Write Now

Sometimes I wonder if the songs that I create in my head will be heard by anyone else but me.  I often wake up to a new melody and I have to get it out somewhere, but alas I do not play the guitar as greatly as I imagine I can.  I can pick things out, but by the time I finish picking, I have forgotten what I started with.  Or it sounds completely different and the original is lost in the mix.

Perhaps I could try to be a rapper instead.  Or a slam poet.  I want people to stand around while I recite nonsensical syllables and clap when I’m finished.  Of course, they don’t clap right when I’m finished, because they won’t actually be sure if I’m finished until it starts to feel awkward and I’ve been staring at the ground way too long and then one brave soul strikes out in front of the rest and just claps once, starting a chain reaction of applause that will swell and fill the hall or lakeside park.

What about all the cool story ideas I have when I’m sitting all by myself.  My novel has morphed and changed a lot in my head lately, but none of it has made it to print.  The first draft has, and it has been waiting patiently to be removed from my backpack for the first round of revisions.  But good lord in heaven, how do you even begin to edit a friggin novel?  When I picture George R. R. Martin doing it, he only writes a little at a time and then goes back and edits the crap out of it until it is finished.  Then he writes the next part.  I don’t know why I picture that.  At no point have I heard him describe his writing process as such, but I think even he would be intimidated by the the task that my novel presents.  It’s just a huge hunk of paper that needs an indeterminate amount of changes.  I could start at the beginning . . . but then there’s the part after that I have to deal with.  And then there’s more after that.

In my mind there is a time when all of this is finished.  For some reason I can picture a future where all the tasks I wish to complete are completed and I can move on to what is next on the list.

Oh good lord!  What comes after that!?

The bigger problem here, one that seems to be the most prominent thought on my mind as of late, is when do I start doing things instead of waiting to do things?  When do I get to the point where I am not concerned with outcomes as I am with the task itself.  I’m not saying I shouldn’t be interested in end products, but it seems that I am in the habit of looking at the potential timeline of my life and assigning a rigid order to it all.  I’ve been saying “first this, then that” and “once I have that finished then this will happen”.  The more I hear that voice in my head, though, the more I want to get rid of it and start making things happen in the present.  The future as it stands will always be there.  I know this because I’ve been staring at it like an impatient cook watching the pot on the stove.  I’ve been staring at it waiting for it to arrive, but the present is the only thing I will ever have.

I’m getting pretty deep here, but the sum of my point is that I want to change the way I look at the world.  I am using my writing habits, or rather procrastination habit, as an example of a bigger picture I’m looking into.

Record Keeping

I wanted to keep a journal when I was a kid, but I never committed.  I remember scribbling a couple entries down on loose leaf and then forgetting about them soon after.  They were shoved in my desk along with other useless papers that I would later have to rifle through to decide their level of importance.  So many things I should have thrown away, and so many things I should have paid more attention to.  That’s the thing though when you’re a kid, you can’t tell the future.

I watched an interesting documentary last night called “Mortified Nation” about a stage show that originated from a guy reading his old journals out loud.  It became a phenomenon that spread throughout country and now has monthly shows in several major cities.  It’s such a novel idea to me, something I would probably jump at the chance to do, but for some it is a cathartic experience.  There are participants in the show that had way more to deal with growing up than I did.  I never had abusive parents or struggled with sexual identity, but for many of these folks the journaling was the tool they used to cope with the tumult of emotions they went through.  It’s not all sad and serious, though.  In fact the popularity of the show comes from the unintentional comedy of the writings.  We all laugh because on a base level we can relate to how it felt to be an adolescent and angry at the world.  We all thought we were so smart, but it’s fun to share in the hindsight that none of us really knew anything.  And we still don’t.

What I have now in place of journals are a number of video tapes and audio cassettes that I or another family member made during my childhood.  My grandpa was pretty good with the camera when I was little, and there is plenty of footage of me roaming in and out of the shot, interrupting heartfelt moments to interject another joke I remembered (or made up).  Some shots you can see the top of my head bobbing in and out as I’m trying to jump into the frame, and you can hear me plead with my grandpa to move the camera back down to my level.  When the camera was on me, the adults behind it would feed me questions probably just to see what I would say.  It’s hard to predict someone who has no filter.  They’d ask me about the girl in my class I had a crush on and listen to me yammer on about how pretty she was and how she made me see hearts.  Or they’d ask me to tell them the new joke I learned.  See they always encouraged me to be myself, but then they wondered why I never shut up.

