of being at home and accomplishing nothing. He was tired of feeling sorry for himself. He was tired of making more angst than he needed to. In short, he went through a midlife crisis at 21. It was informative. It was existential. It would have provided great entertainment for both sadists and masochists alike, in entirely different ways.

He got up and found himself a job. That was a plus. Jobs aren't great, but he found something he didn't hate. He discovered that not all day jobs had to be terrible, even if they were just day jobs. This was a surprising revelation that greatly reduced his stress level.

He also had a creative revolution. If he wanted to write books, it wasn't getting him anywhere to not write. Feeling sorry for himself was great and all, but in the end it didn't gain him anything. Words weren't appearing on the page because of it. Writing was hard, but he was making it harder by indulging his writer-whining. So he swore to himself he would stop that, and turn it around.

Boy did he ever.

He began what he had always claimed he wanted to do--write every day. He wrote every day that he could, and when he couldn't he didn't get angsty, just made it up on the back end somewhere. And he stuck to that throughout October. Suddenly his novel was firing on all cylinders and it roared closer and closer to the finish line. It was amazing. It was wonderful. He felt successful and talented for the first time in a loooong time.

That's when NaNo hit. (NaNo referring to

NaNo was a golden opportunity to write more and more. He could take one of his old ideas and run it up the flagpole, so to speak. It would get him to write every day, to force it done. It would make him focus on the work. It would keep him from giving up on writing for another few months when he finished MS. There was only one problem: MS wasn't done.

And so, with two weeks left until Nov 1, the writer picked up the pace. His five pages a day became seven. Then they became ten. Then they became a bone-crushingly hard fifteen for the last three days. He was a fireball. He was a bullet train. He was unstoppable. And in his blaze of writerly glory he flew through the end of MS and before the high had worn down he was neck-deep in a new novel. A novel so complex and challenging and demanding that it tore him into pieces as he tackled it with the same fury that he had brought with him from the end of MS.

Somewhere along the way, near the end of November when the novel was shaping up to be a little over half done, I decided to start a blog. The energy that had built up didn't go away. It kept growing and growing. In fact, it's become a fierce tempest of hopes and dreams and wild imaginings. I started up the blog, as you can see if you're reading this, and last week I blew through the end of WTC only slightly behind schedule.

Now comes the hard part. Now comes the editing of MS. The work to take my drafts and make something of them. To be a 'real writer'. To make it the best thing I can and sell it and start living the life I've always dreamed of and am making real. But that's for another day. Right now, we're here at the end of 2007, looking back at the mess that's been made of the year so far.

It's horrifying.

It's satisfying.

Tomorrow: How do you measure a year?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007 (b) - A Summer of Nothingness

The novel was finished. Our writer friend felt very good about himself, but was left to wonder "what next?" The problem with a question like that is that it requires an answer, and answers are hard to come by when you're talking about something like life. A writer was supposed to edit his books, right? So he should try to edit his novel and make it worthwhile.

The problem was that his first novel was a mess. It started and stopped, was full of multiple styles and genres, and had completely changed direction about half-way through. The pacing was awful, the writing pretty mediocre, and the size completely unmanagable. It was a very, very sick novel, in need of some serious work. Foolishly, the writer dove in and tried to make it work.

The problem with that is the writer had poured his heart and soul into the book for 4 years. It had taken up nearly 20% of his life. And certainly more than that of the life he remembered. And he was so wrapped up in it, it was so wrapped up in him, that it was impossible to look at it and figure it out. The writer, in a rare moment of lucidity, decided to let it go and come back to it later. And so it sits, awaiting a day when I feel equipped to fix it. Hasn't happened yet.

Now it was nearing summer. Work was being frustrating and difficult, and the writer was burnt out on his life. Lacking a new idea for a novel, he just drifted through his days uncertain about what he was supposed to do. In four years, he had collected some ideas, but they didn't grip him with the kind of insane fervor that told him THIS IS THE ONE like it had with his first. Thinking that meant he shouldn't do them, he didn't. He did nothing.

It was at this time that a concert blew into town. I had never been to a concert before, not like this. And I normally wouldn't go. But it was Dir en Grey opening for Deftones. I really had no opinion about the Deftones, but bands like Dir en Grey don't typically run through Omaha so I made sure that I got tickets and I went. The details of the concert aren't really important. What is important is that standing there with Dir en Grey playing music, the writer's mind exploded and he was suddenly struck out of the blue with an idea. An idea that was too good not to use. Suddenly, there was a second novel.

The second novel took about two weeks to slowly unravel. Ideas come in giant balls like knots and it took some time to untie it and figure out what it was going to be. But finally the writer knew what it would be, more or less, and started on his second novel. Slowly, because he was lazy and writing was hard to do, but he started. A few pages a week. But it was something. Moving on to a new novel, the writer felt happy.

Of course, it was then that the writer was fired from his job.

The writer hated his job, but money was good. And not having it, in fact having nothing to do, threw him into a tailspin. The writer's self-confidence was pretty bad, but getting fired utterly ruined it. The writer, under pretense of needing some time to deal with things (which is mostly true) took to his bed.

He didn't pull himself from it for over two months.

In that time he plucked at his novel, though his progress was spotty. Despite now having gobs and gobs of time to work with, he didn't do anything meaningful with that time. There is much that could be said for that time, but time mostly passed uneventfully. The novel, developing into something solid, was growing at a slow pace. But with nothing else on his plate, the writer had to confront his own lack of work ethic. It began to bother him that he wasn't writing, so he started writing more often. And the novel began to slowly, ever so slowly, grow in size.

As summer pulled up into fall and suddenly it was nearly October, the writer was forced to admit that his experience so far had been unfulfilling. He had worked a job he hated, wrote books at a pace that was completely unacceptable, and hated himself for doing both. Which made it hard to motivate himself to do better. Everything that had been in his life had been mediocre and frustrating and leading down the dangerous road to dissatisfaction. The writer couldn't have that. Not at all. It was completely unacceptable. The writer was supposed to have potential! The writer should be able to make something of himself!

It was at this point as calendars the world over were flipped from September to October that the writer went crazy.

Tomorrow: A Fall into Madness

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Amazon Holiday

Amazon for the Holidays

US Economy: The Retail Sector
List Price: $23.4 billion
Amazon Price: $14.9 billion
You save $8.5 billion (36%)

Availability: In Stock. Ships from and sold by

Not available for Free Super Saver Shipping. Special Shipping Information: This item can be shipped only within the contiguous United States. This item is shipped via's white glove delivery service.

3 used and new starting from $8.2 billion.

Average customer review: ** ( out of 303,619,006 )

I love Amazon, don't get me wrong. They're perhaps the best store evar. But when they pull stuff like in the above story, it's hard not to laugh and laugh and laugh as you watch them take over the world with poorly written reviews, annoying recommendations, and Free Super Saver Shipping.


So MusicBob has a game called Brick. It's breakout, of course, but they call it brick. You start off with two rows of bricks to break. You get the drill. If you don't know what breakout is, you need to go find out.

Anyway, once you complete the first cycle of stages, it starts over, except you're juggling two balls. And then when you complete that, it starts over, except you're juggling three balls. And then suddenly your paddle gets cut to 50% its normal size for cycle 4. Cycle 5 sees the return of multiball.

I was at Cycle 6 when I lost just now. 593 points.

I think I'm officially done playing brick forever. I don't see how I can do much better without an outrageously stupid time commitment.

That is all.

2007 (a) - The Winter of Our Discontent

Let us hop in the way back machine to the dim days of January in 2007. If memory serves, it was a mild winter, though it got terrible late in the season. I was still working the first job, the job I hated. Here is our aspiring novelist, dead-ended and frustrated. He has a couple hundred pages of his first novel written, but it's not close to finished. He's suffering from a broken heart that he's nursing into full-blown angst and from wrists and hands that are losing more and more of their strength and hurt more and more often.

This is not a happy life. Oh no, quite opposite. This is the life of the contentedly unhappy. Our writing friend here wants very much to achieve something but struggles with what he wants. He thought he knew, but that turned out to be wrong (for a number of reasons that are truly outside of the scope of this discussion, even if the issue was a major focus of the year). Of course, when you're only twenty one many things you know turn out to be wrong. But to our friend at the beginning of 2007, the mistakes were inexcusable and he was falling apart with questioning everything he had ever believed in all at once in the most wrong of ways.

Our friend wanted to be a writer. Yet he never wrote. He hemmed and hawed about writing, but when it came to putting words on the page? There was always an excuse. There was always some sort of issue that prevented it. Admittedly he was having wrist problems, so I'm willing to cut him a little slack. But he caused more trouble than he needed to. He was good at that. His angst was comfortable, in its way. He was so used to it that it was easier (or at least less frightening) than the alternative.

