The Struggle Through

Some days, writing is my enemy. Most days, it is something I want to do but let myself get too sidetracked to actually accomplish anything. On days like today, it is the epitome of all that frustrates me. I feel myself being held back. Today, it is exacerbated by not sleeping well throughout the night. The sudden strike of insomnia that finally gave way in the wee hours of the morning keeping me from my full mental faculties. I am not a partaker of caffeine, or energy drinks, or any such thing that might ease that off of my shoulders. Instead, I push forward, moving one word at a time.

The real problem, at the moment at least, is that I don’t know what will need to change in my story with changes newly made. The novel has been false start after false start. I get ever further into it, only to realize something is wrong. Fearlessly but with trepidation I start bravely anew staring at a blank page. New details come to light about the characters. They shift and shape a new story beginning. The ending has thus far stayed the same. Pages of notes written out time and again, in the blink of an eye, all become useless. New and old points are taken out of context and pushed forward into obscurity and oblivion leaving vacancies behind.

A part of me wants to simply give it up, but I’m hardly a quitter. Part of me wants to try a new story, or an old one, anything to get out of this rut, but that isn’t how things get finished. If this story is terrible then it is terrible, but it will at the very least be done. A bad finished story is still much more publishable than a great half-written one. So, I persist. It is an inevitability that I will finish this novel. It can’t be any other way. The story may be wild in its current iteration, but it will be tamed. Patience, gentle guidance, and a firm hand to keep on course will guide it.

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Fighting the Tides

It often happens that I’m at home, sitting down with the intent of working for hours. My laptop is plugged in and raring to go. I open up the word document. Oh, wait. My water bottle is half empty.  Better get up and go fill it. Don’t want to do that in the middle of a good run and lose my concentration. What’s that? The dogs want to get outside? Better let them out and wait until they come back in. In the meantime, I’ll scribble out some notes on a notepad to get the juices flowing. Speaking of juice, I’m pretty thirsty. Actually, I think I’m hungry. I better eat something filling before I get to writing or I’ll be having stomach pains. Let me get this food started. Maybe I should eat by my computer and get started, but that would get crimes everywhere and I’ve been promising to actually eat my food without rushing and I feel like I would rush. I’ll just eat at the table. Oh, the dogs want back in, so I’ll let them in. Is that the mailman? Better go check the mail, would hate for anything important to wait. Just junkmail. I can get started now, as soon as I do the dishes from my meal. This drawer is kind of messy, let me organize it. It will just take a minute. Done. Now let’s get started on writing.  “Chapter One.” Oh no, everyone’s home.

This is a good way of getting nothing done. As a writer, my specialty is procrastination. The frustrating part is that when I sit down and just jump to it, my issues of hunger, thirst, desire to clean, they all fade away into background noise. The dogs are even mostly okay for the time I take to write, and if they ever aren’t they’ll come get me, but if I get up they’ll want to go outside because they think I’m going out. The thing is that I’ll succumb to whatever matters I can take care of quickly. Writing is hard. Probably the hardest thing I ever do. I just have to remember that it’s also the most rewarding. 

Learning Curve

I’m constantly doing research. Sometimes it is reading books about history, watching informational videos over concepts that make cars run, or even just talking to people who know more than me about a given subject. As the saying goes, “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” As such, I’ve found myself very humbled by the research I’ve done. It is always a surprise when I learn something new about a subject with which I felt familiar. The only exception to this rule is writing.

If there is one subject about which I will never know enough, it is writing. It is as much science as it is art. So completely man-made, that it is held together only by rules of understanding and enjoyment. Each word can be crucial and insanely well thought-out, or they can just be a part of the sentence that pushes the story along. As far as I can tell, there is no wrong way of looking at writing. Writers, like any person, only care that you look at the writing. Granted, we’re all sure that our writing will be looked at with praise. At least, I am, right up until the person is actually looking at it.

Being a writer has become my greatest excuse to read. It’s not like I ever needed an excuse to read, but having one does seem to get some folks off of my back. The more important part is that it forces me to read outside of my interests. I could easily sit here and read Hemingway all day long until his entire catalog was read, then move on to another great writer and then to another. This wouldn’t be bad, per se, but it wouldn’t serve me as well as mixing in mediocre and even downright awful writers. Believe you me, there are some awful writers published out there. I hope to be one of them some day. But by reading the bad and mediocre writers that are read by publishers, I can figure out what I can write that is likely to be published. I can figure out what publishers are willing to take a risk on a work like mine. I can figure out what the brilliance is that writers like Austen, Hemingway, Dickens, Woolf had that made them stand out as such great people. I can begin to understand the soul of the works I’ve cherished. It’s nothing new, but something important.

