Thursday, November 3, 2016

November Conclusions Part 1: The Buchanan Book of the Dead

So, two dudes walk into a bar... Last night, my buddy Stefan and I decided to get a drink. The world, or at least our neighborhood seemed very dead. Yes, it's November, the nights come on early and it seemed much later than it was. Come on? Where was everybody? We landed up in a bar a few blocks away, and suddenly it all made sense. It was the seventh game of the World Series, and there were a great many people inside watching it. We sat at the bar, ordered gin and watched the game too.

This is not really a conversation about baseball. And it's not really a conversation about two dudes in a bar. What it is, really, is about the screen—in this case the television screen—we were watching. I don't have a TV at home. I never have. It is not a matter of me thinking I'm too good for it. The truth is, I don't do well with TV. The images move too fast, the volume changes too much, and fuck you and your advertising. I just feel sort of overstimulated and somewhat seasick. Consequently, I just don't watch TV. Last night, being a little different, I stared into the screen with my slack jaw like everyone else. I couldn't wait to leave which is just what we did when it was over.

I am not above it, the screens that is. After all, I'm staring into one now. I have a computer, and I have the internet, and it doesn't make me feel quite as crazy as the TV does. It's still a screen though. I have a cellphone, although not a smartphone and I almost never look at it. Even so, I'm counting just two screens in my daily life. Not bad for 2016.

The computer screen, however, is not something I frequently use. In a way, I find it to be an unfortunate part of my task list as a writer. I would prefer to write in my 9.75 x 7.5 wide ruled composition notebook. My thoughts flow better, I like the tactile feeling in my hand, and I've been using this process long before screens became commonplace on a writer's desk.

I've also noticed that on weekends I look at my computer more. I watch Youtube tutorials and videos on everything from landscaping to Mars missions. But once the work week begins, I don't use the computer much. I don't check my email, or my social media accounts until the week ends. Again, this is not a look at me, I'm above it statement. It's just the way my life has developed. And I'm grateful for it.

I took a very large digital fast back in 2015. I simply turned off my computer for just over six months. And when the computer came back on, I didn't use it much. All said, the digital fast was a good thing indeed.

I wrote a great many things in 2015. I wrote in about a dozen notebooks. It wasn't a terribly prolific year, but an incredibly low-fi time. About this time last year, I decided that I was going to start the long laborious process of rewriting all the stories I had written. This process took about three months. Even though I started in January 2015, by the end of November, I wanted to see all that I had written.

I found that the short stories were much shorter than they had been in years. I found that most of the stories, 29 in total, were averaging about 1,500 words which is a third of the word count of what I generally write. I also found that the stories were all over the place. They were all sorts of subject matter, different styles and they varied in their narration points of view. It was like I was writing for the feeling, the season, or just whatever mood I was in that day. I can say it was a pleasurable year for writing and the revision process was like finding treasures and treats because I had not remembered many of the stories because several months went by between drafts.

I liked my story “The Buchanan Book of the Dead” the most because it felt like something I would have written. It's a story about a tourist town on Texas's gulf coast where just about everyone works in the service industry. It's about running away, or running toward and the very allure of love that never comes.

What the story has come to represent, at least to me, is how I was so eager and so successful in my vow to live without a screen for a year. I guess the story just feels like a turning point.

As I rewrote all of these 2015 short stories, “The Buchanan Book of the Dead” stuck out as the pinnacle of the whole body of 29 stories. And of the 29 stories, when I completed second drafts, I lumped them into one larger project of the same name. In a way it makes sense, because it is about a 50,000 word collection of these 29 short stories; it just made sense to call it The Buchanan Book of the Dead.

As I completed the project in January, it made me excited to write more, accomplish more, work more.

Next time: A Scout is Brave

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