He had been stuck in his day job for a while, and he was overstaying his welcome. He could do more, but the company and him just didn't get along. There are jobs and there are jobs, in that some are based on shutting up and following the rules and there are jobs where the best thing to do is always excel and break out of the box and make yourself stand out. Our friend, when he sets his mind to things, is good at that second one. That first one? He's not so good at that. Never had been, even though he pretended for a while.

He slogged through his book with a pace that could best be described as glacial. Though, to be fair, glaciers would file libel suits against me at the comparison. And likely win. This book had been started in high school. Since then he had moved numerous times and been to college and been kicked out of college and gone back to college to fix his grades and stopped going to school because of money. He had fallen in love and fallen in lust and ended up in a deadly serious relationship that ended in madness. Friends had appeared in his life, lived out their usefulness, and disappeared into fate's currents again.

I can tell you that this is the WRONG way to write a book. Joyce and Tolkien can take over a decade to write their masterpieces, but they were both barking mad. Books are like bandaid removal or setting a bone or pulling out a splinter or somesuch. The fastest way is to just do it, damn the consequences, and grimace and moan afterwards when you're writhing in the surprising sudden pain. It sucks, sure, but it's a lot easier than suffering over such a long time while you try to take it slow and easy. Let me tell you, taking it slow and easy will get you that first half of your goal and make the second absolutely impossible.

Yet, with his pain and suffering, the writer threw himself into his work (as much as he was able, with his hands the way they were and his mind the way it was). And he wrapped up his book in the early springtime. That was a bit of happiness. Four years work, with all that baggage, wrapped up and tied neatly. It wasn't pretty. It was a confused mess. It was a ginormous monster of a piece, full of crazy and contradiction and really, really bad writing. But it was done. There was a hope, a glimmer, of happiness in the writer's life. He thought, as he wrapped up his book and the days grew warm after the depths of a late winter, that he was finally coming around to something happy and better and all those things he hated himself for not having.

Little did he know that things always take that nice little upswing right before the plummet down into the depths. But he would soon find out.

Tomorrow: A Summer of Nothingness

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'll make no excuses.

I live in an ever-expanding life of wonder. It is scary and fun and full of random things like cheese that is joyful and potatoes that wish they weren't and spoonerisms that nobody would ever make and redefining the definitions of common words to suit whatever arguement I want to make.

I can look out my window and see nothing but bleak self-destruction. I can go up to a person on the street and get them to tell me their dreams and make them believe in them, if only for a second.

A gift.

December 24th, 9 AM, Eastern Standard Time

So my weekend was full of the various get-togethers and celebrations of the season. Or as many as I'm going to stomach. On Friday I swiftly (or not so much) made my way shopping for this and that, which was wonderful. I'm now the proud owner of a gorgeous gold-on-gold Winnie the Pooh from the Disney store. It's soft and festive in a classy sort of way.

I've also seen Sweeney Todd, which is one of the best Burton films, and certainly the best one he's whipped out in at least a decade. I've been kind of dissatisfied with most of his lately. They were good, but they were always leaving me feeling as if they lacked. With three hours of material to work with, this film is chock full of stuff, even if it's slightly condensed from the stage show. But the violence is wonderful and the film is beautiful in that gorgeous darkly-impressionistic sort of way that every moody period film should strive for. Ha!

Not to mention the most wonderful performances by actors who aren't known for their singing. When Johnny Depp is your weak link vocally, you know you're doing all right. And that's mostly just because he doesn't get as much material. His Sweeney is very understates and stoic. Like Johnny Depp doing a Hannibal-Lecter-meets-Beetlejuice kind of character. I immediately rushed out and bought the soundtrack, which is so rare for me as to be seen as the highest recommendation.

And then on Saturday I floated about with Tony, who is visiting the Big O for the holidays (I truly wish Omaha could claim a title like the Big O. It tries, but Midwesterners seem opposed to anything quite as full of abandon as a Big O, though I blame the influence of the Bible Belt and the coldness of the weather rather than some inherent prudishness on the sake of the population).

Tony purchased for me a wonderful book on finding your strengths. The StrengthFinder test/book put out by Gallup. It's mostly done for businessmen and whatnot, it's certainly career-oriented, but the advice is all pretty decent if you can alter it to fit everyday life. He explained his results when someone had gifted the book to him, and I was incredibly intrigued. So he paid it forward and I took the test. The results were, to say the least, amusing.

Everything points towards me being an incredible ideas person. Full of philosophy and opinion and insight, absorbing and learning information at an absolutely feverish pace and then turning it all into a very individualistic philosophy that I apply to the world to wring everything I can out of it. That this all strikes me as true is encouraging, as this is the path I've been going down lately, anyway. The only oddity is that it claims one of my strengths is strategy, and I would never claim that in a million years. I've been wrong before, though, so … we shall see. We shall see.

In other news, tonight is Christmas Eve. I don't really do christmas celebrations in the typical sense of the word. I don't dislike this holiday, but this year I'm just not feeling particularly festive. This winter's been rough and I'd rather celebrate with good company than anything resembling traditional holiday activities. It's actually been rather refreshing to feel no obligation to pay lip service to an expected Christmas.

Tonight, as my post also alludes to, is the night where the bulk of Rent takes place. To celebrate, I'm heading over to have a fantabulous musical night with Adam and Katie, singing Rent and lamenting the fact that the film version (which we'll be watching) cut out my two favorite musical numbers from the stage show. Oh well. It's a pretty movie, and the remastered songs sound lovely. I wouldn't be surprised if we forewent the movie at some point in favor of just the broadway soundtrack, though.

This week will prove to be a slow one at work, I fear. The goal for the blog is to provide some sort of insight/recap on the year. 2008 is going to prove to be full for me, I certainly hope, so I'd like to neatly examine this past year and put it all out there in preparation of the first of January. So expect some sort of thoughts. I expect they'll be lengthy, but they might not be. It's one of those things that's very hard to figure out until you're doing it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ow my jaw-divot!

So I'm sitting here yawning my fool head off. Over and over and over. And then I get the yawning cramp. Anyone who's seen me get the yawning cramp can contest to its power over me. You see, the yawning cramp is incredibly painful and impossible to work out.

Poke your chin. Now go underneath to the underside of your jaw. You'll feel the place where your jaw ends and your fleshy bits begin. That divot in between the sides of your jawbone? That's where I get my yawning cramp. Poke it harder, and feel the muscle. Then yawn deeply. You feel a tenseness in there? Turn that into a knot of hot agony and you have the yawning cramp.

There's no cure other than to wait for it to let go. I've tried. Jaw stretches (these hurt worse) and massage (not helpful) and even punching the underside of my face with a knuckle (probably the most effective, and you can understand how little effective that is). And that makes me sad.

So I finished WTC. Much rejoycing. Just to offer some stats, it currently weighs in at 303 pages and 1039XX words, off the top of my head. It's decent, but kinda messy and I skipped over two key scenes because I'm not sure what to do with them.

Now I'm editing. Editing is interesting. Going back over MS is like looking into a fun house mirror. You know what you expect to see and what you are seeing, but the two kind of blur sloppily into each other like runny watercolors.

If I want to have the novel to my readers by March 1 (Feb 29th would be even better, I'd celebrate that mamma jamma hardcore) I need to sit down and do about 1900 words a day. Yesterday I went through 3000. So maybe I'll end up giving it a pass and a half before I kick it off. It's hard to know when something's good and when it can be better without agonizing over every word forever and ever. Right now I'm jiggering things around, and trying to clean up writing (I love my commas like they're oxygen and caffeine) and all. Sooooo, yeah. We'll see how that works out. Expect lots more about writing between now and then.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Rock Star Q and A Sessions, take one

Hello there. Wanted to do something a little different for tonight's piece. You see, I have some people here who wanted to ask me some questions. Or maybe I told them to ask me questions because I wasn't sure what to write about. But they wrote some questions, and they're very amusing. I'm going to answer them now. Askers are credited before their question the first time, then abbreviated.

If you too want to ask me a question, just send me an email at with the heading LRS Q&A or something like that. I'll assemble any and all questions I receive and answer them as fully as I feel comfortable with (and sometimes moreso) when I get enough to fill up another day's post. I guarantee that your question will be answered, even if it isn't the mostly timely response.

