Writing Practice – 4/16/2019

chaos

Chaos abounds in the darkness. In the light, even if there is motion, or disorganization, or interaction, or conflict, these are all seen, are all understood, are all mapped inside our consciousness and prepared for, planned for, contemplated by those lovely lumps of brains atop our spinal cord, and we have no fear. We do not stress. We do not wonder. Seeing is believing? No, seeing is truth, and acceptability, and regularity, and pattern, even if it is wild, incoherent, and random-ish.

But in the dark, in the absence of light, in the places where you sense with infrared and ultraviolet in the realm of navigating the world through our other nine senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, balance, time, ESP), these are still not enough for us, for humans, to feel as if we have control of the situation. For is that not what chaos really is, but lack of control? We may not have authority over the teeming mass of wandering hordes out for destruction, yet if we see them we fear them much, much less than when they come under cover of darkness.

No other sense, no other attribute, contributes as much to our fear as our lack of vision. Were we to see but not hear, their terror in us would, paradoxically, be lessened, for that is one which, by its absence, reduces th threat. We don’t believe silent things can hurt us. For, what do we fear more, the snake’s rattle or the owl’s quiet wingbeats? precisely.

We fear those things which are loud, and unseen, and so adding a chorus of clanging boots and rattling armor to the darkest night is a combination fit to turn even the most self-professed brave soul into a withering baby. This combination takes away the one sense which adds assurance, sight, and adds another element which increases terror in its own right, sound.

The others – smell, taste, touch, we are too undeveloped in yet to have a way to know whether these will increase or decrease our fear. At long distance, that is. In the immediate presence, if you can smell the putrid, rotting flesh of the zombie horde, you may as well give up, because if they’re close enough for you to smell, they’ll be on top of you soon enough. And at the same time, touch, taste, require a physical intimacy which beggars belief of fear. So, then, this fear of the unknown, this fear of change, of the “other” out there, is heightened, and is birthed out of, chaos, disorder, unreality, irrationality, and the way the world works is far, far beyond our own mortal capacity to understand. WE have limited scope of using our brains, and we have devoted much of that to sensing in the visible spectrum. When a creepy-crawling comes approaching outside of that spectrum, then is when our distrust kicks in, our fear of chaos (destruction, impermanence, intransigence, ending, power, power to finalize, power to transform, power to erode) takes over, and we turn away as soon as possible, as strongly as possible, and we seek out that alternative, of places of light, and order, and permanence, and connectivity.

***

Commentary: So, this isn’t a great essay. It doesn’t hold any special revelations. I didn’t find any unique turns of phrase. I didn’t really “lose control” at the end. I felt like I sort of stopped a couple of times along the way, and just sort of plodded through it all. I could go back and edit, to make it flow better, to make it more impactful. It doesn’t even really end well. So why do I post it? Why do I let you see it? Why do I expose my soft underbelly of semi-incompetence?

Trust me, it’s not to fish for compliments. If that were so, I’d be ultra-negative on myself and expect someone, anyone, any reader, to correct me and tell me it’s fine, it’s great, it’s still inspiring. No, I don’t do this to garner sympathy or comments or feel-good-ness.

I post this in its mediocrity as it is because that’s what writing is about.

Writing is about doing the writing. Writing is about doing it even when it doesn’t feel great, even when it’s kind of boring at the end and you’re like, “yeah, nobody’s ever going to read that.” And you know what? They’re probably not. But you do it anyway. Because that’s how you get through the really low periods to the points where it’s great, where your pen is just banging, where you’re in the flow and you’ve got it all good and things just couldn’t get any better. Those things don’t just happen because you decided to show up once or twice or even ten times. Those things come when you’ve put in the work, when you’ve been steady and faithful to the muse, and when hit happens… damn. There’s nothing like it. So that’s why you write the crap pieces, the drudgery, the stuff about chaos and leadership and boring descriptions of shoes and conversations. So that you’re there and ready to strike when called. If you’re skipping out, you’re missing out.

Extremely Bad Advice – Losing A Limb, Gaining A Life

Okay, I’m stealing this one from Reddit. Apparently these people don’t know I’m available, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time with piddling “it’ll get better, just wait” pablum.

Hi Reddit, So as the title says, my Step-Dad, whom I’m very close to, had an accident at home on the weekend. We have all been left quite traumatised by the events. He was cutting thru mortar to remove limestone blocks, and the blade got stuck and kicked back, into his lower arm.