So whatever kind of historical record you have, I advise you preserve it.  You may think that those journals you did in English class are worthless, but that’s because you haven’t allowed them to see the light of day yet.  You should take them out, dust them off, and at least give them a private read.  There may be some things in there you had forgotten about that’ll make you smile.  Or hurl.  Either way I think it’s worth it.

You’ll Like Me When I’m Angry

I went in circles trying to settle on a opening line because I couldn’t convince myself it was worth it to complain on a blog.  For some reason, I felt there was no need for it if I was complaining to people who already knew the problem.  Aren’t I supposed to be part of the solution?  What is this really about here?  Is it about commiseration?  Actually, yes, that’s the idea.  People are supposed to read what you write and go “Yeah, I agree with that.  You’re so smart, Matt.  Thank you for reminding me what it is I should be angry about.”  Longer response than necessary, but it’s still nice to get reinforcement.

Just like my overthinking writing, I overthink what I should be mad about in my relationships with people.  I have often pushed down feelings of anger because I see no point in being angry.  It won’t change anything.  There will be no justice served, no rights wronged, no minds changed if I express my anger.  But in fact, this is where I’m wrong.  I need to learn to open up my vents and express my emotions in real time.  My delayed anger serves no one, and the added honesty will actually improve my relationships.  When I was a child, I asked my mother if she still loved me even when she was mad at me.  I guess then and subconsciously now I associate having anger with a person as the absence of love for them.  My inner child thinks that for a relationship to last you can’t fight ever and it’s always love and never anger.  Combine that with my natural tendency to be slow to anger and you have me in situations where I should be angry but I don’t know it till later.  It’s like experiencing a sonic boom.  I should be mad at the plane going by, but instead I just watch it.  Then later when the sound hits me, I realize I missed an opportunity.

There are plenty of examples where I should have expressed my anger toward a loved one.  The ones that are in the forefront of my mind are times when I was pissed at my girlfriend and didn’t tell her.  I won’t get into any of those details, but looking forward to potential relationships I want to make sure I don’t push my feelings aside for the comfort of the other person.

Wow, isn’t this fun?  You the reader are embarking on a journey here with me.  You get to witness a thirty-two year-old man discover what it takes to be in a adult relationship.  Isn’t that something?  I guess though some people never get to that point and they stay emotionally adolescent for their entire lives.  My advice to them is to listen to more podcasts.  There are tons of them where hippies talk about their emotions as well as presence and other existential junk.  I tell you, I don’t know where I would be without them.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Set It To Rights.”

SPEECH! SPEECH! SPEECH!

I just watched a documentary about comedian Bruce Vilanch.  He basically writes award shows for a living.  He writes jokes for presenters at the Oscars, and he also works with other comedians on their material.  He’s worked with Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, and Bette Midler.  He has received awards for his award shows.  That seems like something I would like to happen to me so that I can brag about it.  How many people can say that they got an Emmy for their Oscars.  Of course if I get one of them, I’ll want to get all four so I can have the coveted EGOT necklace like Tracy Jordan.

But I digress.  What I really want is for people to pay attention to me.  Awards are a great way for people to inflate my ego to a dangerous level.  But what kind of stress is that to sit in the audience and wait to hear your name called for best actor, or best artist, or best writing.  That’s gotta be way more painful than sitting in the auditorium of your elementary school and waiting for someone in your grade to be called for a citizenship award.  When I received that award, I didn’t even see it coming.  I’d been at that school for years and had been to countless assemblies where other names were called.  I always thought I was a pretty good kid, but after a while I stopped paying attention.  They aren’t going to pick me.  I’m just another kid being a kid like all the rest of the kids.  Of course my mom knew.  But since my detective skills were (and still are) lacking, it took me several years to deduce that she had known beforehand and that’s why she was at the assembly waiting to congratulate me.

