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Archive for February, 2013

Writing is such a fickle beast, one that I’ve only begun to tame after several years. Growing up, it would come and go as it pleased, stopping long enough for a few paragraphs, pages sometimes, and in one or two rare cases, complete stories in which the quality was somehow better then the sentences I could only pick at. Then when that beast was done grazing or fucking or whatever it was doing to my brain, it would move on, leaving me to wonder when it would come next.

Lately, instead of waiting days, weeks, or months for it to come around, I’ve made myself sit and wait. Like hunting deer, I’ll sit in my writing place (usually my local Starbucks and usually the same time) and wait until I’m able to come up with something. It isn’t always good but I come up with something everyday. I’ve found that if I sit in front of my computer at least an hour a day, the juices will start flowing enough that I can expand on my novel or short story or blog (hi!).

Going about writing this way, doesn’t feel as inspired or exciting as when I was younger but having something to point to at the end of the day is a great consistent feeling that makes up for it. As a writer, if a longer work doesn’t keep your interest when you’re not writing, its probably not something you’re excited about anyway and may not be where your energy should lie.

For example, I have a couple stories bouncing around in my head that I have written to various extents but I hesitate to go back to them quite yet. I quit writing them to follow my excitement about my current story and I know I’ll lose that excitement if I go back to them. I made that mistake several times already and ended up with half written stories. They’ll still be there in the months or years it takes to finish my current one and if I come up with an idea that can’t wait, I have my handy dandy notebook to jot things down.

In the meantime, my current story takes precedent until it completion. I’ve never finished a longer work. I know I can. I know I have the skills to see it through. I just have to commit to the process. As long as I find that beast everyday, it will get finished.

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ImageThe novel is coming along, slow but steady as nearly each day I add to it, figuring out what to do with the characters, where to add a new character and how they will affect the overall arc of the story. The hardest part about that is deciding how much detail should go into these new characters. I introduced two this week: one as a real character who appeared before as a voice over the phone and a reference to the main character, and the other is completely new. 

The reintroduced character, Ben, is needed for the plot so going into depth on his character is necessary. But what about the new character, Arturo? He is only a part of the main plot for a page and a half and hardly even a secondary character, although he will have a call back later on in the story but will no longer be in the ‘present’ of the story. I feel that a basic physical description is needed, as well as a couple personality attributes to make him a rounder character but how much else do I include? Do I mention he had a pet iguana in his teens that ran away a week after Labor Day, or that his dislike of crunchy peanut butter led him to protest the local market until they convinced him they would stop selling it but secretly continued by keeping it behind the counter? The character should feel real and genuine but how much of him will keep the balance of the story maintained. Too little of him and he will feel like an unnecessary extra while too much would distract from the main (and hopefully more interesting) characters. The latter is the reason I couldn’t finish reading Stephen King’s uncut The Stand. There were just too many past histories about characters I recognized as unimportant to everything the novel was about. Maybe it was because I watched the miniseries first so I knew the main characters but Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex did the same thing to a lesser degree. I really liked that novel but I was always more interested in the main character. So when several chapters in a row were devoted to his parents and grandparents, I would always rush through those parts to get back to the main character’s ‘present’ because that was the most interesting to me. 

Maybe it’s a way of filling up pages, maybe it’s a way of filling up the world the characters are in. It depends on the pace. For me and my Arturo character, if I can figure out a way to have his character matter, add to the theme, contribute to the world of the story, I’ll expand his character. If not, I may demote him to a nameless extra, devoid of any kind of substance.

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“Should I get this for Deborah?” I held up a small gift box containing a heart-shaped candle holder as well as four, shape-matched red candles.

“They’re a little cheesy. Why don’t you just go with a card?”

“Cards are the epitome of cheesy. When did you ever know a Hallmark writer to know the intimates of your relationship?”

“You could get a blank and write something in it.”

“That’s just asking for trouble. You write something sweet in it, never knowing that you should have written something else and because you were the one who wrote it, you can’t be like ‘that’s all the store had’. It’s a trap.”

Damon picked up a red rectangular vase. “Flowers? Candy?”

I breathed emphatically. “Why didn’t I wait? I gave her both last week.”

He placed the vase back down with a thud. “That should be fine then.”

“You obviously have never had a girl on Valentine’s Day. It’s the day that matters to them. Anything you do for them doesn’t count for the day unless it takes place in that twenty-four hour span. It has to be today.”

“I think she’d like anything you get her.”

“Even the candles?”

Damon shrugged. “Maybe if you take the price tag off and cleaned up the box a bit. I wonder how old it is.”

I turned the box over in my hand. “1996. Sheesh. I hope they still work.”

“They’re old enough to be your dad!” He laughed.

“Shut up,” I said. “I think she’ll like them either way. She loves candles.”

“Even super old ones?”

“Guess I’ll find out.”

I took the box up to the counter and paid the woman.

“What do you think Deborah got you?” Damon said as we left the store.