It severed his artery and he was bleeding out. My mum was at home but couldn’t hear him yelling (very big house). He shoved his other fist into his wound and walked to their door. He couldn’t take his hand out to open door or bang on door, so he banged on it with his head. When that failed he walked down to the driveway because, as he explained, he was bleeding out and all he could think was he was going to die alone and didn’t say goodbye to anyone.

He lay on the driveway yelling for help and luckily a neighbour drove past and saw him. Other people came and got my mum. There was a nurse there too, thank God. Ambulance was called and my mum called me, screaming to get my step-sisters and I to him because he was losing too much blood. I was with 1 of my sisters at the time and 6 of our kids. The kids (between 5 and 10 years of age) saw the fallout of that, us crying and panicking etc. They seem to be ok.

He got to hospital where they gave him ketamine to knock him out. Surgery followed to reattach his arm and nerves etc and he is currently undergoing more surgery right now. They say he lost so much muscle, he may never regain feeling. He can move his fingers though. He is a very physical man, a builder by trade, and is always building and fixing things. This will destroy him. He is 63 years old and now needs years of rehab.

My mum and Step-Dad have enough savings to survive for a few years. My mum works too. It was his left arm affected and he is right-handed, small mercies. We are all deeply affected by nearly losing him. He does so much for everyone and the thought that he nearly died alone is awful. My mum has major guilt about not hearing him. I know we are blessed he is still with us, but the trauma in that moment is still lingering.

What can we do now to make his life/their lives easier?

**

Okay, sounds like a bad situation. First part of my answer is, don’t listen to my advice. It’s extremely bad. Nobody should listen to this advice. Got that, those of you reading at home? Don’t listen to this advice! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Second part, of three, is that you’re going to have to put some money out of your pocket for a few months. At least until your dad gets moderate use of his hand back. Let me explain.

Judging by your use of the word “mum” and misspelling of “neighbor” as “neighbour”, I conclude that you are located somewhere in England. This means your procedures and operations and therapy will be covered by the National Health Service. I have two thoughts on that.

One, you will get what you need, but not all of what you need. Oh, you’ll get the surgeries and the physical therapy and the emotional counseling and all that, but that’s only half the picture. My other mind tells me that since your father is now hideously deformed, much is going to change between him and your mum. Due to not only the physical change, but her feeling like she must be “delicate” with him while he recovers, and that she feels she must care for him during his convalescence, she will no longer find him sexually attractive. Instead, she will see him as a “project”, a work to be completed, and she will therefore pull away physically out of fear of hurting him, as well as due to the time constraints and the stress.

At the same time, he will begin to feel like less of a man, less of a provider, hell, less of a human being, because he can no longer do the things he had previously done. This will drain his libido and lead to a downward spiral in which he does not improve because he doesn’t see any benefit to it, and because his wife, your mum, is acting aloof and “strange” to him.

This cycle will continue to build, albeit beneath the surface, because nobody wants to admit their true feelings about the situation, until it blows up into a destructive case of anger and, paradoxically, depression, driving your mum into the arms of Trevor down the street, because at least he listens! When the truth comes out, the downfall continues: your step-dad feels even more humiliated, incompetent, impotent, deformed, and unworthy.

His depression deepens and eventually their split becomes permanent, and he’s on the dole while your mum and Trevor are snogging nightly, bemoaning the fact that if they’d just admitted their feelings years ago, they could be on the beaches in the south of France these days, taking it easy. Meanwhile your step-dad spirals downward into a whiskey-fueled haze combined with a fanatical obsession over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s neckties. Now, nobody wants that; but you can avoid it by the following actions, and here’s where the money comes in, because the NHS doesn’t cover “emotional support concubines”:

Once a week, you hire a hooker to hit on your step-dad. [You’re in England, so, small mercies, this isn’t so frowned upon as here in the U.S. Good for you guys.] Prepare her, and pay her to be ready for, giving your father a handjob, though encourage her to allow him to stop her whenever he wishes. This will make him feel attractive, make him feel worthy, and, if he goes through with it, give him the sexual satisfaction neither he nor your mum is prepared to provide during his recovery. He’s busy thinking about staying alive, not about getting off, and she’s thinking about keeping him alive, not about getting him off. But this way, he still feels like a man, and he has options: accept the hooker’s advances and get his rocks off (lessening the stress), or reject her and have a great story to tell your mum in order to solidify their relationship.