Tony: What was the first book you ever read, or the earliest you can remember?
Answer: There was one of the Choose Your Own Adventure series about these two kids who broke into this house and they found out the woman who lived there was a witch. Not only was that the first book I actively remember, but it was my first love affair with the written word.

I kind of want to track that book down, but I'm also kind of afraid to.

T: What is the one strength you maybe admire in others that you wish you were better at?
Answer: I always admired people who were able to shrug things off and put on a happy face when things are rough. I'm not good at hiding my emotions or not indulging them. The best I can do is just let them ride. The people who let things not bother them are like mystics, if you ask me.

Kris: Has your hair ALWAYS been supalong?
Answer: No, no it has not. The supalong thing started in 2002 or 2003. The supalong look was my foray into the world of hair growth after having my hair buzzed close to my head for my entire life. I decided to start growing it out, and I kind of never stopped.

Hoping to get a trim this weekend, though, and only be hellalong.

T: If you had to name three books that would be with on you a desert island, which three would they be and why?
Answer: The first would be Robinson Crusoe. Because of the obvious, and because it's a wonderful story. The second would probably be The Divine Comedy, because the better part of the useful bits of human experience are pretty well packed into that, and it's worth reading again and again. I'd try to commit it to memory. For the last one, I'd have to go for the entertaining and meaningful, and say Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa. That book makes me believe almost all things are possible.

Worth noting that two of those books are huge. I'll have free time.

T: What's one of your guiltiest pleasures?
Answer: I don't typically do guilt about most of the things I do. The one thing I do enjoy that I really shouldn't is ... hrm, causing unhappiness in people who are unprepared for what I can do. That's really fun, and it shouldn't be.

K: If someone paid you tre' fiddy to suck on a homeless guy's ear, would you?
Answer: Probably not. I wouldn't suck on most normal, clean people's ears. Unless tre' fiddy is some sort of slang for a number with at least three zeros behind the 3 and 5.

[ blogger's note: the original question was not about a homeless guy's ear, but about a banana. Kris asked I change it when I mentioned I had another question about a banana, though who knows if it'll make the cut this round.

In case you're curious, I have sucked on a banana for less than tre' fiddy. In fact, I've done it for free, just to amuse people with my slowly diminishing deep throating skills. Unless banana is euphamistic for something ... y'know, not grown on fruit trees. In which case, see answer to above.

What can I say, I'm poor. I can be bought. ]

T: Name the two greatest influences on your work--one positive and one negative.
Answer: The best positive influence I ever had on my work would have to be .. um ... whew, let's see ... there are a lot. Right now, I think my work most channels the sensibilities of someone like Murakami. Very boundary-pushing, forcing people to accept the absurd as part of everyday life. My novels definitely go for that kind of feel.

The worst influence, and I hate to say it because I love him, is Stephen King. I caught elephantitis from him. I'm very content to just sit back and shoot the breeze with my characters and just let them go on and on and on and on about nothing at all. I try to fix this.

Though, to be fair, I actually count King among my greatest influences, too, so ... yeah.

T: You are given a 30-second sound byte that is guaranteed to be transmitted and translated to every man, woman, and child on Earth. What would you say?
Answer: We can never be sure of anything save for what we believe, so believe what you want. Oh, and remember the secret to life. And then I would laugh and laugh until the time ran out.

K: "Don't you want me baby ... don't you want me, oohhhhhh, ooohhhhhh ..." ????
Answer: If you mean in a come-take-a-road-trip-on-thursday-evening kind of way, then I really don't have the resources. Sorry, sugar. I've also got plans this weekend.

Otherwise, you better believe it. ;)

T: Some say the eyes are the windows to the soul. What do you think when looking in someone else's eyes?
Answer: I actually try to avoid eye contact. Something I'm not comfortable with. I'm not sure why. When I do venture it, it's typically because I have already found some sort of affinity for that person, and I want to confirm it. The people I care most about have that look. When you get that look, you know you've won. Won what? Hard to say. But I don't want to look at people I don't care about. Too easy to get attached to someone's eyes.

T: A banana and a cucumber walk into a bar. What happens next?
Answer: The potato bounces them into the street. "No fruits" says the sign. The cucumber realizes that he's hanging with the wrong crowd and joins the lettuce and carrots over in the stodgy vegetable hang-outs.

[ when running my answer by Tony, the question came up of whether my social commentary was deliberate. I explained that I actually had an image pop into my head, and abbreviated it to be cute but short. The true answer is as follows (though don't tell the cucumber's parents, they'd be mortified their son was hanging out with that fruity crowd again):

"Hehe. the only thing I could think of was of them getting bounced by a potato, with the image of the sign. In all actuality, the cucumber argued that it wasn't a fruit and scored a victory for the strange and abysmal, and the banana ended up finding the tomato which blew the banana's mind and the banana's banana for tre' fiddy and they went off and had weirdly beautiful but violent adventures." ]

T: You are driving cross country on a vacation and can pick any one person, alive or dead, to join you on the week-long trip. Who would it be and why?
Answer: Hunter S Thompson. That would be an enlightening trip, my friend. In every sense of both words. I can't think of anyone else offhand or onhand who would provide a more engaging, challenging experience.

K: If you had your choice of writing one novel, having it be a smash success with riches and fame but you'd never be able to write again, or writing as many novels as you desired but only ever achieving minimal success and accolades, which would you choose and why?
Answer: I would choose to ... well, can I pick the novel? Ha. Yeah, nevermind. Screw that. I find that my reasons for writing change all the time. They're the same set, let me clarify, but I prioritize different things at different times. However, if I was guaranteed no success? I would still do it. And I'd do it with a crazy sort of half-mad gusto, since there would never a fanbase to support.

I can achieve my other goals in other methods, but I still want that writing high. Which leads us to...

T: Why do you write?
Answer: This answer deserves a book. I might actually write a book on writing someday, if I'm ever famous. I even have a title. But that's neither here or there. I need to answer this completely-ish (because I only half understand it, most of the time) but shortly. How about this, broken down into pieces that ARE NOT in order of importance.
1. I love to write. Seriously. Writing's a pain in the ass but it gets me higher than a kite when it goes well. Pure nirvannic bliss. Better than sex. Better than chocolate. Better than sushi. Better than sushi followed by chocolate-covered sex. No joke. It is my all.
2. I want to achieve a legacy. Something that should I meet an untimely demise, will mark my passing in the truest way. To me, novels are the answer. Better than kids or biographies or movies or art at large or anything else.
3. I need to indulge in creativity. I'm an artist at heart. I want to sing and dance and play and sculpt and paint and perform and poetize and all the othe things. But the one I'm best at? Writing, specifically long fiction. So that's what I do.
4. I want to affect people. Novels are the art form I respond to most. A good novel will get under your skin and explode your mind. It will cause the expansion of consciousness. It will make you a different person than you were when you started. I want to share that kind of experience with people. I want to cause it.
5. I want to bring about change. My philosophies are grand and full of madness. The best way to package madness is in fiction. Easy to believe in the Force when its in a galaxy far far away. It would be harder if George Lucas was some wandering priest spouting neo-mysticism. Wrap it up better, and people will digest it better. Show them examples, don't preach, and let them make up their own minds.

So there you have it. The first of potentially more Q&A sessions with I, the Literary Rock Star. If you have a question, or if you've asked one and have thought of another, feel free to shoot me an email and I'll add it to the list to be answered in the order I receive them on days when I have nothing better to blog about (or regularly should I some day become popular).

Tune in tomorrow for my thoughts on editing for the first time plus randomness I think up then. Same bat channel, same bat writer, doubtful it'll be the same bat time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Wish List

This is what I would like for Christmas, from anyone who can give it to me:
1. Living stipend to explore art and writing all day, every day.
2. Every book ever written.
3. The ability to play piano.
4. A piano. (can go ahead of 3, I guess)
5. A nice shiny new computer.
6. A nice, shiny new scanner for said computer.
7. A nice, shiny new tablet for said computer.
8. A 150,000 sq. foot complex of random and learning and art that I can call my very own, at a place of my chosing (probably in North America, won't put it on the moon or anything [yet])
9. $100,000,000 in tax free contributions to the charity of the Coalition to Actually Do Something That Isn't A Circle Jerk (CADSTIACJ, I guess) run by yours truly.
10. The ability to live healthily as long as I want.

You can't be serious. Me?

So, I went off to a local writers meating last night. It was a group I had heard of, but have never met up with. They always met out of the way, and I only knew one of the people there, good old Mr. Joe Snakeskin with his leather coat and longish hair combed back like some sort of 50s rebel--or Bruce Campbell.

