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.

When I think of a vacuum, I think of just what it is, a big empty space. When I consider writing in the vacuum, I don't mean it literally. Although if you write in a vacuum, I hope you have one of those fancy space pens. Writing is a very solitary act, this I know. I believe that many writers write in this space, perhaps physical, perhaps psychological where they are alone. Alone just like floating through space. That really is where I began, and hell, sometimes I'm still there.

My preoccupation with writing began in late 1990 and early 1991. Just looking at the years typed here instills a shaking reminisce that is mixed with emotional extremes of elation and fear. Some of you know me, and some of you do not. Late 1990 and early 1991 for me was 1/1 Calvary and the invasion of Iraq. This is both the time and place when I began to write. Talk about a solitary act. I wrote letters. I wrote thousands of letters. I wrote in my journal. I wrote strange things that were summations of the war, dreams, fantasies and emotion recaps of childhood. I wrote poems. I wrote messages on the TOW missile cases inside our M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. I wrote my epitaph on the butt of my M16. I had all day, everyday, to write. I had nothing but time and that was that. Nothing, and I mean nothing I wrote made any sense. There was no way that it could.

I think an enterprising teacher who really wants to develop some writers from extreme people, should look at combat soldiers because there is a whole trove of weird shit within those kids. Most combat soldiers, and I was no different, are not the most bright, nor the most educated lot. Then there is the general feeling that pervades the average combat soldier. A combat soldier is one who doesn't exactly see life in the most generous way. I mean, hell, I knew what I was getting into and when I got my orders to go to Iraq I knew I may not come back. Any teachers out there who want cultivate this population as writers will be more than likely rewarded in spades.

But this is not the case. Combat soldiers who write do it in a quiet way. They write letters. They write in journals. They write in a vacuum. I was no different. And in many, many ways, when I sit down to write now, I have not change from 1990. I still have many of the same feelings about life too. It's strange. And if you want to think about the vacuum, try wandering around the desert for a while. As everyone knows those who wander the desert are inclined to write books.

Writing in a vacuum has so many advantages. First, whatever you write will not be critiqued by anyone because it will not be read by anyone. Second, should someone read what you write, they will be speechless because it will not may sense to them. This is great. Writing like this is utter freedom because you write with no regard for the nonexistent readers. The downfall to this vacuum is that you will probably not succeed. There is little or no growth in this activity. Even if writing is a solitary act, there is generally an audience in mind. If there is no audience, a writer should at least have some colleagues. With colleagues there will be dialogue. Hopefully with dialogue there is an exchange ideas and with that, growth. And that is the best thing, growth.

The vacuum is not such a bad place to write. All writers begin there. I can tell you my story. It's not really unique. Nor is it interesting. I was in a vacuum. I wrote all through it. Writing was therapy. Writing was sanity. Writing was a way to burn the hours. Writing in the vacuum was easier than writing in the world.

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