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.

Writing Practice – 12/23/2018

Nashville…

Every body got a nickname, even if they don’t want to, including me. I’m John Bobby Ray, but folks call me Nashville. Always have. My momma and daddy did, back when I was about 2 years old, so then I started doin it, and by the time my sister came along, she only ever learned me as that, so I didn’t bother to tell her the truth.

I asked them, one time, why they call me Nashville, and they gave me a silly little answer that they always knew I was gonna be a country singer, with a name like John Bobby Ray how could I be anything else? And I believed them, too, until I was about thirteen or so and learned about the birds and the bees, and put two and two together cause my little sister is named Charlotte, and we took our vacation there about nine months before she was born.

I ain’t never been to Nashville. Not that I can remember, anyway. Mama says she and Daddy went when I was just a little baby, like six months old, and I was crying all the time except when we was in the car. Well, being from a small town in Alabama, there wasn’t much places to go in a car that took very long, so even if I did stop crying for a few minutes, as soon as we got somewhere and the car stopped I’d start up again.

So one day, I guess it was a Sunday she said, her and daddy bundled me into the car, me screamin my lungs out, fists balled up tighter than a virgin’s hole, face redder than a mule deer, and they started driving. Went up route 37, over past Old Man Hitchcock’s place, that was about fifteen minutes and the limit of how far they usually drove with me, bein that Hitchcock invited them over for Sunday dinner most weeks. But I guess they liked how quiet I was bein in the back of the car, and mama says she was so tired of my crying that she’d fallen asleep too, so daddy didn’t stop at the Hitchcocks, and just kept it going.

Up route 37, drove an hour and a half before he saw another car, he says at three hours later we crossed the Tennessee state line, me konked out in the backseat, momma just as snoring as an old bear in the forest. Daddy says he stopped for gas, once, for three minutes, and by that time I’d started to stir a little bit in the backseat, so he quick pulled out that gas hose and stepped on the pedals, only half full on the tank but not wanting to take any chances. We finally did end up in Nashville, then, late that Sunday afternoon, and mama woke up from the best 6 hours of sleep of her life, and daddy was kind of happy too, because now me and mama were happy , we wasn’t yelling at him any more.

So we spent the next couple of days in Nashville. We went to the Grand Ole Opry, and mama says I would stare at all the pictures on the walls like I knew the people. Daddy says I tried boppin along my hands to the beat, but me and mama don’t believe him. No baby knows what about that.

Anyway, we stayed there and [about six words illegible] we got a hotel room for like three nights and each night about ten o’clock my parents would hire somebody to drive me around in the car for eight hours. They’d go into that hotel room and sleep, or make whoopee, just because we don’t want to think about but I do know that after that, every time they looked at me they would end up looking back at each other and saying, together, like it was some kind of witchcraft spell, “Nashville”, and smile real big and get all lovey-Dover again, so I guess seeing me all the time gave them reminders, there of them and that’s why they call me Nashville.

But I’m just not sure yet. They call me John Bobby Ray, and I’m in a country band, and I’m the lead singer and everything but I’m just not sure it’s for me. Instead, I think maybe I want something else. Teacher, maybe, or maybe like a school principal. I bet I’d make a good guy at one of those colleges, you know, where people go and get all that learning? I bet I could tell them, those students, what kind of things they need to study to get a job. Oh, boy, you want to be an architect? Here, you need to take “Building Houses” and “Bridge Design.” So you want to be an English teacher? Here, let’s sign you up for “English 101” and “Teaching High Schoolers 202.” See? Ain’t hard.

Writing Practice 11/1/2018 – Write about cats

Write about cats…

Nobody can tell me that ghosts don’t exist. Because I’ve seen cats. Have you ever been watching a cat, just sitting in the hallway, and all of a sudden it takes off like bullet out of a gun? Ricochets of a wall, bounds down the stairs and back up, bounces over the sofa, up on top of the counter, knocks over three vases and six cups onto the floor, scrambles like hell on the marble surface, then with one leap lands on top of the chair, where she stops on a dime, goes from sixty to zero in 0.7 seconds, and proceeds to lick her paw like nothing happened. Yeah, she saw ghosts, probably two or three, that spooked her sideways and when she was done destroying the house those ghosts had seen enough, they’d gotten their entertainment for the afternoon, so they disappeared and as soon as they did your cat went back to normal.

Cats are fickle too, they like you one day and claw the hell out of your leg the next They want attention when they want it, fuck you if you’re doing something else right then, they need you to scratch behind their ears, or on their hops, or under their chin.