The small box felt heavy in my hand. “Nothing.” 

 

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I have and it was great!

This weekend, I took advantage of the gift card from The Art of Shaving my girlfriend bought me for Christmas. Let me start by saying the gift card itself was the most extravagant gift card I’ve ever seen, so much so that I chose to keep it when the receptionist at the barber shop offered to toss it for me.

The shave itself was performed by Calid, a pleasant Moroccan man with fourteen years of professional experience who took great care stretching my skin with each measured swipe of his razor. I would be telling a lie if I didn’t say it was a little strange to let a man I just met free access to my jugular vein but I felt safe about it since it was in the middle of Bellevue Square Mall on a busy Saturday night. It was actually quite relaxing, especially with the exfoliating hot towels Calid wrapped around my face. So nice!

I would recommend all men to do this at least once in their lives, (women too if they are in need of the service). It took about forty-five minutes for the whole process and was easily the closest shave I’ve ever had.

http://www.theartofshaving.com/

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Is there a more awkward moment then when you’re going up the stairs to your place and the only way to get to it is through two of your new neighbors arguing with each other? Of course there is, but for the socially awkward and shy, it can be a series of difficult dilemmas.

1.  Do I wait in the car? – When I realized something was going down, I was already out of the car and picking up my Trader Joe’s bags. I could have put the bags back inside, sat back down in the driver’s seat and finished listening to my Weird Al cd until things cooled off. I chose not to do this, mostly because I was tired, sweaty, and still dressed in my workout clothes. I also thought that my two neighbors would be finished with their conversation or taken it inside one of their respective apartments by the time I reached their floor. Nope.

2.  Do I make enough noise that when I get close, they will turn and kindly step out of the way? – I’m a really light stepper. When I was younger, I made a conscious effort (in most aspects of my life it seems) to stay as inconspicuous as possible. Walking around on the balls of my feet went far in accomplishing this and now I do it without thinking. I would have made a great ninja. In this instance, I was so focused on my grocery bags and instinctively trying to avoid being noticed, my ninja skills were in full effect. I didn’t make a sound. As a result, the stairwell was completely blocked by the angry and heavyset woman.

3.  What do I say to get by and how do I say it? – Because I’ve failed to make enough noise to be noticed, I don’t have the societal standard of stepping aside when a person needs to get around you working for me. Had the woman seen me, I’m sure she would have complied with this norm and let me pass. As it happens, she was unaware of my existence. At this point, I can tell the situation is tense. Both the woman blocking my path and the man inside the slightly ajar door are exchanging heated words. I’m sure the man sees me but he is so preoccupied with her (as he should be) he doesn’t mention that she should take a step to the left in order to let me pass. So I have to come up with something to say. But what should it be? A simple ‘excuse me’, a light tapping on the shoulder, a humorous comment on how ridiculous it is to argue in the stairwell, or a offer to moderate a spat that I know nothing of? I choose to go with the simple two-word phrase but a thought goes through my mind: what if I don’t say it loud enough to where the woman doesn’t hear me and the two of them go through another round of opposing views with me standing awkwardly over her shoulder? Or what if I say it too loud where it sounds like I’m pissed off at them or worse – that I want to join their argument? Neither was appealing to me and luckily, voiced my comment at the right pitch and volume that the woman heard me and moved kindly aside.

4.  Do I remain in the stairwell to see how the argument turns out? – This was actually solved for me as the argument ended as I placed my key in my lock as the man closed the door with the woman in mid-sentence. I don’t know how long I could have remained at my door without becoming conspicuous. I can only fumble with my groceries and keys for so long before it begins to sound like I’m auditioning to be a foley artist. And my door is not great for listening through. Just muffles and noise.

The entire event took about thirty seconds but felt like a lifetime. 

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I can tell you’re writing song lyrics, periodically listening to a handheld recorder in between long and distant gazes out the coffee shop window and down at your notebook, transparent pen wiggling gently in your hand like a bottle of thick ketchup. Maybe the words are in that pen, ready to ooze out but are in need of a bit of prompting. 

You look like an artist who tries to look like an artist. Someone with a concept or costume, someone who realizes a persona on stage is a necessity instead of a crutch but hasn’t quite perfected it. Like a monochrome bumblebee; short skirt, striped blouse, and dark hair like a helmet with duel antennae ponytails with off color ties keeping them in place.

I wonder what melody is going through your head. Is it fast? Frantic like wings in flight? Or slow for a purposeful contrast to your persona? Are the lyrics about the freedom of 9 to 5, the joy of flying, and the wonderful aroma of nectar-filled Butterfly Weed? Or, as your black and white dress would suggest, are the words filled with bee catchers, monstrous crab spiders, or the eclipsing of the sky by a giant size five Nike running shoe?

I’ll never know. As you leave, I see the seam in your dress where wings pop out and carry you over the parking lot and street beyond, back to your honey hive of deep thoughts and metaphor. I see it perfectly as you walk, step over the curb and disappear around the corner. 

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