Writing Exercise #1

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just said what I feel. If I just spoke the truth and didn’t care what anyone said. Sometimes I wonder if they think it’s for real, sometimes I wonder if I’d have to listen to a phone call asking why. You want to know why, that’s the way it is. You want to know what I think, that’s the way it is. Sometimes special insight hurts. How do you expect me to remain quiet when you’re tearing everything apart.

In the course of writing these ponderings, I’ve often noticed that people take what I say a little too seriously. I was once asked if I was actually shot in the backpack after I wrote a little fiction exercise that I thought was obviously fiction. Apparently I’m not obvious enough. So I’m going to start labeling my writing exercises. Maybe I should label all my writings as exercises and then everyone would calm down and stop jumping to conclusions.

Writing Exercise #1:
So I was walking through the bookstore, looking for something good to read. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for, something I could slip into my backpack and read at my leisure. My mother would be mortified. But that’s her job. No one wants to be told by the well meaning cop that their daughter is a petty thug. Hoodlum. That’s the word my dad would use. He’s so cute in that embarrassing sort of way that you only admit to your close friends.

I wanted a book that would blow my mind. Something that would reinvent my life. My slightly off-kilter English teacher always acts like books can change your life. In his happy little world every reading assignment he gives us should reshape our universe. If that’s the case, I’d think we’d all be a little worn out from the multiple world view shifts by the end of the semester. I’ve yet to find anything in the class worth my time.

They should have a section of books that will blow your mind. The ‘fuck with your head’ section. I mean, c’mon, isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Let’s clear all the crap and cut to the chase. All these odd people are scurrying about in this giant altar to commercialized book selling because they want a reading experience that will change their lives. I don’t think people read books just for entertainment. It’s not like watching TV and flipping channels and looking for something to suck brain cells. Reading actually takes work. And if you’re going to work, you want a pay off.

But instead of my brilliant section they have all these screw ball, somebody-else-is-getting-rich sections. Harry Potter, Left Behind, the Prayer of–what’s his name–Jabez? It’s all a bit much and dripping with a little too much psycho-spiritual-goo. My mother would probably tell me to go read the Bible if I really wanted a book that would fuck with my head. I think she’s nuts.

Instead I settle for a copy of Chicken Soup for the Anorexic Soul, slip it into my backpack and nonchalantly head for the door. Let’s see if we can shatter Mom’s world.

Tired of the Phone’s Ringing

The phone rings and your spirits drop. I hate it when the phone becomes the bearer of bad news. There’s been a lot of bad news lately, and it seems like there’s nothing you can ever do. You’re stuck in a moment a million miles away, and it seems like nothing you can do will make any difference. And even if it did you don’t know if you’re helping or hurting, healing or harming. I hate not knowing almost as much as I hate knowing.

More Whining About Wanting to Write a Book

Today I had the scary realization that I haven’t written anything in a while. That is, anything of value. I’ll be the first to admit that my thoughts have been pretty sub-par of late, and I’ve had little to no time to do any writing on my own. At work we’ve been hiring freelancers left and right and I haven’t written an article since September, and before that it was June.

It’s a depressing thought to think that I could lose my touch. Writers only get better by practice, by writing every day, by constantly forcing themselves to write and rewrite and write again. If you don’t do that, you’re just going to wallow in your own crapulence. I think I’m wallowing, and the thought frightens me.

Maybe it’s because I have such grandiose dreams. I’ve always thought I’d grow up to be a writer. I’ve wanted to be an author since the first grade when we published little hard cover books with marker-colored pages and dot-matrix text that was pasted in. I’ve always thought that some day I’d have books published, someday I’d be a writer, if not a famous writer. I think I’ve realized that being famous is probably a bit much, but I still have aspirations of seeing my book on the shelf in Barnes & Noble. If I really thought about it, I’d realize that’s probably the most depressing site a writer could see: your book, lost in the sea of a million titles, being overlooked by customer after customer. I can see why some writers develop a neurosis and do strange things like call their local bookstore under a fake name and ask if there book is in yet.

Of course my actions hardly match all those pie-in-the-sky dreams. The dream of being a writer requires the every day sacrifice of writing, of sweating through your work, of continually being persistent as you chase your dream. In a word, it requires consistency–of which I lack. You may claim that three years of writing my thoughts online for the world to see is pretty consistent, but this has often been an excuse. If I write here everyday I don’t have to work on my story, or my essay, or develop my latest idea. If I write here I can slack off, I don’t have to edit, I don’t even have to proof read. It’s a journal, and as helpful as that may be, I don’t think that counts.

