I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch


listen to my words

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Poems, short stories, essays, novels, and I even once attempted to write a non-fiction book. I make my career as a writer, and I hope to be able to move to freelance one day, so I expect this to be my largest section.

A Love Story

A knock on the door made Reilly start, separating him from his thoughts and bringing him back into the moment. He set his notebook down and went to the door. The girl standing there was gorgeous. “Hi, Reilly,” she said simply as she stepped into the apartment. “Can I start my homework now?”

“Uh. . . hi, Misty.” He punished himself inwardly. He’d forgotten she was coming over to use his computer for some class projects. He quickly glanced around his living room to make sure it was clean. There were some books and a few glasses scattered around the room, but at least there weren’t any clothes. “It’s in my room. This way.”

Reilly led the way down the hall to his bedroom, shutting doors as he went and making sure the bed was made before she came in. Then he pulled out the chair and offered her a seat.

He sat in the recliner near his computer and gazed at the girl in his living room for several long moments. Her dark hair fell in slight curls and waves until it spilled over her shoulders. That was about all he could see, because she was facing the computer screen with her back toward him. How cool is this? he thought to himself, gazing admiringly at the head of hair.

Suddenly she turned to face him. Reilly quickly turned his gaze back to the papers in his hands, hoping she didn’t notice he was–staring.

“You were a literature major, right?” she asked him.

“Uh… yah,…” he muttered. “Er… Yes, I was.” Why was he so awkward? This girl was barely twenty years old. He was at least seven years older than her.

“Listen to what this guy has to say about Ben Jonson . . .” She read something absurd one of her classmates had posted about Shakespeare’s contemporary. Reilly listened with interest, more fascinated by her voice than what she actually had to say. She laughed when she finished, “Isn’t that ridiculous?”

Reilly let her laughter flow over him like a refreshing breeze. “Yeah, pretty funny, Misty.”

And that was another thing: her name was Misty. Who’s named Misty? It’s what you called your pet mouse, or a cat at best. It wasn’t a name for someone you fell in love with.

Misty turned back to the computer. “Sorry for interrupting,” she said. “I know you’re busy, and I’ve got to get through this for class.”

Reilly couldn’t figure out why he was so fascinated by this girl. Sure she was brilliant and had a pretty face and (let’s admit it) a great figure, but she was also very young, and couldn’t possibly be interested in a college drop out trying to break into comic book self publishing. Take it for what it really is, he told himself every time she came over. A girl who came over because you have a computer and she needs to read the news group for her class.

All the same, he always found an excuse to be in the recliner while she worked on the computer so he could look at her. Today he had brought some pictures of characters his partner had drawn, and Reilly was supposed to be making suggestions for changes. In practice, he was mostly waiting to hear her laugh again. He loved listening to Misty’s laughter; it sounded as if the laughter hid something from him. Something very important.

Sometimes he would try to figure out how he could include her in a story. He thought of classic Greek beauty, but she was too modest. Next he’d try the magnificence of Victorian nobility, but she was too unpretentious for that. Truth was, Reilly wasn’t quite sure how to describe Misty. She was an enigma, and that only added to the fascination.

Suddenly Misty leaned back in her chair and stretched, showing her figure, entrancing Reilly in a magic spell. “Well,” she started slowly as she glanced back at the computer screen. “I guess I’m done. I’ll get out of your hair now. You’re probably tired of that college girl who keeps coming around and wasting your time.”

“No!” Reilly said, far too quickly for his own judgment. “I mean, it’s no bother. Always willing to help,” he tried to clarify. Especially for you, he thought but didn’t have the nerve to say out loud.

“Oh,” Misty said. She stood in thought for just a moment, and an odd look of surprise crept across her face. Then she smiled. “I hate to intrude further, but if it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to read my e-mail too. Is that ok?”

“Yeah,” Reilly managed to blurt out. Anything to see that smile again.

As if reading his thoughts, she rewarded him with another grin. “Thanks!” She sat back down and began to type again.