But I was bored, so I went. And I really miss the ability to 'talk shop' with people who struggle with the 'shop' every day. There's no replacement for people who at least, on some level, aspire to similar things as you.

We sat and talked randomness. We also each read a bit aloud. I wasn't expecting that, but I decided to share anyway, which was met with enough approval to give me a nice ego-stroking for a while yet. Especially as I rocket across the finish line and into my editing of MS.

Most of them are hobby writers, but a few of them are hobby writers mostly out of a lack of motivation than a lack of desire for being a working writer. And I was told, after the fact, by a certain fellow that he was 'glad that I was a part of the group, because I was a great inspiration. It's hard to find a writer with concrete goals and you have a lot of concrete goals.'


That's the idea. When this blog is unleashed upon the world at large, it's still going to be like this. I rant about my thoughts and issues, mostly about writing, and the world can take what they want from it. I get discouraged and motivate myself. I try really hard to motivate others. Writing isn't easy, but writers make it much harder than it ever needs to be.

If it falls upon me to help usher people towards a discovery of their own potential? Well, doing is the best way of showing, and I'll do it all the way down the merry road to whatever distant end is ahead of me. I'm looking forward to it, actually. I aim to help. I aim to inspire. Not just writers, but anyone with a dream that they aren't sure about. Go and do it. Make your future. Only you can decide that.

In the end, we're all free to make our choices, we just have to be aware of the consequences and sacrifices along the road.

I'll talk about it again sometime, probably countless sometimes in the future. But it's still so true. There's no future but what we make for ourselves. And that's not just true for the big dreams of dreamers, but for the everyday operation of our lives.

PS: Tony's been wonderful and found me someone who could probably make me the nice banner graphic that I just don't have the time, materials, or patience to make right now. So expect a possible go-live of the new design before too long. Tony's been wonderful about it, and I’m excited for how pretty it looks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Novel and Me readied to part, two lovers over an awkward breakfast

I'm nearing the end of WTC. The climax is done more or less. Now there's just the final wash of revelation. Not a climax in the strictest sense, but a poignant bit that the whole novel's been building towards. I'm looking to bring it to a close in about 10000 words, which will be two or three days, which is about what I predicted. It'll also push the novel into the 108,000 territory, but that's okay. It hurts me to write it, because it means a lot of things for me personally.

When it's done and all, I might talk about it, but I doubt it. The meanings in it are so very personal to the ghosts I've carried and still carry that it's hard to just throw it all out there. The only statement I ever really want to take on the issue for mass consumption will be the novel itself, in whatever form it will finally take. What do I mean? I mean that a lot of my past experiences, especially in the past three years, are expressed and explored in the novel.

Friends will know what that means. Those who don't will have to wait for some day when I'm feeling up to talking about it. But I've been carving away at my awareness of myself and those around me and our pasts for two months now. It's been hard. It's been painful. But I'm hitting upon very strange and strong truths that float up like bright balloons once they're freed.

I'll be happy to move on past this. I've been dwelling in my own head, transformed through magic and work power into the head of equally confused and much less optimistic Maxwell. Exploring a 'what if' of my own life hasn't always been full of laughs, but it's been an ultimately rewarding experience. I even had a lot of fun from time to time.

Now Maxwell's going to take his bow, and head off to where every other character goes (I don't know where it is, personally) until they wander back into the larger tale. And I'll be kind of sad to see him go. I'm comforted to know that unless my opinion greatly changes, Maxwell has one more story left in him, some years down the line when things have changed and I'm not who I am and he's not who he is and we look back and realize the consequences of our decisions.

I'm not going to post a big long retrospective when I finish WTC. That seems a little bit too much like writing its obituary, and it's not dead. It's just going to sit and ferment for a while as I move on to other things and wider pasteurs. This is my little ode to it when its still swimming in my heart and floating through my mind and I'm living and breathing it. I'd rather remember it like this, when it's not done and gone but still vibrant and changing.

Come next week, this blog is going to be much more focused on my editing efforts. And I'm sure I'll be throwing up excerpts left and right, revelling in the good bits and taking an axe to the woefully inadequate ones. My idea factory has built a nice new wing that's dedicated to refining the raw materials of previous novels. All the little robots of 'make this good' and 'make it make sense' and 'pace better' and those pistons of 'spelling' and 'grammar' all look nice and shiny sitting there waiting to be used. But I can't go in there yet, no sir, say the downstairs guys. It's a hard hat area, you see, and I don't wear hats. When its ready for me, I can go in and play Frankenstein all over MS. And I will. But for now I just look at all the various contraptions and wonder what kind of monster they're going to make when its all said and done.

I'm excited, actually. I get to make something of quality, and then unleash it onto the world. I'm sure plenty of mad scientists and weapon designers have all said the same thing. But then, so have a bunch of artists. So I'm okay. Lets hope that I inspire creation and not destruction. Pretty sure I do. I'm pretty sure that creation is, in the end, one of the things that I'm about.

One of an increasingly complex number.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I, Podius

I have an iPod. He's been a lovely companion for me. I call it by the pronoun 'he' only because of his personality. I named him MusicBob, which might imply male, but he is quick to remind me that I chose MusicBob as a the bob of the phrase 'thing-a-ma-bob' not the Bob that's derivative of Robert.

MusicBob has been with me a couple months now. Since April. He was my gift from the federal government. They sent me a piece of paper for paying them money, and that piece of paper was worth a certain amount, and I walked into a nice shiny Apple store. I handed the overly effeminite man a good share of the amount on that paper from my distant Uncle Sam, and he handed me a beautiful shiny box that held the unawakened thing that is now MusicBob.

MusicBob holds 80 GB. At the time, he was the biggest and the bestest. They've made the iPods hold more, but those new ones strike me as kind of … flimsy. Just the construction. So I'm pleased. And okay that I paid $100 than I would for something as big as MusicBob today.

MusicBob doesn't wear any sort of armor. He's exposed to the elements. His screen is still nice, and his white surface is beautiful. His metal back, however, is scratched and pitted and will never even remotely be reflective ever again. MusicBob is okay with that. MusicBob is hardcore.

How hardcore? MusicBob flaunts death at every turn. Normally he rides quite comfortably in my pocket, but whenever I take him out? Unless I'm sitting still, he's going to fall from some height or be flung into some hard surface. I've dropped him onto concrete, asphalt, dirt, snow, and ice. I've flung him into televisions, walls, ceramic tiles, and computers. He leaps off beds and tables at the least provocation, no parachute or safety line. He's just that kind of guy. My little adrenaline junkie.

Hasn't broken a thing yet! Good thing, too, since he's so quick to find something to smash into. For a while, after a particularly hard fall where I forgot I was wearing headphones and flung him nearly 10 feet, his Hold switch was a little loose for a while, but he's healed (by magic or something) and he's fine now. He just gets a little scratched on the back, and carries on.

He's a wonderful companion because he knows me so well. Maybe I've just imbued him with my spirit, or perhaps Apple have build iPods to be magically all-knowing, but MusicBob is very skillful. When I put him on random, invariably he suits music perfect to my mood. It's pretty scary how expertly he'll throw things together. He can even follow conversations, sometimes, bringing in the right song at the right time to perfectly underline or counterpoint the discussion.

And he keeps me sane. I drag him around, making him perform, like my own travelling bard. But he never complains (save once or twice when I didn't feed him and he put up a pretty big fuss by refusing to even talk to me) and he's always reliable. Worth every penny. A pittance for the current-tasties, and considering he's working at least 6 hours a day, every day? I'm in the free and clear, so far as I'm concerned.

I'm writing this mostly because he's awesome. And he deserves the acknowledgement. He fights the good fight, and he does it beautifully. Nobody else is going to thank him, so I'll have to do it.

MusicBob, you're the greatest!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Just a little bit of stuff

So, this weekend's been pretty eventful-ish. On Friday I started reading new books, one about editing that I'm hoping will help me out a lot. I just mostly want it to get rid of my nervousness about editing for the first time. Terrifying prospect, all told. I know it shouldn't be, but it doesn't help anything.

Then it snowed all wonderfully pretty, just in time to celebrate Adam's birthday. There's nothing more enjoyable than bellowing The Beatles' Birthday in a semi-tipsy state with a great friend while you drive through four inches of freshly fallen movie-like snow. Talk about one of those warm fuzzy moments.

This weekend I've been doing work mostly on my music library. But I've been writing also. WTC is slowly reaching towards the end, I have maybe 10000 words left (if that). I'm glad. It's been so emotionally draining. I've never written anything that was so close to my own experience before. Its made me reevaluate a lot of things in my life.