A Lack of Emotion

Kingsman The Golden Circle

In keeping with the theme of the movies, my girlfriend and I went on a second date night to see Kingsman: The Golden Circle. It was an interesting film with an all-star cast. It has the same insane, comic book violence. The same strawman villain with a harebrained scheme. Essentially, it is the logical next step in the genre started by Ian Fleming’s James Bond series. That’s something to really celebrate, the level of honesty that it takes to just be a good dumb movie.

The movie fully embraces the inanity of the subject with great results, but at the same time it holds the film back. Early in the film, as is evident in the trailer, much of the Kingsman organization that we are introduced to in the first film is destroyed. The lives of characters integral  to the first film are swiftly snuffed out. What’s the movies response to this? Eggsy is sad. Merlin tells Eggsy to buck up. Eggsy bucks up. In and out. Is this ever revisited? No. Not really. It almost is, towards the end of the film, but Taron Egerton, who plays Eggsy, is so restrained to the point of being emotionless in the scene. This is particularly frustrating because emotions are not absent from the movie. Colin Firth’s character Galahad, who seemingly died in the first film, is revealed to be alive in this film. A moment spoiled by previews and his top billing on the movie poster. Eggsy and Merlin both give incredible performances that show sincere and deep emotions for Galahad. That’s the biggest problem with this film: it views emotions as a means to an end instead of a part of the larger story.

That said, this movie had a lot going for it. As I said earlier, the movie fully embraces dumb action movie to great effect. Stellar fight scene after stellar fight scene break up the story of a group of heroes going against the odds to fight off a desperately manic supervillain. There is no question of good or bad, but of where each individuals loyalties lie in the black and white picture that is drawn for us by the movie. In a world far more complicated than the one depicted, it’s nice to take a moment to just relax our minds and let things be simple.

A Good Day To Die

Lord have mercy, the last couple of days have been rough. A lot of stuff has been going on and I’ve been fairly constantly on the move while not having internet access for multiple reasons. What I did finally have access to was someone else with Movie Pass. So we did the only reasonable thing and went to the movies. Specifically, my girlfriend and I went and saw Happy Death Day.

Happy Death Day Poster.jpg

Happy Death Day is a horror film rated PG-13. This should be your first clue that the film isn’t particularly scary. Other than a couple of well timed jump scares aided by  a desire to be scared, I don’t think my pulse jumped at all during the film. Even my girlfriend, whose love of scary movies is second only to her fear of them, was fully in control of her body by the end of the movie. That’s because it’s only presented as horror. It’s actually much more interesting in a lot of little ways. I will admit to getting a little teary-eyed by the end of the film.

What this film does is draw you in with a fairly unlikable character with the character of Jessica Rothe’s Tree. How does an unlikable character draw you in? By the assurance that she will die repeatedly due to the Groundhog Day set up of the film. It says something about our twisted sense of judgement that we want to see someone whose only real crime is being kind of shitty to everyone. But once our id is invested in watching this college girl get killed repeatedly in new and creative ways, we start relating to her. We start learning things about her through her reactions and the things she does. Without spoiling things, we begin to greatly empathize with her, and even see her turn her life around while she solves her own murder. By the end of the film you begin to root for Tree and hope she gets together with the romantic interest that springs up through out the film.

The thing is, the movie has plenty of flaws, the greatest of them is it’s lack of exploration. While watching, I got the feeling that they had the whole thing planned out from the get go. The script didn’t unfold into the mystery, rather the mystery was planted and the script was forced to follow the mystery to the letter. This led to a fairly predictable mystery, one that my girlfriend figured out from the commercials. I really wanted to see them follow through with some of the other paths or make the final reveal a bit more rewarding or unexpected. The other area they didn’t explore was the way she was reliving the day each time. It’s revealed that internally she’s a mass of scar tissues from each of her deaths. This was a point that was so important they put it in the trailer, but after it’s revealed in the film it never comes up again. In fact, despite the fact that she had passed out not two days prior in the film because of these injuries, she gets into an all out brawl with the person who she thinks keeps killing her. It’s cool and all but not where she should be. Instead of being a cool and distinct variation on the Groundhog Day formula, this is shoved in to say, “Hey, kids. We’re a cool and distinct take on a certain formula. Just trust us on this.” It is entirely a have your cake and eat it too scenario.