Inwardly celebrating, Reilly sat back down and began to pretend to look over the artwork again. He was thinking about her again, though, and didn’t pay attention to the papers in his lap. Well, I got her to stay a little while longer, he thought. Not that I’m doing anything about it. Not that I’m even sure I should do anything about it. Geez, why do I keep thinking about her this way?

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice that Misty wasn’t paying much attention to the computer screen, but kept looking over at him with a thoughtful expression.

“Well,” Misty started after half an hour. “I really should go,” she said slowly as she rose from the chair.

Reilly quickly stood as he noticed her rise, and although he didn’t know it, the gesture wasn’t lost on her. “Well, ok,” he said awkwardly.

“Yeah,” Misty responded, and she hesitantly started to head for the door. Reilly started to follow, and when they reached the entrance, she turned around. “Oh, hey. What happened with that comic book you showed me?”

“You mean the adaptation of those rock songs?” Reilly asked. “You remember that?”

“Yeah, I really liked it. What did the guy you were sending it to say?”

“Oh, well, he called once to ask me something. The distributor’s still thinking about it, but I’m not sure it’s something I’m keeping my hopes up about.”

“Well, that’s too bad,” Misty said. “I liked it. It was interesting.” As she spoke she absent-mindedly reached forward and held the pendant Reilly wore around his neck. “Let me know how it turns out.” She read the pendant aloud, “‘I am a child of God.’ Nice thought.” She let go of the pendent and softly drew her fingers across Reilly’s chest before pulling her hand back.

Reilly sighed. He wanted to kiss her so badly, but he knew it wouldn’t work, so he told her. “Look, you don’t want to do this. You wouldn’t be interested in me when you got to know me. So you might want to just go home.”

Misty looked him in the eyes, hurt and a little lost. They were both silent for a moment. “Bold words. But you’re wrong,” Misty finally said.

Reilly felt a deep disappointment that he was sure could be seen on his face. There went all hope he had of getting close to her.

“Look,” Misty patted him softly on the front of his shoulder. “Are you interested in me?”

He hesitated for a long moment and looked down at his feet, wanting to tell her but afraid to. “Well, . . . yeah.” He finally answered.

“So why do you think that you can be interested in me, but you can still tell me that I can’t be interested in you?”

“Well, that’s not what I meant . . .” Reilly searched for what to say. “I mean, . . . I, it’s just that . . .”

“Look,” she told him as she put her hand on his neck and made him look at her. “Why don’t you let me be the judge of what I’m interested in?”

“Well,” Reilly tried to look away but Misty forced him to see her eyes. They were a gorgeous green, a color he couldn’t quite describe to anyone, especially after that moment. “I guess that’s fair,” he finally mumbled.

“You’ve got a lot to learn,” Misty told him as she pulled his face down the few inches that separated their faces and kissed him gently on the lips. Her soft lips pressed against his, opening slightly. He could taste the sweetness of her breath, savoring the promise it held. Lost in this newfound rapture, his head began to spin.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said softly, and then she walked out the door, closing it behind her.

Reilly stood in place for a few moments, trying to figure out what had just happened. Then a grin crept across his face and grew until it filled the space between his cheeks. He skipped back to his room and got ready for bed, barely able to contain his excitement for morning to come.

Misty liked him.

Personal History – II

There are several other scattered memories that come to mind from my early childhood. I had a teddy bear. Apparently I wet the bed as lot as well, which resulted in a somewhat disgusting bear that was thrown away. My parents never told me that they had tossed the bear. But Mike, ever kind as older siblings are wont to be, made sure to tell me. My brother told a lot of creative stories, so I’m not sure I believed him when he told me he had gone to the dump with Dad and found the bear. This set off some trauma, I cried to mom about how I wanted my teddy bear, and that was pretty much it.