This will probably need to last about eighteen months. After that time, his therapy will be done, and they’ll have figured out their “new normal”, which will likely include some kind of cosplay, generally around the “Captain Hook” theme. They’ll be good to go, although you won’t want to ask them for any stories after their anniversary nights out on the town. Good news is you can stop the hooker. Or you can give her my number and pre-pay for a little long-distance “talk therapy”, if you get my drift. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

I mentioned that there were three parts to my answer. That was the second. The third is this, and while you may think that part 2 was bad, just wait.

I advise you to convince your step-dad to amputate his arm, preferably as quickly as possible. The physical and mental trauma and struggle he’ll have to go through over the next handful of years to overcome his disfigurement and disablement is just not going to be worth it. Prosthetics are fantastic these days! He’ll actually be vastly more functional in a dramatically shorter time frame if he replaces, rather than “saving”, his arm and rehab from there. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to pull the old switcheroo as he self-deludes more and more into the idea that he’ll be better off with half his original hand.

But, in reality, his “healing” will be a much, much longer process if he has to view daily reminders of how much he’s lost, and how insufficient his “recovery” will ever be.

Now, how do you convince him to do it? Well, you probably won’t. Which is where you’ll have to take matters into your own hand. Literally. Go back out to his driveway and find that angle-grinder or whatever it was, and finish the job. Use a torniquet (I bet that’s how you’d spell it) tied off at the elbow so he doesn’t bleed out, but just throw that leftover hunk to the stray dogs in the street and apply to the NHS for a prosthetic. The trauma will be over much quicker, and your step-dad will, in the end, thank you once he realizes you’ve actually shortened his grieving period and given him a far superior solution to having something that looks like, and is about as useful as, beef jerky dangling from his elbow.

Cheers!

When You Go And Do A Thing

So, yeah… A while ago, and pretty recently, I wrote stories, and this year I put them together, edited them, formatted them, got a cover, went through the rigamarole of signing up on Amazon, added things like bank account numbers for payment, ordered proof copies, marked them up, resubmitted texts for print and ebook, reordered proof copies, marked those up, re-resubmitted texts, ordered more proof copies, got e-mails from Amazon that my cover was wrong by 0.05 fucking inches!, stressed out, freaked out, ordered a new cover from my cover designer, got antsy, did it myself, reuploaded the cover and resubmitted the book, got antsy and called Customer Service to see if I could expedite processing and approval, got shot down, had to learn how to sit on my hands to wait, RECEIVED APPROVAL!!!, ordered 50 copies for the Book Launch party, freaked out that they wouldn’t arrive in time, calmed down once they’d been finally shipped and scheduled for delivery, FREAKED OUT AGAIN when the delivery was delayed due to “inclement weather” (pfft – natural disasters, who the fuck cares?), called Amazon already like seventeen times [yes, I exaggerate. It’s a coping mechanism] this morning to learn that indeed, the delivery is scheduled for today, FREAKED OUT YET AGAIN upon learning that the delivery window is anytime between 8 am and 9 PM {FFFFFffffffffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu………….}, took a deep breath, and said, “I believe it will all work out.”

And so, there you have it. That’s how you publish a book, my friends. Thirty-seven simple steps, and you only have to freak out like nineteen times! Why wouldn’t everyone want to do this?

 

PS: Never in my life have I been prouder to be ranked #6,846! (as of 8:35 am Central Standard Time, Monday, March 4).

Writing Practice – 2/25/2019

A walk in the woods…

Footsteps crunch on brittle lanes. Pebbles scatter before the toe of my boot, startling and chasing away small creatures of 4 legs or no legs, the brown-and-green-and-yellow of a garter snake just barely registering in my mind before it disappears again into the underbrush. I hear chickadees calling, twit-tweet, twit-tweet, echoed falsely by jays, robins, maybe even a crow or a raven. I walk in my ignorance, knowing names of things, but not essences. I can hear bird songs, identifying that they are different, but I am no ornithologist. I cannot, with any certainty at all tell you which is the robin and which is the cardinal’s song. I can recognize their picture, but everything else is a false front. I know nothing for real; all I list on these walks is impostering.

I cannot tell you the difference between granite, quartz, shale, limestone, other than that they will be found in different layers, exposed as the winding streams have cut mercilessly into their hillsides over the last ten million years. Which must mean, then, that those same hillsides are far older than that, right? Which came first, ended up at the bottom of that pile, and will be exposed last: limestone or igneous rocks? See, I cannot even be sure I have the right kinds and thin categories. I have many facts within my head, but little use of them.