All in all, it was a solid film with good acting, and well worth the admission cost to see it.

I’ve recently been playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s being hailed as an incredible game, and the hallmark of a new era in Nintendo games. A new era that has been long overdue. It marks an acceptance that what they do in the games industry isn’t all that there is in the games industry. Breath of the Wild is a grand experience in open world gameplay that I would argue is entirely new, though others have implied it is a call back to the days of the first Zelda games. All in all, it is a fantastic game that keeps pulling me back.

It’s been troubling me, however. I don’t think that for all it’s glory it is a particularly strong game. As I’ve been playing through this past couple of days in the spare moments I have as down time, I’ve realized that if I just focused on getting through the game I’d have finished this the first day I started playing it. The main quest line, like most open world games, is fairly straight forward and easy to navigate. Sure there’s a few things you need to get like the Master Sword quest that would take you a bit of doing since you need a certain number of hearts to pull it out. And to get those hearts you need to do a bunch of shrine quests, but even then it would be a fairly quick jaunt through. They throw shrines at you left and right in the early game. I couldn’t spit without running into a fairly short and easy early shrine. Just going all the way to the forest to get the Master Sword could grant you the majority of what you need to get there.

Honestly, the only thing that kept me from running the gauntlet to the end in the beginning is that I sucked. I found the controls very unintuitive coming from other consoles. I found the Switch’s controls to be less responsive in a game that takes some cues from other action RPGs of the modern era. In spite of my friends telling me how great all the NPC’s are, I still find them to be rather lacking, and the entirety of Hyrule feels like it’s very sparsely populated, which makes sense, but then the secondary NPC’s feel very shallow for the most part.

I think the true beauty of the game, and what makes it so playable is that it doesn’t feel like an investment. I could easily spend hours playing it, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I have to spend those hours playing it. Much like an addict, I swear I can put it down whenever I like.

Hot ‘n Saucy

This morning, I’m eating a strange egg recipe that consists of eggs, hot breakfast sausage, spinach, mushrooms, and one chopped up Tijuana Mama pickled sausage. Some, including my girlfriend, would think this is a disgusting abomination of the culinary arts. I just think it tastes good. I do enjoy eggs, and spinach is a personal favorite, but the real light of the meal, for me, is the pickled sausage. Every road trip I take I pick up at least one pickled sausage, Tijuana Mama if I can find it. The strange pink meat has a vinegar burn that I find strangely alluring, given that I’m not a huge fan of the more vinegary hot sauces like Tabasco.

When it comes to heat, I prefer flavor over punch, though the punch is always welcome. There are those who believe that the point of hot sauce is just in that punch. That the endorphins released while you’re in pain is the only reason to eat hot sauce. These people tend to miss the taste, hiding it deep beneath the spice. People let this keep their food from being as good as it could be. I’ve been to restaurants where they over cooked the dishes and acted as though they were above critique because they were spicy. At least that was the waiters attitude.

The truth of the matter is, hot sauce and spicy food is only as good as the food underneath. A sauce may have the highest Scoville rating, but in my mouth that’s just being a dick. If you have the highest Scoville rating and a pleasant flavor mixing smoky undertones with meaty high notes then you’ve got a winner. That said, I’ve had “hot” sauces that lack any bite whatsoever. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad. They can be incredibly tasty, but at that point it’s no longer a hot sauce, just a sauce. Sauce is fine, but when I need that extra bite in the morning, I need that hot to be in all caps. Now, excuse me while a pour some delicious ghost pepper salsa over my eggs.

Death of a Place

It feels like someone’s died in this upscale condo in Branson, Missouri. Not an immediate death but a recent one. The former occupants are no longer here, my older sister and my niece. They’ve gone to different areas, new places, where they can continue their lives. They were, after all, leaving this place anyways, the circumstances have just changed. They were leaving together, but now they’ve left separately. Most of their things stay in place, mourning the passing. Some will find their ways back to their respective owners, others we’ll take in, and even others will be sold.