I also acquired a small stuffed turtle at this age. I think I named him Hermes. I thought this would be a nice ironic name for a turtle (though I don’t think I knew that word, but still, my knowledge of Greek mythology was impressive, right?).The turtle is still around. Most of the outer layer of plush is just gone, and he looks pretty sad, but still. My girls like to look at him, and he sits by my computer monitor.

One time I walked home from a weekday Primary meeting. I suppose I thought my mom would see me as I went. But I decided to crawl through a drainage pipe that my brother had shown me before. It was harder than I had remembered. I don’t remember that dirtying the outside of my clothes (though I’m sure it did as I wriggled through). And I soiled my drawers. I don’t know why, except that I was 4 or so and wriggling though that tight space took a long time. My mother reprimanded me, but she was probably scared to the point of panic when she hadn’t been able to find me. I was never scared the whole time, so in my childish mind didn’t imagine anyone else could.

When I was five we moved to Dayton, Ohio during the summer. This is the first place I remember having specific friends. It makes me wonder if my Elizabeth will remember the first friends she had when we lived in Provo. Or even the ones she has right now if she doesn’t keep playing with them.

At any rate, my parents bought a newly built house at 5340 Gander Road West. This had a nice rhythmic quality and even a little alliteration in the number (which I may not have remembered correctly), which made it fun to say. Again, to the 5-year old mind, it just sounded neat, but those are the reasons why. My dad informed me that a child my age named Dan lived 4 houses down the street. For some reason I had the impression that he had “helped” build our house. And when the toilet seat didn’t want to stay up in the bath room, I figured he had done that work.

At any rate, I did walk down the day we moved in and knock on Dan’s door. We became friends and did a lot of things together, including dressing in Underroos. Dan had Superman, while I had the Robin to Mike’s Batman (how is that supposed to make a 5 year old feel – that he’s just his brother’s sidekick?). Dan also was a trouble-maker, and one time we all got in trouble because of his idea to involve nudity in a game when a girl was around. I didn’t participate; I didn’t know what to do. But I got sent home. I remember one time when Dan and his sister came back from a visit somewhere and they had balloons. The cool helium kind that rose on their own. I told Dan’s little sister to let it go and I would catch the string. I thought THAT would be cool. I didn’t realize that my reflexes weren’t fast enough. The balloon was gone, and I went home again. Another time I visited Dan’s house he and another friend were doing something and wouldn’t let me participate, and I threatened to hold the wooden handle of a lawn tool in a puddle until it was ruined if they didn’t let me. Yeah, not only does it not make sense, but I didn’t have the patience to wait long and I left. I swear that Dan and I must have done fun stuff, but all my memories are of weird things like that.

Personal History

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I have little to no recollection of my earliest years. I was born on the 10th day of December 1973. I’m told it was cold, as it is wont to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the December months. The birth announcement proclaimed “Our stocking was stuffed with…” (me). This part I know because I’ve seen the announcement. Which now that I think about it is odd, as the only way we announced the birth of my own children was via email (and phone calls to our closest family).

My mother kept a baby book faithfully. At least it looks like she did. There are two books covering my life to about age 8. My older brother Mike and I both have really thick ones . The books for my younger brother and my sister are both considerably smaller. Which is merely an observation that the trait of losing enthusiasm projects after I lose momentum over time is something I inherited, and I am in no way accountable for it.

Anyway, when I was born I had one brother. Mike. Mike was two and a half years older than me and the bane of my existence from about age 5 until I was 15 (the year he went away to school for the first time). He was also my most frequent playmate for most of my younger years, and he taught me most of the games I played with my toys and the mannerisms I have for playing with those games. He’s probably still the biggest influence in my life as far as the patterns of my life and sense of humor. This is a fact that I will never again admit to or acknowledge, so make the most of it now.

We lived on the Laramie Air Force Base at the time, though I’m not sure what rank my father was. Some time in my early childhood I know that he was a captain, and I remember also at about age 6 or 7 praying as a family that dad would make the promotion to major (he did – though maybe he was older than I remember). At any rate, I don’t have memories of living in Wyoming (and there are nights I thank God for that) as we moved during my second summer, to Orem, Utah.

