No juice.

I think I have a story for next Thursday, but the thing is I’ve got no juice. There’s no burst of excitement when I think about it, no scenes or lines or characters I’m excited to type. It’s just sort of there. And this is new. I’m used to not having the energy or the courage to write something. I’m used to having an idea so built up in my head that I’m worried I won’t be able to pull it off. And I’m used to not having a real firm grasp on an idea when I sit down to write. That happens like half the time. But there’s always something, something deep in my gut that sort of sings and tap dances when I think about writing a story, something somewhere that gets the blood pumping and makes me, despite the work and the fear, really want to try and write it. Right now I’ve got nothing. Just a sort of outline in my head and some details worked out. I’m curious to see if I stumble onto juice halfway through, or if I’ll keep this detachment and that’ll let me carve and craft in a new way, or if I’m just tired and when I get some sleep this weekend I’ll find my juice or if this story will just sort of be boring. But, as of right now, no juice.

Recap for “The Rags”

For starters I’m going to clarify what I mean by a recap. There’s been some confusion with this in the past. I’m not rewriting the story in any way. The way I see it once I’ve published a story on here I’m honor bound to leave it alone. Sometimes, late at night, if I can’t stop running a sentence around and around in my head, I’ll hop into an old story and move a comma, maybe change two words, but that’s really it. I swear.

When I write a recap it simply means I wound up with a lot of background information while writing the story that I think might be of interest to my readers and I’ve decided to share it (sometimes I don’t feel like sharing). Anyway, since I jump around and talk about all parts of the story my main point here is to mention that you should read The Rags first, and then this post second. Unless you don’t feel like it. Whatever. Do what you want. I’m not your mother.

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I’ve got nothing.

I don’t know if this is starting to look repetitive from the outside, but I swear I go through the exact same mindsets over and over again on a two-week repeating cycle. And, I know, I wrote a post about this exact phenomenon last Friday. But still, it’s really freaking weird. It’s like Charlie Brown and that football over and over again. Only, I always seem to manage to kick the stupid thing.

At any rate, I’ve got nothing, as the title of this electric post says. I’m beat, the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, and I’m sitting here pretending to write with my headphones on, half watching, half listening to Jackie Wilson’s(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” and half wondering if I could write a post where every single word in it is linked to wikipedia.

It’s good to put your shoulder to the grindstone (no wikipedia entry for that, I’m shocked) sometimes, but I’ve always felt that you’ve got to let the mechanism breath every now and then. I was going to write more of my dirty haired stranger that I mentioned last night, but I think I’m just going to write this, polish up the re-cap for this week, and give absolutely no thought to the current story. Just to mix things up.

I have achieved a Zen-like state of creativity.

Actually my back is in knots, the only things in my stomach are Mountain Dew and Ricola cough drops, my hands are shaking, I’m not real sure what day of the week it is, and, once again, I’m utterly baffled by the knowledge that I have to write another short story over the course of the next ten days.

Right now all I’ve got is the top of someone’s head. It’s a guy, and I think he’s bowing his head or kneeling….no he’s bowing his head. And his hair is sort of sandy and dirty. Kind of like what you might imagine a peasant’s hair to be like assuming you ever decided to devote brain power to pondering a peasant’s hair. I think he’s sorry for something. Or he’s tired. Honestly. This will turn into a story. I mean, all I had before Second Choice was a guy at a wedding that I thought might be wearing glasses and that turned into 10,000 words. Good ones, too, if the reactions so far are any indication. Right now I’m just a little too out of it to be worried that with ten days left all I have is some dirty hair.

Onwards and Upwords.

…and the horse you rode in on!

I’ve been having some pretty wonderful problems with my website recently. The biggest one happened last Friday when I went to create a new category for the next story and nothing happened.I tried doing it the longer way (opening up the “Manage Categories” section instead of just typing in a new category when I create the first new post) and…nothing happened. I’d type out the name, click on the button, and nothing would change. It took me about three to four hours in all to figure out the problem and “fix” it by going through the WordPress message boards and downloading a plug-in that solved the problem for reasons I still can’t explain.

