Writing Practice – 6/1/2018

Pen is running dry…

I like to watch the progress of the ink level in the barrel as I go along. Slow and steady it is, but it keeps going. The more I write, the less I have left to go until it’s all gone. Like footsteps, paradoxically, the more I write, the more evidence there is that I was here. The more pen on the page, means less pen ink in the tube.

I wonder if the people who made this pen thought about how it would be used. For grocery lists or for calculus homework. For taking notes in a quarterly divisional meeting at a large multi-national corporation, or for making doodles on the side of a notepad while waiting for the doctor.

The possibilities inside this pen are endless. There are whole worlds, whole universes, to be set free. Inside this plastic cylinder are dragons and demons and fairies and magic. Inside are robots and hyper drives and a new ansible and a Crucible. Inside are epic poems and haikus. Inside is a resignation letter from the President, alongside and mingling with the phone number scrawled on the back of my hand at that bar last week.

These things are all in there. They’re all potentials. misspellings and transgressions, sleights of hands and phurns of trase. Malapropism. Aproprisms. Run-on sentences. Adverbs. The month of September, and how it smells like sheep ready for shearing, how it feels like the ground is turning its own nose up at the change of seasons. Inside is a butterfly, dancing merrily on the edge of my shoulder, its delicate leg somehow caught in the uneven weave of my shirt, fluttering and flapping to try and escape, yet still entwined with me, so that I have time to take out my camera and snap a selfie, two, three, four, five, before I watch if finally leave, and take off and leave me wanting more once again.

It is a desert, and Antarctica, and Pluto, and Polaris, and protons, and Protease, and protein, and prescriptions and purses and pennywhistles and Pennywise, all in one. It is the large infinitely large and the small infinitely small together – mashed, waiting, uncertain as to whether it will manifest on the paper as power or pusillanimousness. The possibilities are infinite, a regular [unclear] Pen of the word, an infinite universe of quantum potentialities which do not coalesce condense collapse into one until I set pen to paper and become, in this world, the almighty.

Writing Practice 5/22/2018

My cat just threw up on my bedroom floor…

I don’t need to see the evidence. I’ve heard the telltale echoes far too many times to pretend not to know what’s going on. It’s always the same – bastard comes in from a day of being outside and chows down too fast that it upsets his prissy little stomach. Then it takes about 10 minutes of upset, and his body begins the rejection sequence. It starts with vocalizations – Hyurk – Hyurk – Hyurk, that sound eerily similar to us Homo sapiens when we are wrong-waying our undesirables out of our stomach, too. The pulsating rhythms accelerate: HyurkHyurkHyurkHyurk – and then comes the money shot – a longer, drawn-out note, like at the climax of a good minuet – Hyuuuuuuuurrrk! And then a splatter, as if Slimer just materialized on my floor.

I know if I go over there and look I’ll find a pile, mostly dry, of pellet-like substance. Mostly dry because the pellets have absorbed some of the stomach acids, but not so much that they start disintegrating, so they’ll still have most of their shape. Based on the juiciness of the splat, too, I know there will be a moderate amount of liquid associated, sliding down the whole grain-meat-and-vegetable-infused mountain in slow rivulets, pooling gracefully on the floor. I often give such a performance a few minutes to congeal slightly in the air, evaporating off just a bit of that excess moisture, before I clean it up. I find this is a much more appealing option, as the times when I have rushed immediately tot scene, like a Bounty paper towel commercial, I simply end up pushing the mess around more often than I do wipe it up on the first try.

So, congratulations, cat, you just made my night. You gave me something unique to write about – how to describe vomit in an interesting, appealing mind-image way. I wouldn’t expect any less of you.

Writing Practice – 5/11/2018

Telling Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, p 693

Around that time – because of numerous dislocations in the Valley, the abrupt abandoning of homes, for instance – it happened that packs of dogs began to roam around looking for food, particularly by night.

They moved and merged like flocks of sparrows on the wing, turning as if one, ducking down into an alley or crossing a street or huddling under a bridge, in a kind of near-union that the observers, themselves holed up in the remaining places, could never quite fully grasp. Were there ten dogs? Or a hundred? Did they travel mostly at night? Well, some did. Did they hunt or scavenge? Yes, both, and neither. Did they have a leader? A central hub or den? Did they ever pair off and mate, or was this the moment simply for survival, and procreation would be saved for more generous, fatter times?

They watched from their squatting places, huddled upon the third or fifth or eighth floors of the abandoned apartments, doors at the ground level tightly closed and double-locked against the potential for canine invasion.

They waited and watched, and they ate their scavenged foods, and they smoked their improvised cigarettes, and, unlike (or, perhaps, exactly like) the dogs, they fucked, but it was a half-hearted endeavor, one which was more for something to do than to create any new life, for, (and in that way they were exactly like the dogs) they saw in themselves nothing of worth and value to pass onto the next generation, save a fighting, surviving spirit.