This weekend's just been a sad weekend for motivation, though. I was moving last weekend, I've been writing hardcore the past ... god knows how long. And now that I have a stable internet connection, I'm content to play music video DJ on YouTube for hours on end. Scary stuff. But this post is being written to motivate me to work on WTC when I'm done. Let's hope it works.

Best event of this weekend? I DLed a better recording (the one I had was trash, and iTunes had a nice looking one in their store) of Carmina Burana. So that's what I'm listening to as I write this. I'm going to change it soon, just because Carmina Burana doesn't work for my novel, but it's altogether lovely.

So apparently blogger allows people to log in from multiple different user names now, according to their info page. So people with livejournal accounts or other things that don't necessarily have a blogger account can still log in with that LJ or other name and post and not have to worry about showing up anonymous (I have anonymous comments up anyway, for now, but I might not have them forever). Seems pretty spiffy to me.

Best event of the past week? Realizing I was ready to drive 400 miles just to make someone feel better, but just lacked the means.

For this coming week, goals for writing:
- finish WTC, writing at least 2000 words a day
- allowed Wednesday off, but that's it.
- if finish before the weekend, start plot-justification on MS

And there we go. More tomorrow, probably.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guess What's In My Hand?

A young girl and boy were playing in the park one day. The boy was building castles and buildings out of the moist sand in the sandbox. The girl was rummaging through the bushes for berries. Suddenly, the girl gave out a cry.

The boy glanced over, wondering perhaps if the girl had been scratched by a stray thorn. He did not hear the cry was a cry of delight.

The girl rushed over, her hands clasped together. "Guess what's in my hand!" She was beaming, a strange light in her face. It made the boy feel uncomfortable.

The boy looked down at his castles, the sand too dry to make any detail. He sullenly addressed the girl. "What is it?"


"I don't want to play games," he said, pleased at how adult he sounded. "Tell me, is it a berry? Or a ladybug? Or a firefly?"

"No, even better…" She looked around to make sure nobody was listening. "I found a fairy!"

"A fairy? Like a small person with wings that glows and flies around? Like Tinkerbell?"

"Just like that," she said. "I was looking in the bush, and the fairy was just sitting there watching me. I held out my hand, and she hopped into it, looking up at me. I decided to come show you."

"Don't be stupid," the boy said. "Fairies aren't real."

"Of course they are," the girl said. "I have one in my hand."

"No you don't. You can't. They don't exist."

"They do too!" The girl stomped her foot. "Don't be difficult. Just look when I let her loose. She'll fly away, but you'll see her. I can prove it to you."

"There can't be a fairy. It's not possible. Open your hands and I'll show you its just a bug or a butterfly."

The girl opened her hands. She was so transfixed with what she was doing that she didn't notice that the boy's eyes were closed. As she opened her hands, the boy shook his head, his eyes still closed. "See what I mean? Just a firefly, like I said. Don't be so silly."

The girl frowned as she watched the fairy fly up from her hands and off deeper into the park. "That's not a firefly, it's a fairy!" There were tears standing out in her eyes.

The boy turned back to his mound of sand as he finally opened his eyes. "I saw it the same as you. It was just a firefly. Don't bother me with something so stupid again." He ignored her and went back to his castle.

The girl, weeping openly, turned back to the bush to look for fireflies.

* * *

I don't have much to say today, actually. Working, writing, tired. The week's wearing down, and I typically wear down with it. I get Jimmy John's for lunch, which is yummy-<3. And yesterday someone offered to do two very nice things for me out of the blue, and I remembered that good deeds exist and how wonderful they are when they come to you. It's been a long time since I've been in a position to do a good deed for someone. I just … never have an opportunity. I hope to, though, sometime.

Writing went well again last night. I won't say much right now, and probably won't blog much until I'm done with the draft. My mind's very wrapped up in the machine of my novel as it steams down the tracks towards its inevitable end. I'm already prepping the confetti and noisemakers.

Maybe my karma's looking up? Worth hoping for, really. But I won't hold my breath. Karma only comes round good when you don't worry about it, but instead focus on breathing. That's all that matters. Breathing, living, carrying on as normal.

Inhale. Exhale. Live. Dream.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride...

A story I heard today (not mine) that is worth repeating:

A little girl was in a restaurant with her parents and the waitress came and took their orders. The parents ordered mashed potatoes and meat loaf. The little girl says, "I'll have french fries and a hot dog and a Coke."

Her father says "Oh no she won't, she'll have mashed potatoes and meatloaf and milk."

The waitress then turned to the little girl and said, "So, hon, what do you want on that hotdog."

The waitress laughed. The family was stunned.

And then the little girl turned to her parents and said, "She thinks I'm real."

* * *

So I'm heading into the final stretch of WTC. The dicey bits of leadup are past. I'm firmly beginning the climax. I love this part of writing. I've spent a month and a half, nearly, writing almost every day to put words down and build up this story about these people doing these things. I planned about 25% of it, the guys downstairs did about 25% of it, and 25% came out of the happy accidents. And that last 25% was hard, hard work. Trying to figure out what's going on. What it's about. Where it's going. Dealing with the fact that this novel is deeply personal, cuts down to the heart of my past and explores parts of myself I'd rather not look at.

But now I'm done with all that. The leg work is done. It's like a slide. You spend all this time and energy fighting against gravity to get to a certain point. But once you do, it all starts going on its own. You sit down and you don't have to do anything and all of the sudden it all works on its own. You push off, and you're not in control anymore. The stuff you've been fighting to set up are conditions that will bring everything to the perfect, ideal end. All on its own. Look, no hands!


Its times like these that I write novels for. Publishing is spiffy, sure, and the idea of becoming wealthy and famous (maybe, biiiig maybe) is cool, but all I really like is that feeling when everything I put in motion takes off on its own and I just sit back and punch in the words that are demanded of me.

This story's taken more help to get it into motion than any other. But now that it's moving, it's a beautiful, terrifying thing. Dark and luxurious and insightful and twisted into all sorts of mind-bending shapes.

This moment. This realization. This euphoria. THIS is why I love to write. This part is my high, at the very end.

It's all downhill from here. Look for the draft to be done by mid next week.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Stages of Mind - A Process

I had an interesting day yesterday. Spent a good portion of the day doing some reflection and learning, and accumulated a few things I felt were worth incorporating. When I find something to incorporate, my mind seems to undergo a particular process. Almost always the same. I explained it to a friend of mine, and he found it quite a useful metaphor. So I told him he could have it, if it helped. And now I give it to you.

We examine the world through the lens of our perception. We see as clearly as the lens allows us, and all things are interpreted through that lens. It's tinted, of course, based on the experiences and opinions that make up the matter of the lens. But it's our lens. It's all we've got, so most of us treat it well (assuming we realize it exists).

When something new is encountered, something powerful and worth incorporating, it typically strikes the lens. If your lens is built to accept new things, the lens will shatter. All of the sudden, you have the explosion of thousands of fragments of self and awareness exploding through space, a solid becoming a cloud of potential as a new thing is found and works its way into the cloud of glass. You only have to be aware of this expansion process. Know when it happens. And let your mind explode with the new potential of whatever you've found. Let your awareness explore the cloud, and see the strange new potentials of the thoughts that fall in shards. Look for that thing which pierced your lens and caused this trouble. When you find it, you'll be ready to begin the next step.

Once you've discovered the new thought, it's time to evaluate. All these pieces are scattered, and you'll gather them up. Don't worry, you don't have to fit them together. Instead, they will all lie there in a pile, and your lens will no longer be a lens, instead it will be a kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope sees many things at all different facets. For the time you're using the kaleidoscope mind, all things will be seen from multiple angles. Opinions all seem valid. Viewpoints seem transparent and you'll be playing devils advocate with everyone not out of spite, but simply because you see the other side just as well. It's all there in a jumble.

This is the time to figure out which viewpoints you agree with again. Done properly, you'll know what your new thought or idea or belief is, and you'll know what it touches, and you'll examine those things as they relate to the new thing. Take your ambivalence to opinions as a time to examine your own and see the other side. Look at the many ways of approaching something, as opposed to the singular view that is typical when you have the lens mind.

Slowly, the kaleidoscope will fade, and you'll be left with the mirror mind. The mirror mind has once again melded all of the various pieces into a single existence. Yet, that existence should be turned inward before it'll be turned outward. The mirror mind is deeply introspective. It looks into the heart and soul and tries to come to terms with what it finds there. It is sometimes brutally honest and critical. It is sometimes good at pushing buttons. But it's a good thing, usually. It allows you to rediscover yourself with this new viewpoint. It allows you to get further and further into who you are, to help create a solid center.