I cannot tell you, again, with any kind of certainty, whether you are looking at an aspen, a maple, or a boxwood cedar. I think I could reasonably tell you which is a birch, and maybe an oak; yet to distinguish an apple tree form a box elder would take much more expertise than I can bring.

It’s not that that I am ignorant. I care. I do. When I am in that environment, active, embedded, I listen to my guides and gurus, I understand what they say, I nod along when they explain how the leaves of this species are identified by the thick veining pattern on the underside of their leaves. I pay close attention as she points out the differences in this bark from that. I strain my hearing and indicate, with a subtle nod, that yes, I do hear the differences between the twoot-twoot-twoot of the whippoorwill and the tip-tip-toop-tip of the nuthatch. I concentrate, hard and expressively, on every word that helps me to differentiate the bluebells from the lady slippers growing beside the path. I am a good student, the best, and I ask insightful, meaningful questions, ones that inspire my guide, impress them with my ability to make connections between fauna and flora, that show I am not only paying attention, but that I care, and I will continue to care in the future, and that perhaps they have convinced another disciple, they have converted another recruit, they have a future bird-watcher or tree-hugger or trail-sustainer in their midst, and all their effort has not gone to waste, that I will come alongside them, and will come along behind them, and I will pick up their convservationist bent, and I will continue their work after they are gone, and I will pass that love and passion on to another and another, and another, and these great resources, these great forests, these trees and trails and pine-needle-strewn meadows, they will never disappear, they will always be with us, they will always remind us of our responsibility to care, to husband, to shepherd the world around us, as our responsibility and our privilege for the privilege of living the blessed life we do.

I will let them believe this, for I am a good person, and, then, I will finish my tour, I will walk out of the woods, I will knock the dust off my boots at the edge of the parking lot, and with that dust will fall my intention, my memory, my insightfulness, my burden to carry on their passion, their love of nature, their desire to see this world thrive for generations, centuries, millennia to come, and I will return to my life, my world, retaining nothing more of my experience than a few more names to add to the list of near-meaningless facts accumulating within my mind.

I Believe…

Writing Practice 1/24/2019: I believe…

I believe in the kingdom come. I believe U2 was at its best in the eighties, before they got successful band syndrome. It’s okay, it happens to all of those people who get “successful”. They now have less reason to pursue their artistry and craft than they did when they were broke and absolutely needed to pursue it at all coasts, in order to eat. That kind of pressure that kind of process weeds out those who don’t believe in their message as much; it keeps them from getting complacent, until, eventually, there is so much abundance around them that thye forget the passions that drove them to and through those situations and spaces.

I believe that diamonds are not all girls’ best friends. Oh, sure. Sometimes they are an individual girl’s best friend, because they represent something larger in society, they represent wealth, and with wealth comes status, and with status comes privilege, and princessship, and servants to supply your every demand, and all that Jazz which, apparently, everyone wants.

I believe that their are footprints on the moon. Though that’s not much of a “believe” as an acceptance of fact. There really are footprints there, and pictures to prove it. I guess the belief is that I believe the pictures are not changed, faked, doctored in any way.

I believe that is the way of the world – that this, too, this process of free writing and rewriting and changing your mind halfway through is what gets us there. We are on a journey. The farthest journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, is the old adage. But it doesn’t stop there. It continues. It continues as you move forward, keep going, second step, third, fourth, fifth, tenth, twentieth, thirtieth, and suddenly (well, not suddenly, gradually, we’re not wearing Seven League Boots here) you’ve gone a mile. And after a time, two.

The value comes in going mile five hundred and one, when you’re tired and cold, and bored, and staying someplace warm, with a soft bed and a fireplace and some good company to tell you jokes in the evening as you sit, communal, gathered around the fire and smoking a pipe and enjoying the atmosphere and the community and the “feel” of the place; if you, too, become successful in that moment you will forget your journey, you will stop and stay, you will just be there, you will not finish.

__You will not end well.

____You will not overcome.

So the win, the completion, the culmination of the thousand mile journey is tho the easy part of the first step. and it is not the easy part of the last ten, twenty, eighty-seven miles. You conquer that journey when you are in the middle, faced with a decision.

–Stay?

—-Or go?

How you answer determines your fate. Choose wisely. For each future has consequence.

Announcement

Attention! Attention! Read all about it!

LOCAL WRITER TO PUBLISH BOOK

Stephan James, a writer currently residing near St. Louis, Missouri, announces today that in just under one month, on February 1, his first volume of short stories will be available for sale. Titled Predatory Behavior and Other Stories, this slim yet powerful volume will bring to light multiple issues facing society today.

