My pledge.

This story is shaping itself up to be almost…nice. I think I might actually be writing something with a happy ending. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before. It’s a little disconcerting. I mean, a happy ending is in the eye of the beholder. I do sort of consider most of my work to have happy endings. Then again when I see that painting, Nighthawks, I think, “Gee, what a cozy little scene.” Maybe that’s what everyone thinks. What do I know? Painting isn’t my thing.

At any rate, I’d just like all of my long-time readers out there to know that after this story I’m going to get back to killing people. It’s been almost two stories without a single on-screen death. I’d hate to think I’d gone soft.

This much I know.

I’ve mentioned before on here how the various books and stories I ingest while creating a story can vastly influence the final product. This is normal. What isn’t normal is the increased speed at which I’m creating new stories. Normally I might read a book about philosophy and then a book about a murder-mystery and then a book on the history of iron or something and slowly these thoughts would pool into a somewhat stable story. In other words no one thing could have that large of an influence since over the months or so that a story was cooking in the back of my mind any number of ideas would be thrown into the pot and over time things sort of settle into a homogeneous blur. Granted, over time my thoughts would evolve and change, but story to story and book to book this might not be super noticeable.

Now, though, the impact each thing I read is huge. I only take in, like, five new forms of art or thought every two weeks. And since I have to pull these stories out of somewhere I can find that they go flying off in new directions if something big happens in my life (which never happens) or if I decide to pick up a different type of book than what I’ve previously been reading (which often happens) or, as in right now, if I started a light romance story set at the Jersey Shore because I’ve been at the Jersey Shore visiting family for the past two weekends, but then I come home and watch a backlog of DVR’d episodes of The Universe on the History Channel, and suddenly thrown into the pot with my romance story are exploding neutron stars and black holes and the notion that the universe is ever expanding. It’s very weird. I’m curious to see how this effects things. An effect will be there, trust me on that, I’m just not sure it’ll be what you might expect. And also I have like none of this story written, no idea where it goes, and it’s due in three days. So it might be awful.

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.

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.