Dad had taken an assignment to instruct ROTC at BYU in Provo. I had no idea of this at the time, though I have a vague memory of my first (and only) college football game. It was cold. I fell asleep. We left before it ended. I’m not sure who my family was rooting for or who won, and it would probably only traumatize me to know because while Dad was teaching at BYU, he and Mom and I believe my mother’s parents had all graduated from the Y’s arch-rival, the University of Utah.

I have a dozen or more memories of driving down what I now know is University Blvd in Orem and seeing the Provo Temple lit up. This was always after returning from visits to Gramma and Grampa (Mom’s side) who lived in Bountiful just north of Salt Lake City. Still do, for that matter. I don’t know if my little girls will have that same memory, but it’d be kind of neat if they did – after all, we drove the same stretch as a family once a month or so after visiting my grandparents while I was going to school at BYU.

I also have vague memories of our house in Orem. We lived next to an empty swimming pool, which was fun to play in. And we had those broomstick horses that Mike and I rode on all through the back yard playing cowboys. My first dirty rhyme was learned in the gutter (literally) in front of that house. It came about because someone had a Mr. Peabody toy from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show:

I’m Mr. Peabody

I want my mommy

I need to go potty

Yeah, back off. I was three or four and lived in Utah Valley. Cut me some slack will ya?

Other fun things involved catching grasshoppers using our blankies. The method was to throw out the blanket so it was spread over the bug, and you pinned down the sides and slowly lifted until you could get a hand on the bug. Which you then let jump off (just to watch it jump, because we were boys, and they were bugs, and that was enough). Sometimes we just nudged them to make them jump. To be honest, I don’t remember ever torturing bugs (until I was 11, when I killed a slug by shaking salt on it…) or killing ants with a magnifying glass.

My earliest definable memory takes place in Orem as well, when I was about 3. My mother, like most good Mormon mothers get at least once (however short lived is the effort), was getting into food storage. I remember drinking a lot of nasty powdered milk at this time (I was so very grateful when that kick ended). My mother ground her own wheat for bread, and it being the mid- to late-seventies, we had this monstrous grinder with an open drive belt, which my brother and I loved to watch. The grain moved prettily as it was funneled toward the grinder, and plus here was this big engine (a temptation for all little boys, I’m sure). One time while watching the grinding, and for some still unknown reason – I think it has something to do with me being meant to have this mark on my finger – I decided I wanted to know how it would feel to have the belt move along the inside of the second knuckle of my right index finger (though I was familiar with very few of those vocabulary words). Being a very scientific three years old, I determined the only way to find out was to stick out my finger.

Screaming ensued.

My second definable memory takes place in a hospital or doctor’s office – I’m not sure which – with a trained medical professional removing stitches from my hand. I remember nothing in between these two related events, but I had a lot of stitches. Apparently I had severed tendons and my hand had been cut open all the way down and across my palm in order for them to retrieve the tendons and reconnect them. Today the scar only stretches about half an inch down toward my thumb and half an inch into the palm, but there is a huge mass of scar tissue in that knuckle today, and I can only bend my finger about half way.

The scar quickly became part of my identity. There was a corner on my blanky that was harder than the others which I used to like to hold against the scar. My family still remarks on it. Over the years, I’ve kind of developed the idea of that scar as a symbol of the protection the Lord has given me over my life. I’ve been in many accidents, many of which could have killed or at least crippled me, but I’ve never suffered anything more injurious than that scar on my finger. I reckon that the Lord had something he needed me to accomplish. When I received a Patriarchal Blessing at age 18, I was told that I would bring into this world worthy spirits. I jokingly remarked that I was safe from any serious harm until my wife was pregnant with a second child. As I now have three beautiful daughters, all of whom are worthy, I’ve decided to start being a little more thoughtful and cautious (though I still want a motorcycle); the Lord might have had something else in mind for me, but no sense in taking any chances right?