Perhaps I’m afraid. Hell, I am afraid. I’m afraid of sinking hours upon hours into a story only to have it crumble into itself. I’m afraid of spending months trying to write the book of my dreams only to have the well of ideas run dry and the words to stop flowing. I’m afraid I’ll discover the product of all those hours could actually be less than I expect it to be–that the fruit of my labors will suck. I’m afraid I might not be that good of a writer, and if I don’t chase my dream I’ll never have to face that fact.

I’m afraid of what it would do to me to actually write like I think a writer needs to write. I’m afraid of what it would do to my marriage, how my wife would groan, roll her eyes, and storm out of the room. How she’d leave me to my computer and go watch TV or read a book, grumbling about my novel. I’m afraid she’d grow to resent my writing because I’d need to spend all my free time making it what it needs to be. I can already see the frustration in her face when I spend too much of an evening camped out in front of the computer screen.

I’m afraid of the rejection that will surely come, even though I tell myself again and again that every writer has to collect a mountain of rejection slips. It’s a rite of passage, a badge of courage, a technicality that every writer must contend with and overcome. If that’s the case I should be on a mission to fill my filing cabinet with rejections, but it doesn’t happen. At best I sit down and send out a handful of submissions, then sit back and wait for the money or the rejections to roll in. In six months I’ve had one bite, and not even the satisfaction of rejections from the others. In that six months I continued to sit on my hands, and thus my trouble with consistency comes up again.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to my dreams. My wife always encourages me, always tells me that some day I’ll write that book. She humors me and listens when I go on and on about some new idea, even though she knows in a week I’ll have completely forgotten that brilliant, best-seller idea. She actually believes I can write the book I so want to write, but no matter how much she repeats her encouragement I still have doubts.

Writers are strange people. If it’s my only consolation, at least I fit in.

Wise in the Ways of Matrimony

Marriage. Marriage is what brings us together today.

How you read that line says a lot about how old you are. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

So I’ve been married for a year. Now I’m all wise and knowledgeable in the ways of holy matrimony. Have I learned anything in the past year? Yeah. Marriage is hard. It’s not all lovey-dovey and swelling romance like you feel when you pop the question. Most of it is mundane: Grocery shopping together, being tired and cranky together, foraging for something to eat together. When you’re dating or engaged all of those things seem so exciting and wonderful. You only do them together occasionally and it makes the mundane special. But when you do those things all the time it becomes part of normal life and running to the grocery store becomes a chore again.

A bit of the magic disappears when you live together. You find out what’s like after you hang up the phone or go home at night. Before you could hang up the phone and go back to your own little world. But marriage is all about sharing a little world together. You have to put up with one another no matter what.

That’s a lot harder than you think. At first it’s easy, but then things start to get touchy. It can go downhill from there, if you’re not careful. You have to remember a few things about the kind of commitment you made, and the kind of love you’re supposed to have. I always have to remind myself that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that sometimes other things are more important, that sometimes I have to let things go. Sometimes you have to sacrifice. And sometimes you have to sacrifice a lot. That’s what makes a marriage work. It’s communication. It’s working together. It’s learning when and how to be apart. It’s self-sacrificing and others-focused. That’s probably why most marriages don’t work today–most of us don’t know anything other than self-centeredness.

I guess that’s what I’ve learned this past year. I make it sound like a pretty rough year, and now my mom’s probably all upset and worried and I’ll get a phone call later tonight. But it’s not really that way, those are just the occasional hard parts. The times that make you want to throw up your hands and walk out the door before you say something you regret. But it’s not always like that. There’s the times when you hold one another close and let the day drift away. There’s the times when you just float around, not really caring what you do as long as you’re together. There’s the times when you wash the dishes together and you can hardly resist the temptation to soap her nose. There’s the times when you need one another, and you can feel that need deep inside, and you know you’d go to any length, put up with any crabbiness or ill-tempered attitude to have one another.

Marriage. Marriage is what brings some of us together today.

New Year’s Resolutions are Bunk

I dislike New Year’s resolutions and those who pretend to keep them. I think the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions is only perpetuated by the media. The only reason anyone feels the need to talk about them is because news anchors throw them into their stories around New Year’s. I think it’s a silly tradition. You don’t hear anyone in March talking about how well they’re keeping their New Year’s resolutions. And there’s definitely no talk of resolution-keeping in October. What a bunch of bunk. Let’s spare ourselves the waste and just not talk about them. If you’re going to make a resolution to do something, it’s almost a guarantee that it won’t happen.