Day 1 of writing experiment

Hello. I am writing every day now.

Is what I intend to do, anyway. If I write it, it becomes real, correct? Envision your goal and you can achieve it. Books, people write lots and lots of those. Some get lost and some make it to the top of the Oprah book club list.

I’ve had the idea that I want to write a book for several years now. I’ve brainstormed on different topics, but the one I keep coming back to, the experience that could be extrapolated into an extended short story or novella, maybe a really meandering novel, is the experience I had road-tripping a few summers back. I guess it’s not necessarily original, but it’s true. That’s what people look for, right? Truth. Especially when we are young, the search for what is true and real and worth our time is cripplingly important. Truth has meaning, after all. But wait, something can be meaningful without it being true; the Legend of Zelda series carries a lot of meaning for me on a personal level, but sadly it is a fantasy.

Anyway, I think my first goal is to be less careful in my writing. I hated going back and editing my work for undergrad. It was akin to plucking eyebrows out with your fingers—I did that the other day and cried—so I avoided it by sitting for thirty minute chunks at a time mulling over one or two or three sentences in my head, making sure everything was just so before committing it to paper. In short, it was a very demanding and inefficient process. Sure, I guess I only had to make one go of the thing, start to finish, but it always felt like a little piece of me had died by the time I was clattering out the last sentence. I wanted to sound smart and clever and have SUCH GRAND AND ORIGINAL IDEAS that would blow away my professor, who then, being so overwhelmed with my genius, would invite me over for dinner where s/he would pontificate on the finer points of whatever topic and I would pander. The undergraduate dream.

I know, of course, I never wrote (or will, perhaps) anything that amazing or thoughtful. My biggest strength was my inability to focus, which I think professors saw as endearing. Here was this eager soul, chomping at the bit for knowledge, needing guidance to refine all the thoughts swirling through my brain. And my professors, bless them with their generosity of heart, would try their best to lead me; and I, like the proverbially horse, would still do all the dumb things I ever did in my writing: attempt drawing improbable connections between disparate topics, get bogged down in the form, use prolix writing patterns to dress up simple ideas. To make another animal comparison, I was peacock-in’. Yeah, peacocks have fantastic plumage, but they don’t make great writers (never mind the fact they don’t have opposable thumbs).

Nah, I wanna be a bandersnatch. Also, people do really cool drawings of bandersnatches:

by DaveAllsop on DeviantArt


jan-ken, or how to make decisions like adults

Jan-ken: the adult way to make decisions.

In one of my infrequent wikipedia meanderings I came across this lovely bit on the historical application of the Japanese version of rock-paper-scissors.  These are the types of moments in human history I most enjoy reading about, the arbitrary and idiosyncratic, the things that as a person I can understand and relate to.

I’d like to start resolving most of my disputes through rock-paper-scissors.  It’s a clear-cut, decisive game that leaves no room for ambiguity: a leveler of the field in this murky existence of ours.

Of course, what really amazes me about this wikipedia blurb is that the outcome of the game was honored.  No takebacks or brushing it off as mere play; no, this was a match fought in the sphere of reality with all the authority of a notarized contract.  Over the past few years, I’ve begun thinking more and more about human relationships and the use of contracts, formal and informal, and why exactly we are both inclined and agree to them.  Do we use them to temper the perplexities of our existence?  If so, the irony there is that formal contracts are often so abstruse as to be meaningless and informal contracts so infrequently honored that both only contribute to the confusion.

I have to keep in mind that I might also be experiencing an ongoing existential crisis, so social contracts and the like seem especially pointless.  Fascinating, yet pointless.  So why not have some fun with it and jan-ken all your problems away?

For the betterment of [a thing]

I have a thing about lofty goals and aspirations. Making them is like slugging back an espresso: instantaneous energy boost followed by inevitable disappointment when the effect fades, but feeling really cool about yourself in the moment. In this world, and by that I mean the world of the online, it is especially difficult to refuse an opportunity to pet one’s ego by offhandedly remarking that you’ve started your training to climb Mt. Everest or are learning to see with your third eye.

These kinds of utterances in the nebulous webspace are like secrets whispered into a hole in a tree. Vocalization gives credence to otherwise fanciful wishes. But hey, maybe there’s a squirrel or a wizard hanging out in that tree waiting to reward boastful types with a high five or “Right on, guy!”—the facebook like, in other words.

Before I give too much of the wrong impression let me be clear: I think boasting is fine. You’ve done something cool, go ahead and tell people; you’re about to do something few other sane people would dare undertake, proclaim it to the metaphorical mountains (or real ones, if you’re geographically situated to allow for that). To me, when you say you’ll do something to a crowd, you’re giving yourself that crucial touch of social pressure to see you through to the end.  Sure, other people might get irritated reading about your uh-mazing life, but it’s probably because they (read: this person) are incredibly envious of your ability to put yourself in a potentially dangerous (physically and/or emotionally) situation for the sake of self-improvement.