I remember that I had a broken or sprained arm once in Orem as well, but I don’t know how I got it. I just remember playing in the backyard once with my broomstick horse with my arm in a sling (it’s hard to ride a horse like that, even one made from a broomstick).

Presaging my destiny to write and observe the beauty in all that surrounds us, I still have a slight memory of going out into the backyard and seeing the view of the mountains. Mt. Timpanogas being the most prominent. I remember thinking how wonderful the world was. As I was ever spiritually minded (or at least, have always believed myself to be), I also remember realizing in some small way how positioned I was in God’s plan. It’s not something I could put into words at the time, but it was a feeling. Knowing that I was on the earth, and the earth was in the heavens, and that I was an individual. Maybe you think this more of a psychological self-consciousness than anything else. But I knew it was a spiritual event.

My family was (still is) LDS. Mormons. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We went to church every Sunday for several hours. At this point, I believe the meetings were still scattered, so we’d go once for Sacrament meeting, again for Primary, etc. In primary I once got a little certificate of some sort of achievement. I have no idea what it was for. It had a picture of a young boy and a picture of a young girl on it. So I did something very typical for young boys: I crossed out the picture of the girl (well, they were ICKY!). Mike told me when he saw it that I would regret that later. Probably because he said that, when I saw the certificate once when I was much older, I did regret it and tried to erase it. It wouldn’t come off.

In Primary we learned a lot of songs like “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam” and so on. I still remember the first time I learned “The primary colors are one, two, three / red, yellow and blue.” I don’t remember the symbology, but I’m pretty sure there was supposed to be some. It’s ok; they don’t sing that song anymore. At any rate, I learned about Jesus, and the story of Joseph Smith, and many other Bible and Book of Mormon stories while I was still very young. And I’ve never doubted them. This could make you think I’m brainwashed, but as I grew the maturity of my belief grew as well. Sure, I’ve questioned my beliefs, and tried them, and had to learn more. But I’ve always had faith in the Savior and the scriptures, whatever misdeeds and actions I’ve taken. I know that the Church is of God, and that the Book of Mormon is true.

Automatic Writing

This will be another in the continuing series of articles about writer’s block that I write in order to keep me writing. In case you wanted to know, this technique works somewhat sporadically for me. Frequently, I don’t have the motivation to write anything. Since starting these articles I’ve written somewhere around 10k in about a week. Only about a third of that are these thoughts on writing and writers block. Something about just getting material down on paper (or in pixels, as the case may be… and is) frees up a process and allows me to write more. Heck, it gets me typing instead of just staring at the screen, or, more commonly, playing a few levels of Oni, Diablo II, Neverwinter Nights, or the like.

So, I guess I’ll just stick with my comparison to the writing process to the flow of water, a comparison I’ve used many times in the past and will continue to use in the future, I think. It’s a good metaphor.

In this case, I’m looking at writer’s block as a dam. It’s blocking the flow of words from wherever they originate. Somewhere in my brain I suppose, but that’s a topic for another thought. But by simply getting a trickle started. Just the tiniest fracture in the dam wall, and a small amount of water begins to come through. This widens the hole, and more and more water comes out. Supposedly this would result in thousands and thousands of words gushing out, rampaging down valleys, drowning unsuspecting villagers and cows, destroying homes and businesses, causing millions of dollars of damage…

– wait. I think I’m confusing which is the metaphor, and which is my subject.

At any rate, my point is, if you (I) begin writing, it increases the likelihood that you (I) will be able to write more. And, as indicated by my experience with my last week’s writing, this writing won’t be just useless, you’ll (I’ll) be more enabled to write more prolifically on the subjects that you (I) most want to write and which you (I) feel are most important.

Of course, this assumes that one moves relatively quickly between. I suppose it probably varies from person to person, but if you write a little bit, then take a break (such as watching the Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD – guess what I just got…) for a while, it hurts your “groove.” Stay in the groove, the groove is your friend.