I want something that I have made to be recognized.  I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t something I hoped would happen in the future, because we all hope for validation.  The point though is not to have that as your prime motivation for being creative.  The motivation for me is to create because it has not been created.  Things are bouncing around inside my brain constantly, and the more of it I get out, the more room is created for more stuff to bounce around.  And when it’s been transferred from brain to paper, I want someone to read it and enjoy it.  And if that one person turns into fifty people and then 50 times that, I am not opposed to it.  That would be great.

Since part of the documentary was about Bruce Vilanch writing for the Oscars, I’ll say that I want the award to be “Best Original Screenplay”.  I’ll step up to the podium and probably make a fool of myself by getting all nervous and junk.  I’ll thank everyone that has encouraged me as a writer, as well as the folks that went out and saw the movie and liked it.  Gotta thank my mom, of course.  Who doesn’t do that?  Basically this will be the most boring acceptance speech in the history of the Academy of Arts and Sciences.  It will be so boring they will have to edit it down to me saying thank you and George Clooney clapping.  I’ll bow, split my pants, and run off the stage embarrassed.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I’d Like to Thank My Cats.”

Good, Gooder, Goodest

Admitting you’re aren’t good at something, that’s not a thing people do very often.  Smart people anyway.  There are weirdos that go on Facebook and talk about their shenanigans at work and then wonder why they get fired, but lets just assume that none of you are that dumb.  No, most people aren’t going to volunteer to share their inadequacies.  Now I’m assuming that this is a question about my competency as an employee, because it says “Are you good at what you do?”  That’s just what comes to mind for me.  I mean, I do lots of things, but I only get paid for one of them.  As far as that goes, I am good at it, but I would definitely not admit if I wasn’t.

It’s hard to admit that you’re bad at something if you really want to be good at it.  I appreciate it when people are honest with me about my lack of ability in something.  I try to be honest, too, but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings.  This can be a slippery sloop.  I have seen too many people audition for American Idol and have zero awareness of how terrible they are.  When I watch these people, I always wonder where the person was that should have sat them down and told them they were waisting their time wanting to be a singer.

But am I good at what I do as far as the thing I want people to know me for?  Yes.  I think I am a good writer.  And what is it I wish I was better at?  Writing.  I can see how I have improved over time, but I am also very critical of my own work.  I’m usually proud of it, I want people to read it, but I also want it to be better all the time.  I want to continue to see improvement over time.  I don’t ever want to reach a point where I am satisfied with my work and that I feel like I have learned everything there is to learn.  It’s really that way with life, too.  I don’t wish I was better at life.  I’m think I’m actually doing pretty good at it having died zero times.  But I wish I didn’t think there were things that were going to kill me like telling someone bad news or disappointing people.  That’s something I really have to fix.

There will always be things I want to improve about myself, but I know I have limitations as well.  For example, when I was a kid I didn’t know that you actually have to care about basketball to be good at.  I thought if you just practiced all the time you could be Michael Jordan or at least play in the same league as him.  What I figured out later was that I have no desire for it, so my skill level will not increase no matter how many free throw shots I practice.  I won’t be the phenom on the amateur court at the Rec Center taking my scrappy underdog team to the regional tournament.  It won’t happen.  I also will never love the game of golf enough to invest the money and time to improve my skills.  So if you’re going to invite me to be your partner for some kind of tournament and you’re really competitive, first of all, don’t invite me, and if you do, be prepared to be disappointed.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Have Confidence in Me.”

The Fate of the Rec Center

How does anyone ever decide what to write about anything.  I’ve been a writer for most of my life, and for some reason this blinking cursor is hypnotizing me, making me forget all the successes I’ve had in the past.  Those pieces of fiction and poetry that I was so proud of, that essay that everyone thought was poignant and succinct, all of that never happened and I have never written anything worthwhile before this moment.  Or at least that is what the cursor wants me to believe.  I don’t know why the cursor is such a jerk, but I’ve been dealing with its mood swings for years and you would think I would be used to it by now.  Nope.  It’s still like a cranky uncle you don’t want to bother while he’s watching his sports teams.  Instead you just go in the kitchen and quietly . . . Quietly . . . find a snack.