The furthest I’ll take humble bragging is with food I’ve made. The reason? I’m still in that fledgling stage of the culinary arts where if something comes out tasting like anything other than slightly burned oil it’s a beautiful victory. The more I share my successes, the more encouragement I get, the better I get with my cooking.  The positive feedback loop.

And on that note, time to get a second round of some pretty tasty fried rice I made.

new times are a’comin

Well, it’s August November.  That means, among other things, I’ve been gainfully employed for nearly six months.  I’ve found I need to keep reminding myself that what I do now is ‘have a job,’ otherwise it all seems like something I’m pretending to do.  I assume this feeling comes from being a (fairly) recent college graduate who received a bachelor of arts in a relatively obscure foreign language.  Also, I am working on a college campus so there hasn’t been a real disconnect from my student life to my employed adult life, albeit the campus is 3000 miles away from my alma mater.  There are certain qualities that exist across all liberal arts college campuses, so that they all begin to feel very similar.  Even the architecture starts to run together, all brick and mortar, symbolic of…

Well, not to sound like a broken record, but I’ve done it again: made it through an entire 12 months and documented perhaps a sixteenth (if I’m being generous) of how I spent them. I think the problem is one of focus. As in, I am deficient of the ability to concentrate on a single thought or idea for more than a few minutes.

I’ve decided it’s easier to blockquote myself than it is to actually go back and complete those thoughts I had, which serves to prove my point that I have a lack of focus. Though, perhaps it’s really an incredible sign of self discipline that I went back and pulled these from the dusty annals of half-written musings.

At any rate, I’m writing at my work desk, because where better to put aside superfluous matters than while on the job? I sometimes chide myself for not spending more hours of my workday to exercises in writing, instead surreptitiously fitting in a game or two of Candy Crush. If I were to write a more accurate and honest description of my job, it would probably resemble something more along the lines of:

“Plays Candy Crush two to three times daily; checks and responds to emails intermittently; makes afternoon coffee.”

I would argue that learning how to make an excellent pot of coffee in the workplace is a vital skill for any number of reasons, not the least of which being the blatant favoritism shown to the one who brews. But I should clarify: I’m the only one who works in my office, so it’s really just a daily competition with myself to see if I can improve my boss’s opinion of me. It’s both incredibly demanding and preposterously easy; in other words, the most stressful zero-stress job. Far and away the biggest source of heartache is deciding how to space out the three or four things I need to get done any given week. If I do it all at once, where does that leave the other 4 days? Sure, there’s the internet, to which I’m conveniently connected all the flippin’ time, but even that loses its appeal after a time. Well, the solution lately has been to make lists. So many lists. I’ll leave off with one featuring a couple of wonderfully clever and useful Japanese words:

日帰り (higaeri) — day trip

朝帰り (asagaeri) — coming back in the early morning (after staying out all night [drinking])

This title is optional

Time to break out the old blogging shoes and write like a wolf in a deer-eating frenzy, or whatever it is that wolves typically eat in a frenzy. I just wanted to evoke some really intense natural imagery. Speaking of, it’s time I get in some kind of frenzy that isn’t related to job stress, which is lately the kind I’ve been closest with. You’d be surprised by the amount of stress one can amass sitting at a desk (or maybe not, for those who work such a job), though I probably create it more as a diversion from the sheer boredom that is desk work. I do get to indulge in my most intense organizational impulses, though, which is relaxing. My desk is an empty plane onto which I can build all manner of paper and plastic structures. Stacks and stacks of notepads and binders, carefully aligned in a not-quite perfect grid pattern, because the real interest is creating interesting spaces in between. Too much symmetry is stifling and intimidating–there should be that playful quality of mayhem peaking out from under what at a glance appears to be the utmost level of tidiness. That’s often how I feel about writing, too. It isn’t simply the words that get written, it’s how they get written. Literally, how do the letters and words and sentences look next to each other in sequence? All about the variety. Short. Followed by something lengthier, the words flowing along in a stream; they keep running down, down, down, down to the terminus. Maybe that’s why I’ve come to enjoy poetry: form and content at play. There are rules to abide, but mostly it’s a Candyland free-for-all go with your gut extravaganza. And who doesn’t love an extravaganza? A frenzy, if you will, to bring things full circle. Does that mean I’ve negated what I just said about too much symmetry? Guess I should work on that.

Mapping the ancestral tree

So, just a few months ago I was swept up in piecing together the family genealogical record. It is the kind of activity that at the start would offer maybe mild levels of fun, but as I quickly made my way into the grandparents and great-grandparents and fourth cousins 3 times removed, it became clear that my family relations could’ve been the subject of a great Russian novel, or perhaps even a Greek classic. These folks got around, and with such appellations as Creed and Leonidas, they weren’t just whistling Dixie.

Though my particular branch of the family has elected to stay within a certain fifty square mile radius for several generations, my other relatives ventured far north, west, and occasionally overseas.  They left it all behind for the promise of something better, even if that something better turned out to be death by massacre (RIP cousin Crockett).  It’s inspiring, to say the least.

I suppose I’ll have to achieve some kind of greatness; wouldn’t want to disappoint the ancestors, after all.  Changing my name to Luther seems like a good start.