Archive for June, 2012

Super Freak!

Posted: June 19, 2012 in General

As a well-schooled Catholic boy I routinely went to confession to profess my sins and gain absolution. But in that context it was private and personal; in fact, a confessional booth was about the most foreboding place a young boy could visit. Just me and my Maker, with a human conduit of a priest connecting the two of us in a spiritual and netherwordly manner. But in that respect at least my sins were revealed to only those that mattered. But now I’m going to come clean publicly and accept my thirty lashes.

I am a total fantasy football loser and deserve to be punished.

Case in point: I have run over countless 2012 draft day scenarios since last season ended. Running back or quarterback in the first round? Who will be available in the second round?  Point two: I’ve looked at mock drafts as early as last March. Unfortunately there are too many temptations on the Internet authored by freaks just as sick as me. Point three: I have an alter-ego of “Master P”, a supposed fantasy football genius who allows me immunity from my own weakness. Point four: I just bought a fantasy football magazine in June! Now can anyone tell me how absolutely pathetic that is? I think the answer is a resounding YES!

So what is a poor Catholic boy with a major problem to do? Join Fantasy Anonymous and use the ten-step program (Step one: Stay away from other Fantasy Addicts like my son Luke)? Smash the laptop? Turn to a morphine-like filler of college football?  Personally, I’m not sure there is a cure that will take.

Perhaps I’ll turn to an old standby that worked when I was a boy: Recite ten Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and a promise to sin no more. I suppose that can’t hurt can it? And do me a personal favor, please – keep me in your prayers and beg for God’s blessing.

I’ve been asked more than once a very simple question about writing, “How did you ever think of that?” I interpret that question in a variety of ways: 1) “That’s really weird dude, there is something seriously wrong with you.” 2) “I don’t really want to know the answer because then I think I’ll be afraid.” 3) “Wow, Paul, you look so regular on the outside.” 4) “I really, truly wonder how you think of all that stuff.” Okay, so this blog is for anyone who voted for Number 4. The rest of you can talk to my team of therapists but under HIPPA laws they cannot reveal any of my miscellaneous mental defects. 

With apologies to The Monkees (RIP Davy Jones), I truly am a Daydream Believer. I can honestly say that some of my best storyline twists come at times when I am miles from my laptop. In the car (radio on or off), pulling weeds, riding a bike or walking the dog are typical times when random thoughts bounce around my head. And what is the common denominator there? I’m alone (except for Theodore the dog) and my mind can travel to Happyland or Darksville or wherever else it is destined to go. I’ve rushed in the door after a dog-walk and jotted down notes, scribbled on a receipt in the car (no worse than texting, I’d say) and memorized a thought while biking so that it became tattooed on my brain. Last week my son discovered thoughts captured in both a notebook and in the overhead recorder built into the Trailblazer (it’s amazing how droid-like my voice is on tape). The point is when inspiration strikes (or crap, it all depends on your point of view) a writer better grab that puppy by the scruff of the neck and capture it any way possible. 

So there. Is everything clearer now that I …umm, what was I saying? I just had a random thought about a vegetarian T-Rex with a bad complexion… I’ll finish this blog after I write down that bit of brilliance on the back of my hand.

I received an e-mail that made me think. The reader’s comment was that one of my stories was “dark” (The Old Man on the Lake) and that she worried where the mood came from. Perhaps she believed I might have inherited the suicidal tendencies of the main character (Oddly enough, the “old man”). No, I explained, I am of reasonably sound mind but fading body. But I am NOT the character.

But that got me to thinking.

The term “method acting” has been around for quite some time. In that technique an actor identifies deeply with the character they portray and may recall emotions and events in their own lives in order to better interpret the character. On a deeper level, to some extent the actor may even become the character. So what does this have to do with the price of riceballs and soy sauce in China?

I think I am a “method writer”.

I do not become the character by any means. But what I attempt to do is crawl inside of the character’s skin and look out through their eyeholes. I try to see what they see, feel what they feel and smell what they smell (talk about ripe!). If they have pain and suffering, then so be it. If they love or hate, then that should come out in the words that hit the page. Steven King (see On Writing) says always “tell the truth”. What he means is don’t pussyfoot around and try to play nice; let the character breath, sweat, fight or even inject a dirty syringe of heroin if that what they want to do. More importantly, your job as a writer is to darn well write down your creative thoughts as fast as you can pour them onto a page. A writer needs to trust the Muse, or what some call the “true speaker”; otherwise known as the creature that lives inside of your head and ultimately leads the pen to paper (irrelevant fact: I’ve named mine Albert).

If you do that, at least you are being honest. And that’s all that a reader can ask for. 

I’ve read a dozen times that any writer worth their salt should read, read, and then read some more. The belief is that the written words bombarding the brain will stimulate the neurons until they are so fat and sassy creative juices will literally drip off their sheaths. The next step is those very same neurons will send a golden string of words toward the writer’s fingertips that will fill page after page. Read, they say, feed thy brain!

Then why do I not read as much as I should?

Am I ignorant? (82% answered “yes”, 18% said “too soon to tell”) Stubborn? (My wife says “yes”. Case closed.) Or maybe I think I do the best I can? (Winner, winner, chicken dinner!) Between work, chores, kids, sleep, writing, sports, etc. etc. my reading is less than optimal. But can I take a short cut and listen my way to creative glory through song lyrics? I say maybe. How about channeling Springsteen’s imagery: (“Barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge, drinking warm beer in the soft summer rain”); Patti Smith’s defiance: (“Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine”); Pete Townshend’s poetry: (“Only love can make it rain on me, the way the beach is kissed by the sea”); The Ramones nonsense: (Gabba gabba hey!”). So all things considered, I do the best I can to kickstart my brain and hit my aging neurons with all they can handle. Is it so bad that I chose to do it with a power C chord ringing in my ears at the same time?

Comments are welcome. And I promise I’ll read them after the next song ends.

 

Okay. So now I’m officially a “blogger”. That’s just what the world needs, one more puffed-up blowhard using the Internet to set the record straight and then pat himself on the back (oh, damn, I think I just strained my elbow!). So why do it then, you ask? Good question, I reply. So do you want the truth? (Envision this: my face just turned tomato can red, my cheeks puffed out and a nasty purple vein popped out on my temple – sort of like a Chedderhead version of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men). To paraphrase Mr. Nicholson: “I can’t handle the truth!” 

I’m doing it because my editor said if I don’t I’m a total nimrod. 

Actually, he said any “author” (using that term loosely) worth more than a hill of refried beans has to blog so they can develop a following and eventually SELL BOOKS.  Writers of all shapes and sizes are diving (or being pushed) into social media even though most are way more comfortable in their wrinkled jammies plunking away on their laptops. Writing is essentially a solitary art and most writers would prefer that their books do the talking for them. Just ask J.D. Salinger of The Catcher in the Rye fame; he wanted nothing to do with the public and the media and took it the point of almost becoming a recluse for decades. But the times they are a’ changing… 

So, my blog today is about why I’m blogging. How’s that for one heck of topic? Maybe next time I’ll write about my world famous butterscotch and chocolate chip muffin recipe. Or maybe how just this morning I picked up eight wet bath towels off my dirtball son’s crusty floor and put them in the wash (regular cycle, cold water). If pearls like that won’t sell books, I don’t know what will. 

Mr. Salinger, you have no idea of all of the fun you missed.