It’s weird. I never interact with the actual code underlying my website. I’m aware that it’s there, but I never go into it and mess with things. I’m always a few layers up, using the user-friendly program WordPress that transforms that code into easy to use pages. Sort of like how (I’m guessing for most of you) you don’t actually write code when you want to type a letter or paper or whatever, you open a word-processing program that lays everything out for you in a much easier to understand language. But it’s all code. That’s what’s weird. All of it is code. Underneath this program is code, sometimes under that is more code, and then under that are ones and zeroes. And it terrifies me sometimes to think that I, at heart, don’t have the slightest idea what’s driving this website. None. If I came across a real problem I’d be helpless and would have to bring in someone to fix it for me. It’d be like if it were three-hundred years ago and my printing press broke down, and to fix it I was expected to have advanced knowledge of the atomic structure at the base of the metal components making up my press.

Maybe. Or maybe three hundred years ago printing presses were looked at by most people as pretty mystical devices, with their gears and wheels and what have you. I’m not saying I know exactly what goes on inside a printing press, but after a few minutes I think I could pretty handily walk through a more basic model. But maybe the average layperson three hundred years ago, when looking inside a printing press, would see pretty much what I see when I look at the code of my website. Pure voodoo. And maybe in three-hundred years web code will be so basic a tool that most people will have a pretty decent grasp of it and could, in a matter of hours, figure out what’s going on to a pretty large degree and fix any problems…like the way I could tell that the giant broken gear in the corner needed to be replaced if I were a time-travelling printing press repairman.

Anyway, the huge upside with technology is the amazing amount of things you can do with it, like this website which I think is pretty neat. The huge downside is the more amazing the technology is, the less likely you are to understand it. In short, the more something can make you say, “Ooooh,” than the louder you swear when it breaks.

The pattern so far.

So I think I’ve figured out what my life is going to be like for the next ten months. Various things seem to keep repeating. Basically I finish my story late Wednesday night or I get up early for one last read through Thursday morning, then I set it to post at one, go to work, come home Thursday night, sit on my couch at around seven that evening and then wake up ten hours later unsure of where I am. I spend the Friday and most of the weekend after my deadline acting like a profoundly obtuse moron. It’s complete denial. I kind of stare at my keyboard and computer when I pass them by, casually nod at them, maybe occasionally pick up my keyboard and examine it, “So you say I use this device to write stories? Fascinating, truly fascinating.” For some reason I’m imagining myself saying this in a British accent…I don’t know…I think maybe John Cleese could do a good job capturing this mindset. Then around Sunday it finally sinks in that, yes, I do have to come up with a new story. My Sunday self blames my weekend self for this problem. My weekend self claims it was waiting for inspiration.

The beginning of the next week is spent in something close to deep depression. No thoughts are coming. No ideas are flowing. No stories are occurring. Nothing is happening. I sleep a lot. Every chance I get, basically. The project is crashing and there is no way a story is going to arrive in time. Then, around Tuesday, a flash of an idea comes and I instantly throw it in the trashcan of my mind and cheerily tell myself that I certainly can do better than that. Then comes Wednesday with nothing better. Then comes Thursday. Nothing. And by Thursday afternoon I’m digging around in my mental trashcan hoping like hell that no mental coffee grinds or mental melted cheese have gotten all over that crappy idea I had two days ago and that I can still maybe use it. Thursday night is spent writing anything and everything I can about, or even close to, this awful idea. Slowly something gets eked out. Very slowly it starts to take shape. Then around Friday night I’ve got something I can at least start writing. I may not have an ending or a clear path, but it’s enough to start a story with. The weekend is spent drinking Mountain Dew, and listening to music very loudly on my headphones and banging my head on my desk. Then, finally, sometime around Monday, enough comes together so that I know what I have to do to finish my story. Then sleep goes out the window. Monday through Thursday are a blur of work and writing as I try to get it all down on the page and then, since “getting it all down” tends to mean rattling off any words I can at any point I can, then I have to read it through over and over and over and over to make sure it forms a coherent whole. Then I finish up late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, set the story to post at one, come home Thursday night, sit down on my couch and then suddenly wake up twelve hours later.

A title? What’s that?

