Monday, September 19, 2016

Drafting Adrift

Just surfacing for air again, meeting my daily chore of writing, and feeling seven kinds of smug because despite having a very bad day yesterday -- or perhaps because of it -- I buckled down and reached the end of my 2011 NaNoWriMo draft: a long meandering through middle age, video games, love, life, death, religion, Las Vegas, and funnel cakes. It's kind of complex. It's also (surprise) kind of wordy, and it took me over a year and a quarter to finally get it into digital form, and another six months to get through that. That's the six months I just finished, and in that time there's been a few personal dramas and life changes. And maybe it's the old from-adversity-comes-strength maxim, but I still believe that some of this writing is the best I've done, at least on a micro scale. There's some turns of phrase in there that I like. I'm worried, though, that the entire mass is maybe less-than-readable. So that's the next draft. Get it all together in a file, and print/read/scrawl upon it, and try to get it in a steady state where I can ride out November.

November! It's closing in fast. I usually give up October to my pre-planning over-thinking super-outlining frenzy so NaNoWriMo can happen relatively smoothly -- thirty days of assignments, in essence, with the option to pop the chute and write randomness if I start feeling rangy, or heed the Master Plan if I feel at sea. I want to get this draft in before the next draft blows through and is added to the stack. I'm not worried about it, though. Right now I'm cruising along on the high of semi-completion, riding in the wake of a lot of hard work. I've made the pledge to myself to Rhino Every Day, and that has been an anchor in these turbulent weeks. There have been days when I found very little encouraging to look forward to, but knowing that the writing was waiting -- that I owe myself that time -- at least put a consistent button on the days. Life has been blowing around pretty hard this summer, so it's been good to have a tether, even if the other end is fastened to funnel cakes and video games.

I'm also finding out what sort of writer I am, by at least better-defining what sort of writer I am not. There's a pretty good chance that this November's draft is going to veer sharply away from the magical realism underpinnings of this novel. I'm not sure I have enough imagination to keep up with everything that Real Life can dish out. I'm looking forward to it, even though I don't quite know the hows-and-whens of my writing schedule this year, or even if I'll be able to Brigade it. The social acceptability of a typewriter on a commuter train seems unlikely. But the Rhino doesn't care about Real Life, just the Writing Life. Real Life can go blow on the wind, carried away on endless drafts.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

In Which Change is Experienced, Resisted, and Begrudgingly Embraced

SO...

This has been an interesting month, as in the old proverbial curse "may you live in interesting times."

Our family dynamic is shifting around, as my firstborn is now attending college, a reality that seems unreal, as it can't have been long since I graduated college and (mumble mumble counts on fingers) ah, yes. Well, it's a change, anyway. And I have explained this to my children endlessly in true Expository Dad Fashion, that as a parent, it is very difficult for me to separate the reality of the child/teenager/adult standing before me with the memories of this same person as a smaller child/toddler/newborn. It's as if all that time is compressed on top of their being, and I am unable to stop the temporal disconnect when I look at them (to wit: "where has the time gone," "I remember your first day of school like it was yesterday," etc.) This mental timehop is the reason that I call the children by the wrong name. That excuse is less believable when I call them by the dog's name.

And so that's changing. Letting go of the oldest one as he does his best to push away and define himself, while I unhelpfully respond by clinging all the harder. Why can't we stuff all those reality-genii back into the bottle? I demand a do-over! We're adapting to this change in our own ways (I choose denial.)

Personally, the bigger change for me is that I am right now between employers. This is a situation I haven't been in since... well, since the older one was starting school, over a decade ago. I've been feeling untethered and buffeted in these weeks, a balloon come undone into a stormy sky. There's more people depending on me, and the world has changed, and my field has changed, and old Mr. Imposter Syndrome comes a-whisperin' in my ear his little hurtful lies, like: the only thing that hasn't changed is me. Tiny stinging lies are the specialty of Mr. I.S., and they are extra sharp when you're already a little raw watching some young adult stride off to college with a small backpack while you're also seeing him skip off to kindergarten with a giant one.

Parents of school-age children, be warned: the school-Feels are deep and poignant. After their twelve-year slumber, they emerge like soppy emotional cicadas right up on your face. #UglyCry

I am not a believer of signs and portents, though numerous found pennies have crossed my path, and inspiring and courageous words are popping up right when I needed them most. Maybe I'm just more attuned now. Like our sleepy cicadas, I also feel that I've been dozing for years, and now I get to shed the skin and start over. It's a messy process, and I have to confess that more than once I've thought about retreating to the same familiar hole I've just come out of. But holes are dark and close and hard to move in. I'm out in the sun now, flexing my limbs and hardening my skin and even singing my own song. There's a new melody to it, one that I didn't realize it had before. It's louder than stinging lies.