Such a spirit would come in useful during lean times. Such a spirit actually was coming in useful during this lean time. And, as nobody really knew much about the outside world anymore, what with radio, television, internet communications cut off and overland travel still too dangerous, nobody bringing news of the lands beyond the city gates had arrived in more than a year. So their isolation grew.

Like a population of animals, separated by a physical boundary, like a river or a mountain, they, too, began to adapt to their unique environment and carve out specializations, niches which gave them slightly better chances of survival.

Nico, he got the cigarettes. Nobody else seemed to be able to find them, but he always had a pack on him. When asked, he would shrug his shoulders, as if they appeared by magic in his pack, but everyone else knew he was just better at that sort of thing.

Kyle excelled at scavenging food. From only partly moldy bread to relatively okay preserved meats and cheeses, they didn’t starve, and time enough had passed that they no longer complained about the steady diet, even if all of them remembered things like chocolate cake, beer, and a napkin.

Tobi and Karen provided the sex. Each one either took or gave as necessary, and it really wasn’t that bad, if your eyes were closed and you pretended it was your girlfriend from before.

And Zenney, she provided the hope. Preached it daily. Stood out on the stoop, eyes wide, arms stretched to the sun, and sang, songs of regeneration, renewal, paradise, whatever she could think to keep the despair at bay for one more sunset.

There were others, too. There were always others. But these were the most special, because they survived the longest, to tell their stories. The rest lived, and died, and were remembered, then forgotten. And that was how it should be.

Writing Practice – 5/1/2018

They say to write very day. But I don’t want to write. I want to go to sleep. I want to quit. I want to give up. I want to stop trying. I want to walk off into the sunset and never look back. I want to win the lottery so I don’t have to work any longer. I want to have a flat stomach for the first time in my life.

I want to be able to do 10 pull-ups. In a row. I want to sing in a choir again. I want to play better chess.

I want to get lost in the jungle for three days in South America, and find my way out only by traveling to the East only in the morning and eventually finding a logging road and following that down the mountain until I come to a poor, rural town that hasn’t seen a primarily English-speaking human in over a decade, and then when i get there I want to fall on the mercies of a local family and beg for food, and so they give me a bowl of stew and some bread, and meat, and we dance, and we sing all night long, because they know old 80’s Rock & Roll from America, because one time two decades ago these Christian Missionaries from Arkansas had spent like three years down there, trying to teach them to be Baptists, but they didn’t want to be baptist, they were already Catholic, so why did they need to believe a different Jesus, they already prayed to God enough so why did they have to use these new books, and the missionaries had a twelve-year-old son who didn’t really believe like they did, he just acted like he was along for the ride, and he smoked their local marijuana with them, and stole sheeps out of the neighboring villages with them, and they shared his music, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson and Madonna, and then the missionaries up and left one day, well, they gave like 2 days notice, and so the son left his tapes behind as a parting gift, and they listened to those over and over and over as they aged, and now those same rebellious teenagers of back then are in their thirties themselves, raising their own kids, trying to make their own lives, sharing generously with this gringo stranger, and so I listen to their story in Spanish, and I can catch only like every third word, because of the super-thick accent, and my own mothballed knowledge of the language, but I’m grateful, I’m gracious, I, too, smoke their pot and party all night, and when we wake up after noon the next day I say “Thanks” and “Gracias” all around, and hitch a ride back to the city with a large, quiet truck driver whose name I’ll forget, but my hosts, I’ll always remember, for their hospitality – no, for their humanity.

That’s what I want.

Writing Practice – 4/16/2018 – Please

Please…

Please. Pleas. Bargains. Questions. Hopes. Dreams. Recognition of power. “If it may please you,” means nothing more than “You have the power in this relationship. I bow to that power, and I beseech you to stop down off your throne of authority, I beg you to reach into the cesspool that is my life, I implore you to darken your flesh with the stench of my own experience, I fall on your good graces, I humbly lower my head in shame at what I am, unequal, unworthy, and I place myself at your mercy.”

Please – a simple word, with much power. With power, and authority, and tradition behind it. And it, too, it has magic. Is that not what we tell our children? “What’s the magic word?” “Say, ‘Please,’ and you can have it.” Are we teaching them that we are the authority, or that they are? Aren’t we instilling within them, by our insistence that they say “please” and “Thank you,” that anything in the world can be theirs, just for the asking? What a horrible set-up we’re putting on them. What a terrible failure of expectations they are about to receive, when they get out into the “real world”, (however that may be defined, wherever that really is, whenever that happens to show up), when they get out there and they find their selfish conceit confronted by another, who, just as selfish, just as conceited, has also grasped onto that bright, shiny, attractive thing and refuses to let go.