So far, a lot of the things I’ve mentioned about writing seem to be little tricks. However, writing is not simply a collection of little tricks. Make no mistake about that. There is nothing easy about being a writer (with certain exceptions we all tend to believe in, like Stephen King, who apparently writes fifteen novels before lunch). Writing requires patience, discipline, and hard work (much of that work involving your head, high rates of speed, and impact with a heavy, blunt object such as a desk or keyboard).

If you don’t discipline yourself, often times forcing yourself to write, if you don’t have the patience to rewrite pages that aren’t your best work, if you don’t have bust your hump to get projects done by deadlines, then you won’t complete your writings.

Yes, there are techniques to help you work on writing. To get you into the “groove.” However, these techniques have nothing magical about them. If these techniques work for someone, it’s because there is a psychological enabling that is functioning there.

All this is to say that you can’t do automatic writing for fifteen minutes, then go watch Maury Povich and Judge Judy and expect to come back to the table (the one that holds your paper, typewriter, computer, or whatever you’re using to write) and write quickly.

Automatic writing, as I see it, will accomplish three basic things. One, it will help you come up with ideas, much like brainstorming. When you’re just writing to write, ideas you may have otherwise rejected come out and have a chance to develop into good ones. Automatic writing will help you be able to write new things that you hadn’t even planned before. They may help you with your current project, or they may help you come up with a new one (just don’t get so distracted that you don’t finish your current project–discipline, remember?).

Two, automatic writing will help you develop your writing skills. “Perfect practice makes perfect” my arse. You can’t be perfect until you learn to be perfect. You have to make a mistake so you can see what your mistakes are so you can fix them. That’s what practice is for. Automatic writing allows you to root out the bad juju you have in you, release the impulses and feelings you have that are working against your more serious writing, and work on your word choice.

Finally, automatic writing gets you in the groove, as I have been discussing. It helps you jump-start the writing process. But none of these things will work if you jump from automatic writing to an unrelated activity before doing your “serious writing.” You’ll lose your train of thought, resulting in the loss of ideas. You’ll lose any of the cathartic effects you may have gained. And you’ll lose your groove, and if you have a problem with writer’s block, well, then, you just wasted your time, didn’t you? It’d be like doing warm up stretches, then eating a big lunch before you go do your exercises.

Use automatic writing and the other tools you learn properly, to become a better writer.

The Writer and Reader Response

It seems to me that it behooves a writer to understand literary theory. much in the way an artists needs to understand the rules of composition and form and so forth, the more a writer understands how text is understood, the better he can forumulate that text to evoke the message and response he desires. Thus, I will indulge myself in a little bit of criticism about literary criticism. Specifically, reader response.

The problem with the reader response theory is communicating the theory itself. (This gets pretty metaphysical, so watch out) You see, the reader response theory states that a text is nothing except for how a reader, well, responds to it. In other words, it is the reading of a text that creates the work of art, not the writing it, unless you want to go deeper and acknowledge that the writer is experiencing those words as he writes them, but that amounts to the same thing, and in any case, the writer’s experience it essentially different than the reader’s; if not simply because generating the text is essentially different than having it given to you, but also because each reader, and in fact, during each reading, the experience is different, which is the crux of the idea behind reader response theory, and also the main thrust of the paradox involved.

It’s easy enough to agree that no text is anything if it is not read. The extent to which we agree to it may differ, but we can agree it doesn’t function if it simply sits on the shelf. It may have done something at the writing, but if it is never read again, there never is an aesthetic experience. It only generates that experience when read. Each reader, and, as I said, each reading, of a text is a different aesthetic and communicative experience because each reader brings a different consciousness to the reading. He has a different background and knowledge that helps interpret and colors each new thing that he experience or reads in the future. Everyone reading a text understands it differently.

But that’s the problem. How do I know that what you read just now was understood anything at all like I understood it or meant it? I don’t. Especially if we assume the validity of reader response theory. You may simply be giving it a meaning that makes sense to you in your background. There is not guarantee that your understanding was anything like mine. So what’s the point of the theory? The only possibility is intellectual relativism, but that’s a dangerous theory that’s a story for another time.

