Monday, February 25, 2013

Writing in the Vacuum, Part I

The War

Writing: The activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text.
Vacuum: A space entirely devoid of matter.

There have been beginnings. There have been beginnings indeed. Whatever it is that you do, that anyone does, there had to be a beginning. I suppose the beginning could have been a haphazard one, an accidental one. The beginning might have been premeditated. In this conversation, this conversation of writing, I can give myself as example. When did I start writing? Good question. I suppose it may have been in 1984 when my friend Doug Cason and I wrote stories about monsters to break the tedium of our sixth grade class. It may have begun in the fall of 1986 when I met my long term penpal. We spoke about the future we might like to have. She mentioned that she wanted to be a writer, I remember that specifically in the dying light of a November afternoon. I had just composed a few short stories that fall and I thought this writer idea was not a bad one. I replied that I wanted to be a writer too. I generally consider my first publication, 1995, as the real beginning. But was it? Perhaps the golden writing periods of 2000 and later in 2005 were the beginnings. Or was it the moment I set foot on the Goddard College campus in January 2007? The acceptance of my screenplays at Rocket House Studio? The onset of Umbrella Factory Magazine? How about this one: the publication of my first novel, Dysphoric Notions, in the fall of 2012? Truth be known, I still don't really label myself a writer. However, I have developed my mode of work, I have a community of writers, I have a couple of accolades and some education. I write today, just like I did in sixth grade back in 1984. I just don't write in the vacuum like I once did.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Writing in the Vacuum, Part V

When it's time to open, share and leave the vacuum behind

The temperature outside was well above 105. It was probably closer to 110. Believe me, you can feel a difference between 105 and 110. Hell, at that temperature, an even 100 feels almost cool. But, there I was, in the shaded patio behind the Cafe IT+L in Tucson. I was drinking hot coffee. Hot coffee, I've never been able to stomach the iced stuff, and even tepid coffee turns me off. Hot coffee, and on a hot day, I had my life ahead of me.

The combination of the searing summer heat, the vacancy in the entire town of Tucson as well as the train wreck that was my home life set me up for what I was going to do: sit in the coffeehouse and write in my notebooks all day. The other set of circumstances that led to this was that I had a whole stack of empty notebooks, a whole box full of cheap pens and all the time in the world. Plus I had a bit of a thrill filling pages, draining pens and wasting away the hours, days, weeks until something would happen. Looking back on that now, that time was the last of my days of writing in the vacuum. That was 2005. That summer and fall in Tucson I had been writing in the vacuum for nearly twenty years. That's a long time.

How do you get out of the vacuum?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Writing in the Vacuum, Part IV

Easy does it: embracing the prolific times.

I've been especially introspective in recent months. It's probably due to a number of factors, none of which make a lick of sense when uttered aloud. Suffice it to say, I have been recollecting the past, my past, and for no other reason that I'm in very quiet time of my life currently. I suspect that all of us go through times like this. And what's even more weird about the whole thing is that the strangest memories pop up, memories that should not seem so important or so special.

In thinking about the vacuum and writing within it, these last few weeks have yielded some great memories. For instance, I spent a year as a picture framer. That's right, I framed pictures all day, everyday. I helped customers pick out matting, framing, glass and mounting options. And when the customers left, I filled orders by cutting mats, frames, glass and assembling it. Great thing to do as a twenty—twenty-one year old with very little life experience. The first of two things I remember the most about this gig: all mats and frames had numbers indicating the color. For instance, Crescent Mat #1028 and #969, still describe sunsets for me. The second thing I remember is that once I left the job, not exactly fired, not exactly quit, my coworker Inga Olsen and I went on a picture painting excursion. I was then, as I am now, no painter. She gave me a list of four paints and 3 brushes to buy. We met in the morning, a warm day in May at the western edge of Crown Hill Reservoir and spent the day painting the mausoleum in the distance. I listened to what she had to say. She was a good teacher. And it was the only painting I ever painted. Inga Olsen became Inga Zuca and she moved away, I moved away, we lost touch. But I do have the memory of the day despite not having the evidence other than my memory. What was so profound about it is that I worked away with Inga and I made something I had never made before. Should the experience had been slightly different, perhaps I would be a painter today.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Writing in the Vacuum, Part III

Listening to Advice and the Boy Scouts of America

Admittedly I was very excited on my first day of work at the Cascade Pacific Council office. I was 26 years old, a fairly recent college graduate and a new resident of Portland, Oregon. It was 1999, January, and I felt like there were good things coming for me. What's the back story? Well, I had been out of college for a year. In that year I lived in Denver, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Elbert County. I had an extended stay in Lisbon, Portugal and later one in Mexico City. In a year's time I had the whirlwind wayfaring experience that all college kids ought to have. And for the most part, I was having fun. Who wouldn't?

But I was plagued with something that I was unable to put words to. It was, in short, an existential conundrum that can only be stated simply as this: I knew where and who I wanted to be, but I could not see how to get there.