Bogus Lies (and) Ordinary Greatness
I started, what I call, articlulate writing years and years ago. Some of it was free associate writing, automatic writing, or what ever you chose to call it. It was, and still is, a fun outlet for me. Some of it, no one has ever read before. A lot of it .... maybe nobody should...
Friday, September 9, 2011
From the archives... "What's next?"
WHAT'S NEXT ?
I'm not sure I will ever write another word again…
After years of rolling dice and drawing lots, of struggling with characters and plots, to just trying to think of something that I haven't already said, I just may shut my mind off and go to bed.
Starting approximately ten years ago with cartoons and puns, I realized I couldn't draw, and grew bored with tangled verse. I dropped the comics all together, or maybe they evolved into the never-ending scribbles present on every single long land first draft I have ever written on any topic. The puns turned to poems and satirical verse. I envisioned many of the poems with music set to them, to someday be heard on the radio, although I can't write music. Eventually, I realized it was all for naught, they would never be set to music because, despite my "long piano fingers," I was never musically inclined. Though I hummed the melodies in my head and pictured each instrument flowing with the words, I knew all along that I lacked the know-how to make other people understand. So I set my poems aside for a day when I finally decide to take advantage of my "long piano fingers." Someday I'll take lessons ... someday.
In my search to find ways to waste ink I described imaginary battles and football games on paper. I ran in literary circles just to help me jog my memory.
Then a thought occurred to me, "Wouldn't it be nice to be an author?" As you can probably summise, with a fulfilling writing background such as I have described, this was not quite the perfect stage in ones career to sit down to write his first best selling novel. It is often said that a person’s first novel can never be expected to be a best-seller, but I would like to see the one who sits down at the typewriter with the intentions or dreams of doing anything less. It started off easy, even though afterward no one seemed to understand that the first chapter really wasn't part of the main story. It was just sort of a symbolic recapping of life up until the beginning. At least I knew the format I wanted the book to follow. After all, doesn't everyone attempt to write their first novel in the style as their favorite book? At least I could see the similarities between "A Mixture of Men and Martians" and Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles. "It was set off in the same type of short, distantly related chapters. A Mixture of Men and Martians isn't so clearly defined in years as Mr. Bradbury's work of art, but it does contain progressively timed stories about different, unrelated people and places as the Earth nears destruction with Mars left as the only sanctuary.
The length of the book grew as I fought to fill empty pages. But I soon found it exasperating to try to bring in new situations and characters into each new chapter while making the whole thing evolve and show some sort of time lapse from chapter one to chapter three hundred and ninety-five. Each chapter became fragments of unrelated stories. By the middle of the book I found I could not go on unless I were to ruin the format and start tying things together by using the same characters throughout the rest of the book. I couldn't give up my first attempted work of art without suffering severe mental quirks. So I poured out my cup of sentimentality and ruined the format. One thing I never knew until years after writing A Mixture of Men and Martians" was the Ray Bradbury wrote much of "The Martian Chronicles" as separate short stories, only later to be collected and tied together to form a book.
Every one of the stories from "Martian Chronicles" flowed much more smooth than any part of A Mixture of "Men and Martians" did. Even using the same characters throughout the rest of the way it dragged on to a point where I had no idea what my next word would be, let alone the next chapter. My characters acted at random and dice and lots were common solutions that either led them right or left. I didn't know where I should end it or how. But I just knew that I didn't want it to end too fast and have the world think that I coped out on my first best selling novel, so I did the gallant thing and on and on I forced it.
Then at the point I determined to finally end it, it ran fairly smooth again as I had led from the present state of chaos to the final conclusion. I almost hated to end it ...
The worst of "A Mixture" hadn't yet begun. You see, since I had written all the material out in long hand (and mostly still do) my two fingered "peck typing" is a holocaust after a work of any length. I typed night after night growing bored and irritable, reaching a point near insanity, I had to wrap it up for a while or run the risk of being wrapped up myself for good (I do admit I look lovely in white). I typed it on and off for over a year, keeping any new project as short as possible, making some revisions on "A Mixture" along they way, until I had it done.
Once it was done I put it down without rereading it. Later I would make a feeble attempt at selling it, but basically it stayed in my drawer most of its days. The only thing I learned from it is the kind of thing one learns from a first attempt at something such as this; Mostly, never to write another!
So it was fun for a while with short stories. But after all my "off the top of the head" plots were down I found it hard to dig up new story-lines. So the, at one time, barrage turned to a trickle. I started stories, finished stories; but rarely put the two together and completed one. I had fragments of stories scattered all about. And don't believe when they say these parts of stories and ideas will save for a future time when ideas don't come so readily. "You can sit down with a part of a story you had written long ago and forgot about, and magically the story, which in the past wouldn't work itself out, writes itself."
BULL. Write down ideas to be used at a later time and it might work, but the minute you start the story, either finish it or forget about it, unless you're in the likes of Mark Twain. I find that when I attempt a Mark Twain job I end up with the beginning of one story and the end of another. Mark Twain set stories down for years and came back to write them so that none were aware of the break. Some scholars say they can tell where he took his breaks, but I think these may be mere guesses. I have trouble setting a project down long enough to get a nights rest and not have it suffer for the gap. Many times it turns into a whole new story, leaving me to wonder where it would have ended up had I finished it on that first night.
I hope that someday my beginning fragments will equal my ending fragments. I have already planned on that glorious day I shall put them all in two bins, separating beginnings from endings, and draw one of each out at random and mail the resulting stories to my favorite editor. No SASE will be included.
At one point in history it dawned on me that what I needed was a way to air my fragments of thought, thus came the article writing. Maybe it would be possible to restrain my fragments to articles and finally get them out of my system, so I would be able to complete a few stories.
This article writing was something new, fun, allowing me to be my usual cynical self. It also led to my taking a first shot at serious science writing. Actually, I can't say for sure if I started "Born With a Bang" before or after my articulate writing, but they are closely related and one was bound to lead to the other. "Born With a Bang" was a pleasure to write. It was probably the most unique writing experience I have ever had. Even though most of it was common knowledge to anything even close to a scientist and could be found more clearly explained in any of a hundred other sources, I was quite proud of it, in my own insignificant way. It seemed to me, at least at the time, that I tied everything up a bit better than anything I had read up until it. I can honestly say that I wrote it before I had heard anyone else mention the possibility of the Universe becoming one big black hole in the end. I found afterward that it was just common speculative knowledge, and I did see the possibility mentioned quite a few times after. In that article I tended to boast of it as if it were new knowledge, almost a new discovery.
So "Born with a Bang" has a place in my drawer close to "A Mixture of Men and Martians." It is my drawer that is full of papers, while my wallet is only full of cobwebs.
I have written more articles than anything else (except maybe poems) mostly because they’re so easy to write. It’s not often you get a chance to shoot your mouth off about nothing (see "Thinking of Nothing"). In my articulate writing I can get serious for a moment or two, I can let loose with all my insanities waiting to bust free, I can ramble on, I can change topics in the middle, I go at my own pace, but most of all, I can grow tired of it. It seemed inevitable that I would grow bored with my articulate writing, which I hinted at almost at the start. That’s the magic of them though, I can set them down at any time, but somehow I have the feeling that I will never be able to put them down for good.
But where do I go next? Is it time to set my pen down? Close the drawer on my articles? Is this the last page in my tablet? I can see the headlines now, "Wishy-washy Writer Retires at age 21."
Yep, I’m the first to admit that I’m over the hill. I just wonder if I’ll be able to swim it, cause like the song says; "Over the hill and through the river, to grandmothers house we flow!" …No, that can’t be right…
Ah, we don’t get wet after-all. "Over the river and through the hill, to…" …er, what a dumb song!
Do people actually get paid for writing things like that?
P.S. The only question left is WHAT IS NEXT?
Well, after quite a few years I published a novel titled "Touched" so I guess I did continue to write...