Every surface seems to be covered with books, statuary, wood blocks emblazoned with cliche motivational phrases and quotes. Boxes line the hallway and suffocate every room to the point that I can’t close the door to the bedroom in which I’m staying. Shelves lie empty, aside for a few stragglers still occupying the spaces. The three near life size maiden statues seem to be the only pieces untouched and unmoved by the experience, still decorated in their party finery, just as when their owner was still here. They don’t seem to realize that they are alone now. How could they? They’re just statues.

This space was alive for so long, that it’s strange to see it dead. It’s very much a wake in the corpse of the dead. I feel compelled to wonder what my purpose here could be. Am I some sort of funerary official, here to see the arrangements go off without a hitch and ease the mourners on in their lives? Am I the priest here to give last rites, a tribute to what it was? I think it doesn’t matter what I am, not at this point. It matters what this place is now. This place is dead.

May the memories of this condo reside in our hearts for ages to come. May we remember what it once was and will hopefully be once more, a home. May it again be filled with love and laughter. May we remember it fondly from places where we are happy without resentment.

Limited Amount of the Limitless

Space is infinite, to the best of our knowledge. It goes on and on forever and beyond. When we think about the whole of existence we imagine only a very small part, no matter how big our imagination. Such is the nature of the infinite. Yet, somehow, in spite of the limitless properties of space, I’m running out of room where I am. Space becomes so limited in scope when it comes down to the actual usable bits available to me.

This is always a problem for bibliophiles. Already, half my room is covered in shelving, piled high with books. Every surface in my room contains at least one tome and that is perfectly alright with me, but I’m not sure where I’ll put my new books. I don’t think I’ve hit hoarder status. I can still move fairly easily through my room. I only have to perform some mild acrobatics, but it’s coming to the time where I know I’ll have to get rid of some of my books to make room for more books.

I’m not the only one currently going through the pains of space confinement. My girlfriend recently moved all her toiletries to my place. She’s been living here for a good long while, but hasn’t moved all of her stuff in until recently. Through never-ending bottles of lotion, a mountain of different make-ups, and more unidentifiable things than I have ever seen gathered, she has spent the morning struggling to unpack it all. I watched, a silent observer to the travesty unfolding. It felt a bit like that scene where Robin Williams character in What Dreams May Come comforts Annabella Sciorra in her personal hell. I keep trying to offer help and condolences and she keeps panicking and pushing away until I had no choice but to leave.

This has left me wondering what will happen when she eventually moves in her knickknacks, or her television, or her books. I dread the books the most, not because I would be unhappy with the addition to our shared library (she has great taste in books) but because I have no idea where things will go.

Editorial Necessities

I’ve been struggling for a few days with a story I’m working on. Specifically, I’ve been struggling with the beginning of the story. It has been truly frustrating because I know where the story will go, and where it needs to be, but I’ve had to take four different cracks at the beginning. I think I’ve finally gotten it right, but the only way in which I can get it right is through some very heavy editorial work that will effect the rest of the piece.

Essentially, I’ve come to realize that there is a character that is causing me no end of grief. Her internal characteristics aren’t coming out. Her interesting features are all concealed by necessary secrets for the plot, and while she’ll be a great and interesting character later in the story, at the moment, she looks like nothing but proof that I don’t know how to write interesting female characters. So she’s being replaced with an interesting female character. A character that is strong in their own way, and is confident and competent in their abilities. A character that works well in the story and has personality.

This is especially exciting because the other character will still be in the story, just without the baggage that was weighing them down. Instead of going through the story with her being largely bland and tasteless, she can be the character she wanted to be all along. Even more, it will help develop the world the characters all live in, while freeing up a bit of space to play with other more interesting characters that the story sorely needs. I’ve long recognized that the story has been missing something, but finally, I can move forward through it, knowing exactly what it is that story needs.

The only thing about this whole ordeal that I would change is when the revelation came to me. I’ve been having trouble sleeping so this, and the idea for a script, both hit me while I was desperately trying to grab some shut eye last night. I was eventually successful but only after taking many, many notes about the stories that came to me so that I could rest without fear of those happening to me, which has left me here. Tired and ready for a nap.