Why I Write

I was thinking a little about what makes me write, continuing the thought of the last entry. Especially what makes me write things like this series of explorations, or the “Piece of Writing” series that gained me moderate fame in high school.

It also occurred to me that a great deal of the scholarship in history, literature, religion, the arts, and philosophy stems from the fact that we either

• Don’t have a record of what the original creator or thinker stated or thought about their production or deeds

Or

• If we do have such a record, it is unclear or debatable in meaning.

I was thinking this was deeply rooted to my need for verbose explication of my intentions and meanings. Sure, vague is fun, but I also find it intensely enjoyable to speak or write at length on a simple phrase or sentence that I feel is either vague or can be interpreted in more than one way.

On a side note, this rarely applies to when I attempt to be ridiculously funny, where I expect that if people don’t understand it or misinterpret it they simply have no sense of humor. Or being perverse (or dense). In none of those cases, do I usually feel I have the time or energy to deal with them.

Anyway, as I was saying, there’s a connection. I write because I don’t want someone in a thousand years to be debating about what I said or believed. Every thing, especially things I say, deserves exegesis. Careful exegesis. Exegesis to death. (I can imaging the people of Athens condemning Socrates to death by exegesis, except that it would probably kill many of them long before it began to phase that distinguished pedant).

Being misunderstood is one of the greatest fears I have. Which is a problem, because I live with it constantly. I once stated (if you’re going to cite someone, cite the best) that no one is truly understood, but that each person is probably has more emotional, motivational, and/or intellectual depth than they’re usually given credit for. I think I regard that as a tragedy. I even stated that one of the traits I’d demand in a wife were that she understand me. In the end, I believed I settled for wanted to understand me and tries to do so. Which is much more reasonable since, as I said, we don’t understand each other as people.

So we don’t have understanding, yet I fear not having it. So I must live in perpetual fear. Well, not really. More like perpetual frustration. I say something and I’m misunderstood, but I go on living. And hence I continue to write. Because I have this theory that the more I say, the easier it will be to understand me. Though I suppose it’s possible that I’m just providing more to be misunderstood. I think that’s the less likely of the two because I talk most about things I’ve already said.

On the other hand, another contending theory for my behavior is that I’m an egoist and just like to hear (or see) myself talk. This is also possible. I like to think there’s a mixture of the two. Am I making myself clear?

Or do I need to write another 550 words?

The Muse

I’ve always been an advocate for the idea that the best cure for writer’s block is to write about having writer’s block. Usually this leads to a long sequence of uninspired drivel (such as my personal essay on panty hose), but a lot of people think it’s good enough to publish anyway. It usually isn’t, but I’m going to go ahead with the idea anyway.

I’d like to make some observations on writer’s block. First of all, I find that I’m an excuse maker. If I’m not too busy, I have writer’s block. But I always have too much to do (or must start by playing a game of Spider Solitaire) if I have really good ideas and feel “in the groove.” Incidentally, any writer will tell you about “the groove;” this is a mode of thought, emotion, and inspiration that makes it “feel” like it’s time to write. It comes at unpredictable time, and frankly, is a much more progressive manner of speaking about “the muse” (of whom Rodin , incidentally, had the most appealing vision).

At any rate, I don’t think I’m simply an excuse maker. I think that I have an innate psychological function that perversely operates only when I have too much else to do. “He’s busy, let’s give him lots of ideas and put him in the groove.” Perhaps personifying my psyche is a bit weird, because after all, that sort of identifies my mental attributes as a distinct being from myself, and despite appearances to the contrary, I am not that schizophrenic. It does, on the other hand, allow me a digression to keep me writing.

But to bring me back on track, I believe there’s something about being occupied that gets my mind moving. If I have to speak to a number of people, or get some tasks done, I feel movement, rather than stagnation, and I believe I can get things done. It also provides an environment where I have more stimuli and can make the connections I need to make.