Over time this mirror grows transparent. And as it does, the focus swings from inward to outword, and you're left with a lens. A lens similar to the one that you had before, but with a slightly different curvature. It looks at the world with a slightly altered tint. You will see things just that slight bit differently. And the hope is that it will help you engage the world on a more useful level. Refined, perhaps, or maybe wider as opposed to refined. But more suited to how you need to engage the world in the present.

This can happen all the time. Sometimes it happens more than once. Sometimes you'll be struck with a huge number of new thoughts, and the gathering takes forever as you find multiple new pieces. Sometimes the kaleidoscope mind has new thoughts that grow in the tumult and rise up and start the process all over again. Sometimes you skip steps, and when you gather the pieces that turn transparent immediately. Or the kaleidoscope becomes a lens. Or the mirror is struck from the inside by some revelation and you never see a lens in that cycle. Whatever happens, happens.

This happens to me quite frequently. And over time I've come to recognize each stage as it comes. I like knowing the process, even if I don't fully understand it. And perhaps you also will take something from it. If you do, that's great. I'm very happy. If not, that's okay to. I don't presume that this is the only way of existing and thinking. Just mine.

Winter Wonderland

It's snowing or sleeting or whatever. No rest for the wicked. I'm here at work, earning my keep. Kind of patchwork here today, though. Lots of people working from home. I wouldn't get anything done if I was working from home. It'd be something along the lines of "Oooh, here's my work for the day, but over there is a book, and over there are games, and there are a whole mess of movies."

Not to mention my bed. Oh yes. Beds are nice. And not condusive to work in any way, shape, or form.

So I'm here. Doing work, talking to Tony, and wondering what to put here. It's one of those lazy days where I just don't seem to have much to say. I feel nice and content. I have cold weather pouring outside, and I have warm jazz in my ears, and hot chocolate well within reach. It's cozy. The best part of winter is the coziness you can't find anywhere else but during freezing cold when you go somewhere that isn't.

I actually have two things to say. I don’t know if I'll get both of them written. But we'll see. Posts including them will follow this one, as I write them. Might be a productive blogging day. Who knows?

Monday, December 10, 2007

A small story

Three men sat before a great teacher, a wise man who knew many secrets both esoteric and mundane. He was rumored to have guided dozens of students to enlightenment. The three men had come separately the great distance with great hardship. They came to seek admission to the wise man's school, where he taught people and helped guide them to greater wisdom.

The great teacher sat down before them and apologized for them coming so far up his distant mountain. He explained that he only had a single opening at his school. He would take one of the men on as his student, but only after they passed an interview to demonstrate who was most worthy.

The teacher was very grave when he asked the men: "What do you know about being enlightened?"

The first man pulled out a list of teachers and schools he had been a part of. "I, great teacher, have been to numerous schools and taken the teaching they provided. All were great teachers, but none as great as you. When I exhausted their supply of knowledge, I moved on, and so I have amassed a great amount of ability and wisdom. I come recommended very highly from all of them. I have been working at enlightenment every day, and I have a strong belief in what it takes to be enlightened."

The second man interrupted the first. "Do not listen to him. Great teacher, you want to take me! I have been to no teacher, but I sought you because you are the greatest of all teachers. This man has been spoiled by too many schools and too many ideas. I have a beginner's mind that you are free to mold as you will. If you accept me, I will devote myself only to your teaching."

The two men then argued back and forth about who would be best to accept. The wise man watched for several minutes. Then he spoke. "Silence." And there was silence.

The wise man turned to the third man, who had been sitting quietly drinking the tea the wise man had offered all three men when they arrived. "What do you know about being enlightened?"

The third man thought. He had been to some schools, but he had found them confusing and obscure. He had heard of the wise man's power, and had decided when he was down in the verdant valley to come and seek enlightenment from this teacher above all others. Yet, both men had better answers than he and the voyage had been longer and harder than he had expected.

"I don't know," he answered. "I thought I knew, but climbing everything fell down the mountain. Now I'm not sure what I know about enlightenment, and I'm not sure if what I used to know is correct or not. So I'm afraid I can't answer your question."

The other two travelers laughed at his answer. The wise man nodded and then looked to the other two men. "This man here is closer to enlightenment than you might ever be." And the wise man took the third man into his home and the man became part of the school seeking enlightenment.

Note to Self

So, you moved on Saturday. You're now broke and your arms hurt and your stuff is scattered to and fro like a tornado hit it. You've dug out a bunch of old books and movies, though, so that's good. Right? Yeah.

But you weren't responsible. On Saturday you were admittedly busy. But Sunday? What happened Sunday? You unpacked a bit. Then you played a couple of hours of Final Fantasy XII, despite the fact you told yourself you wouldn't touch that game again. Oh well. You're allowed a bit of fun now and then.

But did you write?

No. No you didn't. You thought about it. You wanted to, you say. But you didn't. Why not? The computer was set up. It was all waiting for you. Desiring to be written. The book isn't going to write itself, and March 1st is creeping up closer and closer. You have to finish WTC before you can edit MS.

So why didn't you write?

Yeah, I know you're tired and burnt out. Join the club. You've been writing hard and fast for a good while. But you have so much more time to go. You can take it easy in March, if you still feel like it. Until then, there is no excuse. Write!


Remember the dream and remember that nobody can achieve it but you.

note: Scheduled topid will have to wait until I'm less discombobulated. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A short update

Moving is wiping me out. Don't expect another post until Monday, I'm afraid. Sorry, life just gets in the way.

Also, Tony's making me a very awesome layout. It's basically awaiting me to get my heading image done, now. I will look into starting that next week, I think. And then this blog will look awesome, and I can begin selling it like the worthwhile thing it is.

Words written so far this week: 12,000
Words hoped for between now and Sunday: 4,000
Days of disappointment so far: 0
Words hoped for next week: 15,000
Days allowed to slack off: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday

Monday's topic will be The Unanswerable. Unless I change my mind.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rule Number One: Writers Write

"You certainly seem a more dedicated writer than I claim to be."
- comment sent to me

Here's a writing topic worth writing about. Something that I know about (sort of), have struggled with (before still and in the future) and something that I feel I can speak about and do it justice (sort of, again). Writers and writing, the eternal conflict between the two of them.

There are many people who want to be writers or claim to be writers but find trouble understanding the profession and what it means to be a writer. "I can't find motivation" they say. Or "I can't find time." Or "I have no ideas" or "my writing is terrible so I don't write." For all the writers in the world, there are a great number of them who don't write. Who are afraid of or even dislike writing. I'm not picking on the friend who sent me this comment. It just inspired me to go ahead and address this issue now instead of later.

I will tell you the hidden secret to being a writer! I know it, and it's deep magic, pulled from the depths of a great wealth of experience and angst. I quested into the past and into the present far and wide looking for the answer, and I finally found it sitting there in a shining treasure chest on a far off island where the natives always tell the truth and the visitors always lie. And I opened that chest, and what did I find? A chorus of angels. Heavenly light. And the answer to writing.

Writers are writers. What does a writer do? Writers write.

Huh? You might scratch your head. I certainly did when I ran into that pearl of wisdom. Writers write? Surely there must be more than that. Some sort of trick. Some sort of know-how. The secret society of writers where they all band together and give each other some potion that motivates them to produce written works. The Brotherhood of the Pen or something equally evocative and enigmatic. And alliterative, also, apparently. (That's a triple and then QUADRUPLE alliterative score, for those of you playing along at home.)

But I'm here to tell you what every writer will tell you after a while, amateur and professional alike. There is no secret society. There is no secret, even. There is no mystery to our profession at all. Writers write. What does that mean? That means that we put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and make words. That's what we do. We consider that our goal and our focus. I don't care if you're a journalist, a novelist, a poet, or whatever. A writer is a writer is a writer. We all have got to eventually write words. That's what makes us who we are.

And it's not easy. Let nobody tell you writing is easy. It's pretty neat seeing the professional writer, sitting there talking about his novel, the small compact book sitting on the shelf. You look at it and think to yourself: gee, that's so small, how hard could it be? That writing gig looks like cake.

I laugh everytime someone says that. It's a very, very bitter laugh.

Writing is hard. Excruciating. It goes against how our bodies and minds are programmed to work. It taxes your creative energy, your logistical skill, your emotions, and most likely your time and your health (both physical and mental). Writers, especially creative writers, have an abnormally high rate of mental illness and suicide. Nobody's sure why, but take it into consideration. Writing is a demanding job. It's not for those without will or perserverence.