But the cursor can be used to your advantage.  Think of it as like a speed bag and you’re an up-and-coming boxer and you have a rigorous training regiment that must be followed in order for you to be ready for the big fight to save the Rec Center.  You see, your trainer, the scrappy old gym owner who’s wife runs the Rec Center, he placed a bet with his old high school rival that he could train someone to beat his prize fighting son in the ring, and if he does, the Rec Center doesn’t get torn down to make way for a strip mall.  You, you are the new kid in town that needs some direction.  You went down to the Rec Center to avoid your uncle and the scrappy old man saw you wailing on an old punching bag and decided to take you under his wing.  So now you’re eating eggs and punching carcasses and your mp3 player only has one song, “Eye of the Tiger”, and it’s on a loop.  And in the midst of this nonstop body building montage, you are slowly mastering the technique of the speed bag while trying to look cool doing it.  It’s not working out too well.  The problem with the speed bag, as with the cursor, is that every time you punch it, it comes back at you.  And the harder you punch it, the faster it bounces back.  Also if you get too close and careless with your speed bagging, you’ll get busted in the face and get your teeth knocked out.

So in this dangerous game, you should always remember what is at stake.  The Rec center.  And whatever it is that you call a Rec Center don’t let the evil dad of that famous boxer take the land from your scrappy coach’s wife to make a strip mall.  Fight for what is right.  Make the speed bag obey you.  Also wear a mouth guard.

I think this analogy fell apart somewhere, but you get the idea probably.  The point is the victory will be sweet no matter how bloody your face looks at the end of the fight.  In fact, I can see it now.  You’ll push your way through all the camera men and reporters and folks wanting your autograph and you’ll find your scrappy old coach and give him a hug and say, “Man, Coach, I thought we’d never come back from that one.”  And he’ll look back at you with a puzzled squint and say, “What the heck are you talking about?  That was just the press conference.”

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Use It or Lose It.”

New Restaurant Poem

Is there an emotion conducive to your writing?  There’s an animated short from 2007 called “The Danish Poet”, and in it one of the characters writes best when he’s happy.  I wondered for a while if that was how I was, but now I don’t think so.  Looking back, I’ve written pieces I’m very proud of during times of sadness.  I think the factor that influences the writing is the intensity of the emotion I feel.  If I feel strongly about something, the words come much easier.

Some of my best writing has occurred in places I don’t spend a lot of time.  Occasionally, I go to a restaurant and scribble notes while I eat.  Around 2pm yesterday, I picked a Chinese buffet.  There was hardly anyone there and my waiter spoke very softly.  It was like I was in a library.  I could faintly hear Chinese pop music like someone at the record listening station had taken his headphones off and turned them up.  Something about that sound reminded me of something I love, so I wrote a poem about it.  I hate to be vague, but I don’t want to say what it was until you read the poem I wrote . . . and then I still probably won’t tell you.  I like to see what people think about my work without me telling them what it was I meant to say.  I’m like the preschool teacher that tells the kids to finger paint a gorilla.  I get some pretty messed-up-looking pictures and I say, “Good Job!  You did so well!”

They ask me if
I’ve seen her before
Do I know her face?
Do I know
How she hides at night
And how frightening it is
To be near her
In those hours
After the sun is down?

You can hear
Her voice at night
It’s as loud
As if she were
Standing next to you
But she’s hidden in the distance
She is everywhere at once
After the sun is down

Keep your distance at night
She’ll fascinate you
She’ll mesmerize you
She’ll draw you in
And you won’t know
Until it’s too late
That she’s captured you
Her pleasant darkness
Will swallow you up
And you’ll be hers forever

So I say yes
I know her
I’ve sang with her
After the sun was down
Staring off into a distance
Only imagining she was
Looking back
I never know
Until the morning
Dances across her face
And even then
I’m not safe. 

A friend of mine recently told me how she was puzzled that a person like me who fears rejection can actually want to be open and vulnerable to others through writing and performing.  I’d never thought of that before, but it’s true.  I guess I’ll just try and share my work with as many people as possible, because the more people there are reading/listening, the greater chance that not everyone will hate it.  But to reassure myself, I’ll always remember the quote from the wiseman:

             Haters gonna hate.
-Anonymous

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