On the other hand, if I’m just sitting around playing Unreal Tournament (and no, I haven’t acquired the coveted 2003 version yet), I don’t feel like I’m moving forward in any respect (except number of frags); rather, I feel stagnant. Inertia takes over and I fail to work on anything.

I came to this observation today at work, when it was somewhat slow, and I was only taking three or four calls an hour. I have been writing steadily for the last few days, netting close to three thousand words a day while only working during my shift. Then, today, when it was so slow, I suddenly felt completely unmotivated to do anything. There’s a connection, opportunity and inspiration typically don’t coexist.

The same thing happened earlier today when I was at home. My wife took the kids to run errands and left me alone for a couple hours when I was free to do anything. Instead I sat at the computer and made fun of the %#Two Towers Protest.

This leads me to believe I may be able to manipulate my writing “groove.” If I can falsely manufacture an environment where my psyche believes I’m busy (which may present a challenge, assuming that, as I believe, I am NOT schizophrenic and my psyche is a participant in my activities) then I should be able to get some writing done.

Hence the discussion of the phenomenon and circumstances surrounding writer’s block. Assuming all has gone well, and the 2×4 I forcefully and repeatedly applied to my psyche’s head did its job, I should be able to fool it and get some work done.

… or not.

Crap.

The Duke and the Contessa

The duke and the contessa were forbidden to love each other. At least, that is what they believed. It would have been socially inappropriate to express any such feelings. Yet everyone at the court knew that they loved each other. It could be seen in every glance, every gesture, every word they spoke to one another (and many words they spoke to others), though they never admitted what they thought would be indiscretion. By most courtiers, including all the women (with one unimportant exception), felt that their relationship was terribly romantic and many hoped desperately that somehow the situation would result in a union of the two plaintive lovers, but by the same token no one would tell them about the plainly obvious love because that would ruin the utter romance of the situation, and everything should be romantic, even at the cost of happiness. For romance is beautiful, and beauty is more important than pleasure.

But then came the day of their falling out. The duke by some small forgetfulness or faux pas had somehow offended the contessa and hurt her pride. Or perhaps it was the contessa who had slighted the duke; no one can be sure about these things. Either way, they both turned cold shoulders to each other that day, and the relationship only grew more sour. At one point the duke surely felt that he would like to make it up to the contessa, but as they could no more declare their love now than previously, and thus there was no way for him to show that he was sorry. The contessa grew angrier and angrier, and even when the duke was not the subject of conversation or when he wasn’t near, one could feel her burning anger. Meanwhile the duke simply grew more and more morose; his visits to court became less and less frequent. The contessa felt slighted at this as a new insult, and the effects of her wrath in the duke’s deportment: he stopped showing as much care in his grooming, he spoke barely ever. This development was very sad to observe. But it was that tragedy was beautiful, so no one said anything to correct the situation.

Eventually, the contessa could no longer stand the sight of the duke, and commanded her army to attack his territory. The war was bloody, eventually involving most of the other courtiers as they had to either defend their own lands from the armies or joined one or the other side, depending on which side they found to be more beautiful. In the end, most of the realm was destroyed, the crops burned, the citizens murdered, and the animals driven away. Only the courtiers themselves remained. But even the ruin was beautiful, so no one complained of the results.

The contessa still hated the duke, but she lacked the power to kill him. The duke, on the other hand, still refused to directly harm his beloved contessa, even though his army had been much larger and more capable, and he was still physically capable of ending her life. And so we did what we had always done, and continued to hold court, although there was nothing left to rule. And that is when the angel came. We called him an angel because he was beautiful, and we didn’t know what else he was. He came from the sky, right through the roof of the castle, and stood before all of us. He proclaimed in a deep but melodic voice that he had witnessed the strife in our land, and that he now knew what he had always suspected. Now that he knew who they were, he would take the contessa and the duke with him.

For the god and goddess of beauty cannot be suffered to remain with mere mortals.