And that's the key. What separates that 'one day' writer who sits and says "I'm a writer and one day I'm going to write a book!" or heaven forbid, "one day I'll be a writer" from the person who actually does it? In the end? Willpower, self-discipline, and hard work. If you continue to say "one day I'll write" you're setting yourself up for failure. You WILL NOT become a writer with that mindset. You won't ever find time, you won't ever be hit with motivation, the muses will not drop mystical fairy dust laden with ideas on your head.

If you want to be a writer, you only have to do one thing: write. Write now. Write today. Write immediately after reading this. Write while you're reading this. I don't care. And I don’t care what you write. Write a poem. Write an essay. Write a short story or a novella or a novel. Write trashy fan-fiction. Just get online and look for 'writing prompt' and write a short bit on the prompt. It doesn't matter how much or how little you write either. You can write 50 words or you could write 50,000. Do it now. Don't wait. In fact, stop reading this and write something down. Like I said, I don't care what. Come back when you're done.

… I mean it. Go. Now. We'll talk when you're done. I'll still be here.

Done? If not, you should feel guilty, and either go write or recognize that you might not have what it takes. Not terrible, just something you'll have to make peace with. Now, if you did do what I asked? Guess what: you're a writer. "Really?" Yes, really. That's exactly what I do or any other aspiring dedicated writer and it's exactly what James Joyce did and its exactly what Frank Herbert did and its exactly what Tolkien did and its exactly what Stephen King does or anyone else who you admire or trust in the literary world. It's no different. No magic formula. We sit down and we write. Most of us probably started slow, and waited for that brief flash of inspiration. It doesn't come. It might dance in front of you like some sort of ghost from time to time, but it goes away faster than you can capture it. Guess what? I've done that. More times than I've thought about. Chasing the will-o-wisps of 'inspiration.'

And if you're the struggling writer, wondering why you can't write everyday, you have two choices. You can ignore me and keep waiting and always wait and wait for the inspiration that won't come, or you can sit down and put words on a page. If you can only write 500 words one day, that's fine. The next day sit down and write again. Don’t judge what you do one day based on another. Just write. You won't like it. It won't be fun. It'll feel forced and your writing will be terrible.

Do it anyway.

If you actually listen and write every day, you'll find that you get in a habit. You might not like it, and it might not be fun, but we're creatures of habit and once it sticks we won't feel right if we don’t write. And when you feel like you're not doing enough, do more. Don't set an upper limit. Having an expectation is fine, but be realistic. Don't expect to just start pounding out 5000 words a day. Or even 1000. Or even 500. Just write. Find what you think you can do and try for that. You won't make it every day. Don't beat yourself up about that. When you beat yourself up you just cause anxiety the next time you write. Accept that sometimes plans go awry and write the next day as if the day before never happened. And if you write well one day, twice or three times your limit? The next day you're going to sit down and write again. No celebration. You're a writer. You don't celebrate. You write.

Don’t have the time? That's untrue. If you can't find 15 minutes in your day, then you need to reevaluate your priorities. Either one of your hobbies is more important than writing or you're doing an unhealthy amount of required activity. And if its your hobbies, look at them carefully. Are they more important than your writing? If yes, then you're probably not very seriously considering being a writer, and you might want to look at changing your mind about what you want to be. If you're unsure how serious you are, cut down on a hobby for a few weeks and write. Just 15 minutes, even. That's fifteen uninterrupted minutes sitting at your word processor of choice (or notebook or typewriter) and writing. Don’t think. Don't talk. Don't surf the net. Just write. Make words. For fifteen minutes. Then go do whatever else you're doing with your day. Come back in a few weeks and read this again, and see if my words make sense. If they do? Congrats, you've solved the great puzzle of writer-dom. If they don’t? Maybe writing isn't for you.

But don't wait. Don't ever wait. Writing isn't a job anybody's going to make you do. You have to fight for it every step of the way. You have to make the time and use the time and write like its going out of style. Because guess what? It is going out of style if you don't stop it. You're the only one who can make you into a writer. I can't do it. I can help give you advice, but you have to make that choice and make that leap. If you don't decide to be a writer now and write now you never will.

So stop claiming to be a writer and feeling guilty about not writing. Stop saying 'one day I'll write a book'. You won't. Don't lie. Either put up or shut up. Good intentions don't buy anything, and talk is cheap. Only the words you create will prove your intentions. I'm not asking you to present me a novel. Just write. Anything. Do it because you want to be a writer. Learn to love it. You can learn to love it, even if you don't believe me. Don't do it for the approval, the money, or the acceptance (because let me tell you, there is none). Do it for yourself. Do it because you have the burning thoughts in your head and the desire to make the words come alive. Do it because you know in your heart that you should be a writer. It's simple. Write, and you're a writer.

I believe in you. Now you have to believe in yourself.

Good luck, and good writing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

On Limits, Exhaustion, and Burning Out

So I've hit that interesting point of tiredness. I'm so tired that I sleep poorly. My eyes hurt. My head hurts. My body is in that tired state that I feel almost sick but I know that it isn't sickness but a great weariness that has settled deep down into my bones so entrenched that I can barely see it for what it is.

I've never felt better.

I've come to recognize certain things about myself, and one of them is the fact that I'm a sucker for my own forms of punishment. Not in a hugely masochistic, self-destructive sort of way. Don't get me wrong. But I like the adversity of things. And when I create my own adversity I don’t have to go looking for it.

I've been writing hard and long, lately. I know some writers make it a habit, but I've been writing anywhere from 2500 to 4500 words every day for the past seven or eight weeks. The days I've taken off can be counted on one hand. While I've been doing this, I've been working my day job, reading, trying to keep a social life, gaming, watching movies and anime, and starting up my blog and providing for my future plans. Not to mention getting involved in the NaNo community locally, meeting writers and forming bonds. Not to mention getting ready to move this Saturday.

This is not my typical state of being. I'm a lazy fellow. Or I always have been. Left to my own devices I tend to settle into well-known, poorly reaching patterns of thought or action. I lounge. I sloth. I letharge. I invent poorly conceived verbs.

But lately that hasn’t been the case. I was worried, a while back, that I would eventually reach a point where I became devoted to my art. Where I would become the 'crazy writer' who was all about his books and his dreams and ideas. I saw this as some sort of self-destructive behavior. Something to be avoided in favor of 'grounding' in that thing people call 'reality.' But somewhere along the way, I became that thing.

Not on purpose! I just resolved to write every day sometime in the middle of MS. And then I did. And it got worse and worse. Now when I don't write every day, I feel terrible. I feel like I haven't showered or brushed my teeth. I feel like I haven't eaten. It's something completely essential from my day missing. So I write, at least something. And specifically I write my novel. After writing no more than … oh, 30,000 words a year for the past four years, this year I've written somewhere to the tune of 250,000. That's a staggering jump. I finished Margot early this year. I started and completed Marton Syan. I began and just crossed the 70,000 word mark on WTC.

It's like some sort of burning torch in my mind driving me. And the more things I take on, the more I want to do! What seemed like an impossible time demand a year ago has become something that I do without blinking an eye. I write every day. I don't think I'll stay that way, but I'm going to try. And I find myself with so much more mental energy! So now I want to do all of these other things. My enabler, Tony, has labelled it my Ever-Expanding List of Wonder. In that I'm always reaching for something new with a crazy, manic sort of exuberance. I like that label. I've accepted it. Because it's true.

And so I'm tired a lot. And I keep pushing myself to this strange place where I'm so tired that I find energy everywhere. I have a few days left until I move, and that will probably very nearly wipe out the last of my reserves, but I'm looking forward to it. Each time you push yourself to your limit, your limit expands to accommodate. And you become that much stronger the next time. And so I push. And I will continue to push. And when the long-coming, inevitable burnout comes, I doubt I'll fall too far. And I will have all that potential at reserve to build back up to. I'll keep writing until it kills me. I'll keep adding to my EELOW until I'm a whirling tempest of idea and intuition and insane notions and aspirations.

I've become that crazy artistic fellow. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

In My Head, We're All Doing the Time Warp Again!

I woke up today and I swore it wasn't 6 AM. That just wasn't possible. It was another filthy lie constructed by the bourgeoisie, just like logic and pork. And yet, because there's money to be made and I don't like the idea of not making it, I slowly disentangled myself from my bed and got myself going.

Or, I made a valiant attempt at it. You see, it didn't work for very long. Soon enough I was once again nodding off, but this time it was sitting here at work. Maybe it was my big breakfast of yummy hash browns? Maybe it was the caffeine I had had to wash it down with. Perhaps it was the < 6 hours of sleep I had last night. I would guess some horrible triumvirate bent on my personal destruction.