And through all this change, I've found support in the likeliest place, though not the first place I would have turned. My son was there, though he's dealing with his own life changes, his own new job, and the scattering of his friends to all points. He was there for me, backing me up, and is seeing me off to my own new adventure.

So thanks, buddy, for everything you did, for everything you do. For the kid you were and the man you've become. And I'm sorry I keep calling you the dog's name.

Some things never change.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Because This Week

I think it might be tragedy fatigue, watching the UK reel from Brexit, and France from the tragedy in Nice, and the ramifications of chaos in Turkey, and America's increasingly violent live-streamed summer. I don't know if creating in the face of destruction is courage or denial, or an appreciation of the relative safety and calm of my own life.

I don't know. But it's been a hell of a week in a hell of a year, and we're only half through 2016. Our national elections are still months away, and the levels of toxicity and division are the highest I can ever remember. As a country, we've gone from memorializing the Civil Rights movement to reliving it. And I hug my kids, and try to breathe, and take the time every morning to be glad of the sun and the sky and even the mundane details of my neighborhood. And I'm still wrestling with a rewrite of a book, because I have few things I can do right now except to create.

In Dreams #garden #succulent #surreal #walkabout #coolneighbors #clickthing

Melody and Counterpoint #blackandwhite #abstract #shadow #fence #industrial #walkabout #lofi #clickthing

Celluloid #colorful #abstract #hypersaturation #architecture #contrast #visualecho #synesthesia #clickthing

"Ethylene" #fordfalcon #martinez #coffee #vintage #van #statescoffee #statescoffeeandmercantile #walkabout #clickthing

#dvc #statue #publicart #blackandwhite #tinted

Set Piece #dvc #blackandwhite #theatre #backstage #foundart #automobile #vintage #contrast #clickthing

Green Gate #sunrise #pleasanthill #cityhall #colorful #bluesky #perfectmorning #clickthing

Sunroom #sunrise #lensflare #suburban #red #adirondackchair #summer #cali #clickthing

Moving Day #blackandwhite #lofi #plastic #horse #wtf #movers #clickthing

Fields of Cotton #sunrise #mtdiablo #lasjuntas #summer #clouds #bamboo #clickthing

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Impact

Getting Prepped #worldtypewriterday #smithcorona #corsair #publictyping #june23 #clickthing
Preparations began the night before...


20160623 typecast pt1


20160623 typecast pt2


Typewiter Day 2016 #typewriterday #worldtypewriterday #internationaltypewriterday #june23 #publictyping #typosphere #smithcorona #corsair #analog #mtdiablo #lasjuntas #sunrise #cali #clickthing

As usual, the joy of pulling together a typecast is tempered by the cringing horror at my inability to spell. In my defense: it was early, I had not had coffee yet, and I had just hoofed it up a couple of hills to the pre-selected spot. But what a view! That's Mount Diablo, in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are far worse places to sit and be inspired on a summer morning, even without proper caffeine dosing beforehand.

As Richard rightly points out, this invented celebration has taken on a life of its own. I never expected that well into the 21st century we'd be fetishizing typewriters with wirelessly-connected pocket computers. It's a funny old world. But of course QWERTY and its cousins live on strong in our pockets. We're all carrying a piece of Sholes with us, and I don't think anyone's ready to say farewell to their keyboards just yet, physical or virtual. It's hard to get attached to a poem that's been "swiped."

Typed on a Smith-Corona Corsair Deluxe
First String #typewriterday #smithcorona #corsair #typewriter #vintage #publictyping #sunrise #clickthing

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Recharging

Rule of Thirds #blackandwhite #abstract #industrial #clickthing

Just got back from a week's "staycation" to celebrate my eldest child's graduation, mark a milestone wedding anniversary, and spend many days loafing, swimming, and not shaving. I highly recommend all of these activities whenever summer comes your way.

Aloha #outdoors #toys #aqua #colorful #hulahoop #sunshine #clickthing

Editing continues, with only a day or two off now and again to scribble in a notebook or blog post to keep up the wave of daily writings. Things are about to get bad -- and then better -- for my characters, and at the moment they're struggling their way across the plains of the U.S., a long flat land and a high mountain range between them and their goals.

Personal Space #blackandwhite #macro #abstract #lofi #walkabout #outdoors #weathered #clickthing

Last year at this time, I pledged I'd be rewriting, and I was. I took up AlphaSmart and pen and headphones and hid in the bedroom every evening and finally, finally typed the damnable thing in. I've been running through all that re-typing since February, even powering through in the evenings when I was too tired from celebrating or swimming, even when I should have been working instead of loafing (but loafing is key, too.)