Completely didn’t realize that this story is still called “Untitled 4.” Although “Untitled 4” really does capture the dichotomy of my main protagonist, I should probably come up with something a little punchier. And fast.

I feel odd commenting on this story much further as most thoughts are sort of being shelved for the recap. I really have nothing much to do but blow off steam at a project that has become Hydra headed. This story is so strange on so many levels, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tried, which is good, but that makes it so difficult to tell what’s coming across well, which is not good. Anyway, trying new things is very much a part of this project. I’m going to attempt to push myself in strange new directions…because apparently I’m a masochist and the two-week deadline isn’t enough. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll create a genre grab-bag…or a big wheel with different genres on it and I’ll use a random number generator to pick one at random. (Wheel! Of! Genre!!!!) Really strange stories and fabulous prizes. Sounds about right.

I don’t know that I want to write this story anymore.

This is turning into an inordinate amount of thought for what sort of ends up being a bit of a joke. I’m getting a little sick of pondering such questions as what the equivalent of snow in a laundromat is, or what pants eat, or how a bra and a cable-knit sweater might fornicate. It’s Monday night; I shouldn’t be thinking about this on a Monday night (I’m not sure why it being Monday strikes such a chord with me, I’m not sure that any day of the week is a good day to tackle such questions). Two things I do know are that A) all of those cartoons and movies where the main characters are talking cars or whatever actually have a ridiculous amount of thought behind them and B) the writers of all those movies cheat by just making their characters people who are shaped like cars or whatever…and then at the end someone poops out a bolt or gives birth to a sandwich or something and it’s all clever and what have you. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. The next story, I can assure you, is going to be about a guy who sits around and doesn’t do much, maybe he watches some TV before dozing off for a little nap, but that’s it.

Can’t decide if this is going well or not.

I’ve got my story now…basically. I know where I’m going but I have no way of knowing how long it’s going to take me to get there so I really can’t figure out if I’m on a good pace or not. It’s really a matter of what comes into my head as I write. Much as with Second Choice there’s an element of world building going on here and I’ve got to decide just how much of that I want to do. It’s not easy stuff and I wind up stopping every few sentences to try and figure out just how this bizarre-ass idea is supposed to play out.

On the other hand I’m having fun. Every time I walk through the few steps I have and improvise my way to the ending in my head I burst out laughing. Which isn’t to say this is a comedy, mind you. I did laugh rather frequently while writing Liquid Calling as well and that was about a hit-man. I don’ t know. My point is that laughing out-loud while writing doesn’t necessarily translate over into laughs coming from the reader. Sometimes the process is just funny, no matter what you’re writing. That’s the best way I can put it.

Anyhoo, I’m pretty sure that there will be a recap for this story. The pattern seeming to be that whenever I spend a lot of time laughing during writing there’s justification in my head to intrude on your thoughts about the story.

Always an interesting phenomenon.

There has been a lot (to put it mildly) of thought put into the debate of whether art imitated life or life imitates art. Personally I think it’s a little in one direction and a little in the other. I can assure you that I get plenty of ideas from the outside world, and I have also heard my own lines (usually dialogue) come out of people’s mouths in real world conversation. So, go ahead and process that. What I think gets overlooked too often is how often art imitates art. I can’t speak for everyone but I get a large part of my boost, my get-up-and-go, my whatever it is that makes me do this from the art in the world all around me. There is nothing like looking upon the work of a master to fill you with hope about what you might accomplish with your own work. And to a lesser extent there’s nothing like viewing a complete failure to make you think that maybe your own work isn’t so bad and at the very least you can do better than that.

But I digress, back my original point, which is how much life imitates art and the other way around. I’m not saying I have an answer, I’m just here to point out a strange moment from my morning. I’m a little freaked about getting this current story done and I actually found myself splashing water on my face in the bathroom and giving myself a pep talk in the mirror. Not once in my life have I ever done this. Mentally perusing my writing history, though, yields at least three characters who have performed this act…the most recent being Matthew’s first mark in Second Choice. I have nothing insightful to say about this, I’m only here to point out how weird it is when you start acting, even in some tiny little way, like one of your own characters.