And you’ll do it, too, You could be ass-deep in something, like a six-nation International crisis affecting the lives of sixteen million people, threatened with nuclear winter or a Zika outbreak or a huge meteor is only one hour from hitting the ground, and you know you’ll stop and take 30 seconds to scratch or pet that kitty. You will. You know you will. I will, damnit, I know that. They’re just so damn irresistible. I think it has to do with the softness of their fur. Not like dogs, which are normally more stiff, more tough, they don’t feel good under your hands so much. That of cats is gentle, soothing to you and to them at the same time when you rub hit. Hey, maybe that’s one of the reasons we have the same word in English for a woman’s pubic region! Soft, fun to touch and both of you seem to enjoy it when done right. But – try to touch it when you’re not supposed to: look out. You’ve initiated the wrath position, it’s now up to you to eat the hell way, to defuse the situation, to somehow found out how to either get it right or get bloody trying.

Because you just don’t do that when they’re not expecting it. You [illegible] give them some advance notice, or wait for them to make the first movie. If you startle them, goddamn, they jump like they’ve been hit with an electric wand. So you don’t startle, you don’t scare, you proceed with measured amount of caution and you plan accordingly for what you want your outcome to be. Remember, too, that all the time you must have in the back of your mind an exit strategy if things get dicey. Too much excitement, and you’ll be unavailable for a long time. So beware – approach with caution. Trust, but verify. By all means, enjoy yourself, but always sleep with one eye open and be prepared to retreat ASAP. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

Requiem for a Notebook

My Writing Practice notebook is filled. This one is, at least. I will start a new one tonight when I sit down again. Yesterday I wrote to the end of the current one and, because I was curious, I decided to do a review. Here’s what I found:

There are 100 sheet / 200 pages in this notebook. A few of the pages are covered with other writings, so they don’t count. I filled 191 sheets with my scrawl. The first 4 sheets had 197, 190, 170, and 167 words on them. I’ll estimate all those 191 sheets have 175 words each, for a total of 33,425 words, which would be about 135 pages when printed. That’s a long novella. Not bad.

My longest streak was 13 days in a row, starting July 2 and going through July 14. The next longest was 11 days from 8/4 through 8/14. Hm, something about the 15th of the month that I don’t want to write?

I did a 5-day series early in July on “Describe sex…” The first few lines of each are as follows:

7-3-18 This is a strange one. Because most other phenomenon a will be described by their physical properties – the game of baseball will be about… ; sex, on the other hand is more likely to be described in emotional terms.

7-4-18 It’s a physical status and a physical act. Status – male or female. Act – penetration, intercourse interaction.

7-5-18 “Sex is natural, sex is fun. Sex is best when it’s one-on-one!” “Let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things, that may be.”

7-6-18 Sex is power. Sex is control. Sex is authority. Sex is “top” and “bottom”, sex is “giver” and “receiver”. Sex is “fucking” – an active verb, an authoritative act – and it is “getting fucked” – a receptive, passive, dominated, submissive state.

7-7-18 Sex is biting nipples. It is stroking shoulders and grabbing hair, but not by the ends, to pull and to hurt, but close, at the back of the head, right by the name of the neck, just to get a feeling of control

I had “lose control” experiences on 7/22, 7/29, 8/5, 8/16, and 8/18. These are times when I stop thinking, stop getting logical, and often my pen does not even make words any longer. It looks like this:

7/22, at the end when I’ve completely lost control

On 8/4 I ended with “I come in the whirlwind.” I liked that line so much that I started my writing practice on 8/5 with that same line.

On 8/20 I ran a pen dry. This is always a satisfying experience. My topic was “Write about background music – “. I started and as I noticed that the pen was close to exhaustion, I promised myself I would keep going until it gave out. 6.5 pages in, the ink finally finished and I quit.

On 8/22 my topic was “Write in incomplete sentences.” It looked like this:

This will be a challenging for ________.

I don’t often ________.

In the middle of my sentences I usually ________.

Somewhat _______, but there’s this cute girl at the ________ that wasn’t immediately rejecting me last time I ________.

On 9/9 I ran out of space. I had no more empty pages. But I wasn’t done writing for the day, so I turned the notebook 45 degrees and wrote over the last page a second time. If I try reaaaaaally hard, I could probably decipher what I wrote the first time and the second time. I don’t want to try that hard.

I wrote on 60 of 83 days available during this period. I had one long stretch at the beginning where I missed 7 days in a row (I must have been doing something else the 3rd week of June), but for all the rest I usually only missed a day before writing again. My next notebook I’ll aim for 60 days of 70 (skip one day a week, on average).

I’m pretty satisfied with this one. Now it goes on the shelf. Will it ever come back off? Not likely. But still, having that tangible reminder of what I’ve done is always valuable to me.