What Once Was #walkabout #oak #outdoors #abstract #shadow #lasjuntas #clickthing

Now I'm free again, free to enjoy my early summer mornings with a brisk walk before the heat, and before I go to work and simply dream of swimming and loafing. The book is about to get into a whole, weird, not-real sort of place, and as I've been taking and posting photos taken during these walks, the tone is getting more abstract and askew and orthogonal to reality. It's the state of mind I'm in right now. Charged up and heading places, looking for the mountains and to get to the other side.

North Star #negative #blackandwhite #gazebo #pleasanthill #symmetry #clickthing


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Guilty Pleasure: The Casual Extermination of Mankind

I was, of course, an odd child, the kind that would be more likely to bring a book to a swimming pool in the summer than actual swimwear. (True story from when I happily sat under a tree devouring Robinson Crusoe while my siblings splashed and sunburned.) So maybe I was marked from the start to love H.G. Wells' classic The War of the Worlds. I've owned a couple of copies over the years, and read them until the literally fell to pieces -- one of them had particularly haunting line-illustrations of the infamous Martian war-tripods lighting a terrorized crowd aflame.

Good times.

I still have one copy, a cherished anthology given to me around age 11 or 12, a hardback edition bound in green leatherette with gilt-edged pages, collecting some of Wells' more famous stories, all of which were poor seconds to my favorite of the bunch. I read and re-read that story, which held the honor of coming very last in the volume. I'd make myself try to get through the other tales first, like suffering through over cooked broccoli to make the eventual dessert all the more sweet.

I don't know what it is about the story that triggered such admiration. (And here be spoilers, if it's possible to spoil a century-old tale.) Wells wasn't afraid to be lurid in his descriptions or brutal in his apocalyptic vision for the fate of mankind, and he certainly showed a wry understanding of the power of a twist ending long before The Twilight Zone made it fashionable. Wells was the master of the Gotcha ending before it became cool. I'm sure, as a boy, I enjoyed the visions of the wild marauding tripods ravaging over field and village, unleashing destruction at ever turn. Humans are merely fodder and food, obstacles to be eliminated, and its not through any heroism or brave deeds that mankind ultimately survives. It's not a story of bravery, or cleverness, or heroism coming to save the day. It's more a study of man at his worst, and how much luck is part of his survival. At least I hope it is.

Because honestly, I haven't picked up the story in ages. I still have that green-bound volume in place of honor on our "classics" bookshelf, wedged in among Alice and Frodo. The gilt edges are lost from the pages, and the bottoms are slightly waterlogged from being propped up on my stomach: poolside, of course. I'm a little afraid that it won't hold up. Another beloved childhood book did not, upon a recent re-read. Jules Verne's Mysterious Island also hit a sweet spot in my consciousness at the same time, and I read and re-read it many times. I remember being genuinely excited when both it and The Hobbit were handed to us as texts for a class. Both were favorites, but unlike Tolkien, Verne did not stand the test of time. I've since found Island to be rather fawning, aggravating, and generally dull. It's the opposite of War, as Clever Men solve Interesting Problems in a Clever Fashion. Rereading it as an adult was not time well-spent.

So, I'm hesitant. I'm nearing the end of my every-now-and-then re-read of The Lord of the Rings (yes, even the Appendices, because envy.) And there on the shelf, in the gap sits Mr. Wells. And for my birthday, I did treat myself to the Jeff Wayne musical version of War, which has all the earnestness, schmaltz, and disco guitars one should expect from a late 1970's concept album. I've been listening to it a lot, lately. Quite a lot. Enough that my co-workersare surely dreading the opening string-section chords, right before the wocka-chicka disco bassline kicks in. (And the chords are good. Made them my ringtone. I'm still an odd child at heart.) The bones of the story are present in the musical, and as an adult, I can see a lot of themes that either Wells or Wayne are throwing in there: colonialism, fear of the machine age, the mechanization and dehumanization of war. Descriptions of Londoners fleeing the invasion especially feels poignant as we see Syrian refugees fleeing their own horrors (and it is all side that are dropping the "cylinders.") It may have been a gripping and exciting poolside read as a child. Under the guitar solos and the Big Pop Song Number of the Wayne musical, it's still a dark and frightening story.

So there's my confession for tonight. Strange, pasty child with an overlarge book on his lap, both cheering and fearing the Martians, and wondering as a strange, pasty adult if they will still hold the same thrill. I listened to the musical yet again this morning as I worked my required co-op hours. At the pool.