“‘Predatory Behavior’ was born after seeing just how easy the publishing process really can be,” James says. “I used to think that bringing my ideas to life would be difficult. That it would take months and months, and I’d just toil in obscurity, scribbling in my notebook without ever getting the chance to see my work in book form. But now, it’s easier than ever to make my writing available to a much wider audience than I ever could have imagined. I’m excited that others can now read what I’ve written and use that as the catalyst for additional conversations about important issues within our society.”

There are ten stories included with this publication. The keystone story, “Predatory Behavior”, takes place in a world similar to the modern day, but with one key difference. A population of “Wolves” has sprung up over the past half-century, to help weed out those who are too sick to care for themselves. Not for the faint of heart, for this story contains scenes which may be considered graphic, “Predatory Behavior” nonetheless brings to light issues of health sustainability within our modern society.

Other stories deal with the last humans alive and trying to remake humanity while living on another planet; the implications of selling one’s body, though not in the way we’ve been conditioned to believe is “selling”; and how many people wish to have a new life, yet often times are unwilling to take the steps necessary to achieve it. Plus additional entries are micro-stories, also called Story Art, and highlight James’s prowess at weaving together seemingly unconnected concepts into a wonderfully taut presentation.

Predatory Behavior will be available starting February 1 on Amazon.com or directly from the author at author fairs and trade shows. “My birthday is February 11, and I wanted to give myself a unique birthday present, so I set that as the target publication date. That we’re going to have it ready before then is so exciting. I can’t wait to see the reviews.”

Predatory Behavior is published with help from SJM Copywriting, a local firm engaged in helping small businesses and nonprofits to tell better stories and get better results. More information about James and his writing can be found at stephanjameswrites.com. More information about how SJM Copywriting can support authors, small businesses, and nonprofits can be found at sjmcopywriting.com.

To The “Human” Who Sat Next To Me At The Orchestra Concert Yesterday…

Screw you.

That was incredibly rude what you did.

You were texting on your phone during my daughter’s performance. You were sharing messages between yourself and the woman sitting on your other side. Your screen, her screen, didn’t matter. You and your wife shat all over the place with your impropriety.

At least, I presume she was your wife. Maybe she was your mistress, or your $80-an-hour hooker. You might have to pay someone that much just to sit next to you.

I know I sure wouldn’t voluntarily put up with shit like that from you on the regular.

Because if that’s how you treat the performance of a high school orchestra, with even less respect than you give a movie, I’d have to be an idiot to spend any more time with you.

I wanted to tell you to stop. I could see your screen, your swiping, your scrolling, out of the corner of my eye.

I wanted to tell you to Put it away, asshole. You were a distraction to me and you were disrespectful of the orchestra members. I get it, your daughter’s portion was complete. And so you figured you owed nothing else to the boys and girls who’d worked hard over the past months preparing for this experience.

Not to mention the director. And the audience members, like myself, who wished to experience their children or friends without distraction.

But you just coudn’t help yourself. You couldn’t wait ten goddamn minutes until the set was finished and it was time to change the orchestras to pull out your phone during the appropriate time.

And speaking of pulling out, I’m now wishing your dad had the night you were conceived. That would have made last night much better.

Anyway – I wanted to tell you to stop. But I didn’t. Why?

Was it because I respected you too much? Nope. You’ll notice that I put human in quotes in the title of this screed for a reason. It’s because I don’t consider you fully evolved.

Was it because I was afraid you’d get mad at me? No again. I couldn’t give a shit what you think of me. Was I worried you’d escalate and beat me senseless right then and there, or maybe wait for me in the parking lot with a few of your buddies? Ha! As if.

The plain and simple reason I didn’t is this: Because I am better than you.

I didn’t say something to you right then because I express respect for the orchestra members. And their director. I give them the attention they deserve, and I promise to do so when I enter the auditorium. I keep my word.

If I had leaned over to you in the middle of the second movement, I would have been no better than you. I would have sunk down to your level, and I do not wish to wrestle with that pig.

Graciously, you and your “wife” decided to remove yourself from the situation at the next break. Good riddance. Glad to see you go. I enjoyed the rest of the performance immensely. I hope that whatever you were doing was worth it. I know you did your best to ruin my experience.

Joke’s on you, though. I’m better than you, remember, so I still appreciated the the performance and the artistry.

But, next time, think again before pulling out that phone. And just don’t do it.

Better yet, just do us all a favor and just stay home instead. That way, you can text all you want and none of us have to deal with your conceit. Everyone would be better off.