And that was when I decided to get proactive!

I have a great amount of energy on reserve, like most people. It's just usually untapped. Most of mine is my belief-energy. A great reservoir that I keep, much like Alaskan oil, for a time when I'm exhausted and I need it. Mainly for if inspiration strikes or I have to do some mental construction and I'm drained. Hence why it's belief-energy. It's there to support my beliefs in my art and myself. But that's hard to tap when it comes to just getting through my work day. My body physically rejects those connections.

That's when I decided to change my music. I live in my music every day, my iPod is on for hours and hours each day so I can tune out my noisy work environment and have a pretty extensive soundtrack to my life. It entertains me to have music. I focus much better with it than without. Feeling my eyes beginning to droop into the final depths of exhaustion and sudden narcolepsy, I threw it onto the one thing that would save me:


Now I don't know if most people know this, and wikipedia doesn't really have an article on it, but the power of the musical cannot be denied. If we could create an engine that would run on musical, it would operate at 150% efficiency and look/sound awesome the whole time. It would be a perpetual motion machine. It would power the world with no pollution, aside from the noise pollution inherent in it.

World peace exists. It's in the power of song and dance.

So now I'm hopping from Hedwig to Hairspray to Phantom of the Opera to classic Disney to Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm trying hard not to completely rock out. I'm trying very hard not to sing along. But I'm much more awake. And I remember what I know to be true:

If I had a genie, I would wish for life to be more like a musical. Then I'd go to a coffee shop with my friends and sing about being yuppie and pretentious while doing a choreographed dance number with steaming coffee and tea cups and barristas in flashy costumes leaping through the air with long strings of coffee beans and fellows dressed like professors doing backflips while shouting the names of various isms as the beat and refrain.

Yeah I feel much better.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Affected Youth

I'm reminded, reading The Bell Jar, of the subsection of society that has remained the subject of media for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, the subsection that I most find myself relating to in a surprisingly real, honest way. This group includes literary figures such as Telemachus, Steven Dedalus, or Holden Cauffield. In movies the best example would be James Dean, though there are examples in many younger actors and actresses. A more modern example might be Leonardo DiCaprio. This group is marked by people, usually younger people, who hit a point in their life where they become disillusioned with the norms of the environment around them. When the people begin to crush in and the opinions of the masses grate just too much and these people reach a point where they have to break away. When they embrace the different and the difficult and the 'anti-social' in order to challenge what they believe and hopefully find their place.

This group has been typically labelled the disaffected youth, but I dislike that term on principle and would recommend another one. Disaffected is such a negative term, with such negative connotations (especially in today's overly positive, sugar-coated social schema) that it calls to mind a bunch of burnt out hippie slackers doing drugs and getting into trouble and whatnot. That kind of image misses the point. That kind of image is more damaging to that group than it needs to be. So I propose another name.

Affected Youth are just that. They are those who have been affected. Disaffected, by definition, is an aggressive, divisionary term. It creates the disaffected youth as a group who has lost faith in, or trust of, authority figures. And while that is certainly a hallmark of someone in this subgroup, it isn't everything.

The Affected Youth are not those who have simply lost truth or faith in authority figures. If that was the case, the common 'disaffected' label would be applied to anyone who goes against the establishment group. Yet that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, let's look at where the disaffected youth label is applied most commonly, and see why that application is faulty but does refer to a specific social group.

Most disaffected are youths. They are typically highly intelligent, though perhaps not formally schooled. They typically came from traditional upbringings, though this isn't always the case. They typically are introverted types, described as 'serious' or 'mature for their age' by those around them. They typically feel alienated by their peers. They typically remain skeptical of adults but prefer their company to that of people their own age. They typically like to press buttons and boundaries. They ask lots of unanswerable questions.

I'm sure everyone knows the type. It doesn't just have to be youths. 'Youth' implies an age bracket, but that's not the case here. I'm using youth as in 'one who is young' with young being a metaphysical mindset of youth where minds are uncertain and impressions are made more quickly and both belief systems and mindset are in a state of flux.

And that's really the key here. The affected youth isn't alienated because of some sort of rebellious impulse. There are rebels and there are affected youths and sometimes they're both in a person but they don't have to be. But what makes an affected youth so alienated is a questioning nature that is finally coming into a place of power. It isn't a typical counterculture 'let's blow of the man' mentality, but it is a mind that has come to feel some sort of wrongness about the status quo and is now looking for the meaning behind it and their place in it.

And that's why I choose affected. There are people in life who never hit the affected youth stage. It doesn't always have to be angsty, semi-depressed detachment from all that is 'normal'. It can be much healthier. But it does have to be a period of asking questions such as 'what is my place in the world?' and 'why do people believe _______?' and other questions. The Affected Youth is a person who sees the world as it is and is deeply affected by it. They feel a call to change something. A dissatisfaction with the status quo. And this is what drives them to slowly begin the process of determining what it is and what they can do and who they are that is different enough to make them the person to do it.

The people who don't ask those questions typically (not always, but typically) are those that end up just blindly supporting the status quo. Terms I've heard for them include 'normals,' 'old folks,' 'sheep people,' 'society at large,' and 'zombie-citizens.' They are usually marked by a closed-mindedness that borders or is willful ignorance, the inability to even consider questioning the status quo, a complacent discontentment with their lives and the world around them, and a general lethargy when it comes to any sort of pro-active life action.

What does this say about the affected? It means that they are the ones who are coming awake. The ones who see the world in a more critical way. The ones who at least think about changing their place in it. I believe that to blindly accept one's place in anything is the sign of a mind that is closed and dead. The affected youth might have their problems, and they might be prone to failure in their endeavors, but they do at least turn their minds to the question. Asking that question is what is most important. The development of the attitude of not accepting what's presented as 'true' and forging your own path is the way towards becoming a truly realized person with all the potential that comes with it.

I'm a card-carrying member of the Affected Youth. I'm proud of that fact. And I look towards a time when I can move past it into the place beyond (which I've stepped into and do step into from time to time) without losing the nature of the Affected Youth. Even the next step beyond, the Clay Existence, and the step beyond that, the Purposeful Life, can take from the questing, unaccepting nature of the Affected Youth. The Affected Youth is the enemy of dogma.
And as we all know, dogma becomes stagnation becomes death.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

When the Weekend is Wintery

There was an interesting ice storm on Friday. The whole world covered in a quarter inch of frozen water. There was some absolutely wonderful sights. Grass that was individuated and sheltered from other grass by sheathes of ice. Branches that looked like crystal decorations. I even saw one person who left flowers out on a porch and they were things of glass and beauty. I wonder if it wasn't on purpose.

I was driving when it hit. I slid Adam home, and then stayed with him. The last time I slept in the same room as him was when we roomed together in college. So much time passes, and yet the body doesn't forget. We're crashed on his couches, tired and content. And the memories just burst back. We're a thousand miles from college (spiritually) and yet here it is again. That feeling. It was bittersweet. I had forgotten what it was like to feel sweet nostalgia. My nostalgia has been of the bitter, revelatory kind because of my novel.

Within a day all the ice was gone, which was fine by me. I even went out to breakfast last night. Old men falling apart, people who live in bars, college students drifting through their life. These people all converge at the late night Cecils. Anyone who is in Omaha owes it to themselves to go to Cecils on a weekend night. They're open from 11 until 4 AM on Friday and Saturday, and they're the best greasy spoon in the area. It's not just a meal, it's an experience.

When I was there this drunk shrew of a woman pulled a giant ziplock bag out of her purse and started handing everyone chinese finger traps. Amusing, sure, but I'm not sure what else I think about it, if anything. I'm not above (if you're arrogant enough to look at it that way) looking for signs and messages in life. And here comes a cheap wicker sign to me, sliding across the dirty counter like manna from heaven.

When we're stuck, when we're unhappy, the normal response is to fight it. To retreat, to flee, to turn whatever is bad around to 'something not-bad'. The trick is that often our reactions are more harmful than the natural course of events. The more you struggle, the tighter the trap becomes. It's only when we close in and allow ourselves to dive into our issues that we can find their solution. Enlightenment over animal instincts. I believe that I was told that key lesson last night for a reason.

Too bad I don't know what it is.

Current Reading Queue:
Just finished Heretics of Dune last night.
Started The Bell Jar today.

Novelling Status and Goals:
Words Written Last Week: 12,000
Days of Disappointment: 4
Words to Write This Week: 10,000 (and pull myself past this scene of hell I'm in)
Days I'm Allowed to Slack Off: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday