Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bad Writing

I wake up and within seconds I am starting the shower and beginning the process that will determine how I rate the rest of the day. As I brush my teeth and wait for the shower to produce steam, I look around at all the familiar sights of the bathroom that I am in. I play with my belly flab in the mirror and wonder if I am losing weight or gaining weight this week. I crawl into the shower and start the mechanical process of making myself ready for the writing desk, all the while I am cold booting my brain. Shaking off the cobwebs that spiders nested in my eyes while I was sleeping. Everything seems fuzzy, but as I wash my hair it starts to sharpen. These are the formative moments that determine whether or not I will end the day with a sullen, empty pang in my chest while my organs seem to tie themselves in knots. 

Or perhaps today I will end with enough momentum to enter dreams with a little something left in the tank. When I am on fire, when writing goes well, I could stay up all night and work through the whole next day with one hand tied behind my back. I am invincible. When writing goes poorly, I am made of glass. I feel as if all the world can see through me and knows just how little I think of myself today. A gentle breeze could topple me and shatter my ego into shards that only manage to cut my hands more deeply as I try to pick them up. I can no more control my stream of thoughts in this state of early morning meditation than a weatherman can force the weather to follow his claims. No matter how much I try to drag the mental conversation back to the book that I am trying so desperately to finish, when I am drying off and shaving, I am often surprised to discover what it is that has filled in the open space of my mind this morning- like a goldfish, spinning circles in his glass bowl, who is surprised by the little castle and scuba diving figurine stuck at the bottom with him every time they pass.

My attention span doesn't allow for control. Not in any useful terms. I ask myself what I would think of my writing if I could force that kind of tunnel vision. I think I would not be pleased with the result. It's the spatial deformity that tickles me about my own writing. It has a shape that doesn't match the rest. A philosophy I've preached unto myself since childhood: You will never get a different result by adding up the same numbers over and over again. It is why I decided against piano lessons and favored teaching myself by ear. It is the unique thing that gives me what self value I have. I used that mantra to protect me against people who didn't share my vision. I used that way of thinking to deflect thoughts from penetrating, that might of helped make writing some deal easier, but would have sanded the edges down and made my product a mass production of something you could get from anyone else with the time to put words in an order that makes sentences make sense. 

People see me struggling now and instinctively want to help me, offer advice, suggest how I can be better or achieve my goals. Nice people. People I don't want to offend and so I smile and nod and tell them I might try that out, but I know my way. I know how my mind works. I am predictably non-conformist.

Which, unfortunately for today, means that as I come out of my morning haze I start to realize I've been working on work problems. Nothing major. I'm good at my job and I've been at it for a long time, so there aren't a lot of unique situations for me to deal with there. Still, my subconscious seems to want to straighten out that part of the day for me instead of keeping its attention turned on the whole reason I am awake. The whole reason I wake up an hour and a half early in the first place- my writing. As if getting ahead at work will help me personally, as if that was even possible. 

I make my fiancee's breakfast and set it in the refrigerator for her, like clockwork. My coffee is finished just as I am done and I pour it into a tall mug. One the best days, I forget it's even there. I sit down to the computer and come out of a haze when Marissa comes downstairs and taps me on the shoulder, startling me. On those blessed days,  I realize my coffee cup is still three fourths full but I have adrenaline pumping through my veins anyways. I don't need coffee on those days. Today I've lifted an empty cup to my lips a half a dozen times, surprised that there is nothing left to do with that mug.

I open the document that I started yesterday. A draft of a chapter that seemed mechanical last week. It served to get characters on to the good bits. It wasn't interesting to me, and I struggled with it for almost a month now- writing, writing over, deleting and so on. Then I had a break through. One lucky day while I was shaving. Have you ever known something, said it to yourself a hundred times, but you knew it hadn't clicked? Something in your life that wasn't working, a way of thinking or philosophy that seemed right but you just couldn't make yourself believe? Well, I knew the chapter was uninteresting and that's why I couldn't get my mind to work on it when I needed it to. I was using the chapter as a dull bridge and I knew it going in, but I asked myself at some point in my subconscious that morning, "How do I make it more interesting?" That was a puzzle worth solving. So I spent the morning mulling it over, I jotted down some notes. All that day at work, my mind was occupied with this thing, instead of my writing time being stolen by work thoughts. The next morning, before I even got into the shower, I knew what I had to do. I excitedly ran through my morning necessities and sat at the computer. That day was a trance day. Marissa came down stairs and tapped me on the shoulder and I felt good. Accomplished.

The next several days between then and now, I have read and re-read the bit that I wrote and I understand the concept. I remember what I wanted to accomplish that wasn't just moving the plot forward. I remember how it fit the theme so perfectly. I just couldn't get there. Again, it was relegated to an idea that I knew seemed true enough, but I couldn't force myself to believe.

So now, after two days of being exhausted, having no real juice to give my dream, I write these timeline thoughts down in hopes that I'll better understand what went wrong, secretly hoping that this entry will fill my glass skin so that I can't be seen through today. I'm not exactly proud of this work though. It's just the equivalent of mental masturbation. I'm putting together words for the expressed purpose of putting words together. I don't have anything to say, so I'm trying to make a topic out of that. Every letter feels forced. It hurts the soft, padded tips of my fingers. I pause often to ask why I am bothering to continue.

I've started this entry more than half a dozen times, worrying about the phrasing and editing. I'm so far down now that I don't care what it sounds like any more. Writing anything has got to be better than knowing you sat in front of a screen for a combined total of 6 hours this week and accomplished nothing. It makes it harder to get out of bed each following day- harder not to hit snooze. 

I've worried that I'll come off as too whiny or depressed. But I am whining. I am depressed. I'm upset with myself and I know that being upset with myself won't help the creative process, which makes me feel more idiotic and upset. I worry that people who care to read might think something is seriously wrong with me. But I'm already made of glass, so what's the worst that can happen?

Just know that this isn't a cry for help, it's a trail of bread crumbs that I hope to follow back to the other day, when writing came easy.

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