Now it is a struggle – of wits, of pleas, of “please” and “thank you,” a battle to see who will back down, who will surrender, whose will shall crumble under the onslaught, the greater resolve of the other, finally triumphing, when one finally gives up, gives in, lets go, says, “fine, you can have it,” and the victory dance from the other, the triumphant exultative “Yahaaa!”, the jump for joy, the enjoyment of the shiny thing, becomes a final crushing blow, eliminating any chance of future happiness, because, once and for all, the blinders that we, as well-intentioned but incredibly naive parents installed through our teaching, of “magic” words, dissolve, allowing the poor, helpless, drifting, lonely child to see the world as it truly is – cold, calculated, measured, survival not of the fittest but governed by a different law – “survival of the survivors.” Rough awakening, to be sure. And those who do wake will at least be one slight step ahead of those who don’t. They will need it. They will need all of it.

Writing Practice – 4/11/2018 – Why I Write

A commentor asked me, “Is that not why you write?”

So, why do I write? The perpetual question. I ask this of myself ten times a year, at least. I never been able to answer it to my own satisfaction.

 

I write because I love the feeling of a pen in my hand – I love the feeling of creating, of bringing something out of nothing. I love the idea that my pen is a pregnancy, and my moving it along the page is a birthing, a resurrection, an excavation discovering hidden treasures beneath the surface.

See that blank page down there? Below these lines? That is opportunity. That is promise. That is fear, and hope together in one. That is a myriad of possibilities waiting to be explored, and as I cover the surface, as I bleed out ink onto crushed tree pulp, as I hesitate and start up again, as I continue to seek for the letting go, all of those possibilities that weren’t realized disappear – they break off and float out into the ether, waiting perhaps to be captured by some other stroke of another pen some other time. But – more likely, to continue to drift into the infinity, to expand and fall away, not down, but “away”, for they are further and further from each other.

Farther and farther from everything else, out beyond the reach, out into the solitude, out into the expanse, out into the void, where nothing is, where nothing was, where nothing came and nothing is going. Out there, it is alone, and it is forever alone. Even darkness abandons such places, not to be replaced with light, but taking with it the idea of light, the memory of light, the conception that there could be something other than darkness, not even so much that it is gone but that it never was, never could be, never would have been, never even existed as a potentiality in the minds of the greatest theoreticians this world has ever known.

So – I write to save. I write to redeem at least one idea, one experience, from the cold, pointless, suffering exhaustive death of obscurity, the drifted-away-forever experience. I allow all the other potentialities to suffer. I cannot save them all.

I cannot even save two. But I can save one. I can bring it to the surface. I can expose and create and birth it once, and for myself, and for others, and as a result, I can make the slightest recompense, the single absolution of regret for all those other ideas which I abandoned, with my tiny, insincere, insecure “Sorry, but I just couldn’t,” and they will drift away, they will expand and wave goodbye, resigned to their fates, and I will cradle my idea to my chest. I will love and cherish my actuality, and I will mourn those potentialities, for a moment, for a day, until they are so unceremoniously replaced, once again, with the next –

blank –

sheet.

What Should I Write About?

So, usually my writing practice topics are just made up on the spot. Occasionally I’ll do a series – See “Love Is…” (1) through (10).

Sometimes I’ll take a line from another piece of work and go with that. This is a good example: [from “In The Zoo” by Jean Stanford]

Other times I’ll just start with “I feel…” or “I smell…” and write about what’s immediately around me.

And then there are the lists of writing topics. Usually pretty soon after I start a new notebook I’ll have a day where my writing practice is just “write a list of writing topics”, and when I don’t have something in mind I can come to this page, close my eyes, point a finger somewhere, and see what happens. When I’m writing those lists, they might look like this: (these are all from 3/11/2018)

  • Write about a tree.
  • Write about family trees.
  • Write about family obligations.
  • Write about family reunions.
  • Write about class reunions.
  • Write about low-class reunions.
  • Write about high-class reunions.
  • Write about “putting on airs.”
  • Write about “putting on heirs.”
  • Write about “putting on hairs.”
  • Write about artificiality.
  • Write about superficiality.
  • Write about boob jobs.
  • Why haven’t penis enlargement surgeries received the same kind of market saturation as boob jobs?
  • How far would you go to achieve your happiness?
  • How much of yourself are you willing to change for someone you love?
  • etcetera etcetera …

Obviously I’m not going to write about all of these topics. I probably won’t write about more than 4 or 5 before this notebook is filled and I move to the next one. But the process helps me think of connections, helps to identify associations that might not have been readily present for most people.

So … I want to ask you, readers … What do you think I should write about? Leave a comment, and I’ll use those as prompts in the next couple of weeks. What greatness might we cultivate together?