embrace the pain

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Challenges

Along with writing stories and poetry, I have been wandering off into different fields of writing. One medium that I've been trying to tackle lately is scripwriting. Now, I'm the world's biggest amateur at the moment. I'm still learning all the ins and outs of the process (thank God for programs like Final Draft, which I heavily recommend if you're just getting started). But it's definitely a very fun experience.

I thought I would struggle at first with actually filling an entire script (They say you should shoot for around 100-120 pages, since 1 page is supposed to translate to 1 minute on screen), but it's actually been surprisingly easy.
Noah is driving on the highway. Dawn is sitting in the passenger seat beside him fiddling with her cellphone. Keli is in the backseat. Led Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker is on the radio.

Noah, can’t we put something better on?


Come on, pleaaase? I’m supposed to be the
one getting her way here.

Keli, my dear, I would put something better on if
it existed. But this is Zeppelin. Better music
doesn’t exist.

You’re so gay.

Noah’s not gay, Keli. He’s just a hippie.

Doesn’t that make him sort of gay?

No, just sort of socially deficient.

Hey, I’m sitting right here!

Noah reaches over and turns the radio up a little bit. Dawn just chuckles and goes back to texting on her phone. Keli slouches back in her seat.

I liked you better when you listened to N’Sync.

I never listened to N’Sync.

Oh you are such a liar. You had their pocket folders.

You just keep quiet.

I told you he was gay.

I can make you walk, you know. I am driving this car.

You wouldn’t do that to me.

Noah switches lanes quickly and starts to reduce his speed as he veers off toward the shoulder.


The script doesn't have a good working title at the moment, at least not one I'm inclined to share. The story is about the many ways that we try to grow up as kids, and the wreckage we leave behind in the process.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Curse of the Red Pen

The rewriting process is a true test of one's own awareness, I think. I've always thought that the first step to becoming a good writer is admitting you're a bad one. There's no easier way to take that step than reading over your previous work and finding all the things wrong with it. The Predicament of Sarah Mitchell is my first full-length story that I've completed that I had any real confidence in, or that I believe holds any substance. It has been quite a chore rewriting.

The precipitance with which the thought struck him rocked Seth momentarily. He stood inanimate, breathless, as his mind struggled to wrap itself around what had just been thrown before it. It was absurd, it was ludicrous, and most of all, impossible. His heart was wiser and it screamed up at him to toss this completely derisory idea from his mind and retain some sense of dignity. And yet still it persisted like a ravenous cancer in his senses, clawing away at his reality and deafening him with its cacophonous howl.

His fingertips felt cold. There was a small, sharp pain beneath his abdomen. He grimaced slightly and put one dry hand to the area. It felt as if something was pressing tightly against his trachea and he struggled for his first breath in nearly half a minute. All his thoughts were converging between his eyes and his forehead ached with twinges of lightning pain. He knew he couldn’t last much longer in this state, fighting against reality. He was struggling to tell his mind that the sky wasn’t blue, that the grass wasn’t green, and his mind wasn’t buying it. Sooner or later he would have to give in or his mind would break or his body would fall apart.

He rapidly looked for an escape but if there was one his mind was too preoccupied with its recent epiphany to notice it. There was no way of not knowing. There was no way of feigning ignorance.

He turned his head, a motion that felt a lot like twisting the rusted knob of a garden faucet, and looked into her precarious green eyes.
The above passage was originally one paragraph, full of run-on sentences, and lots of the same words. I struggle a lot with description in my writing (which is a reason I think I like poetry and script-writing so much - less dependence on solid, hardcore description) and my rough drafts always show that.

If you ever need to be humbled, just go write something, stick it in a drawer, then read it again in a week. Just try it and get back to me.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

...Is A Long Road Indeed

I got questions from a few of you that were a little bit confused about why my poem was rather unsettling and I claimed I had been inspired by beautiful scenery. Let me try to explain a bit... The entire time we were riding through the mountains, I kept trying to think of people I wanted to share the moment with. A number of people went through my mind, most of whom I dismissed with different thoughts. One person imparticular went through my mind and so I started to write about her.

Now, for a little bit more. I was driving back from Fairborn today when I heard someone say the word 'past' on the radio. The line 'He's sick of paying for her past' came through my mind, and that's where this poem came from. It's pretty wild where inspiration can be found.

He's sick of paying for the past men in her life
She's tired of him not being her type
He's fed up with always being disappointed
She's frustrated with always being so disjointed
He's sick of playing the martyr in this play
She's unable to get past being betrayed
He's tired of constantly having to make her believe
She's so goddamn afraid of being deceived
He's after a woman who will always be around
She's after men who will always let her down
He's desperate for her to be his salvation
She's afraid she's nothing more than damnation

This next one is a little long.

I’m a sucker for the spiritual and anything quite lyrical
And I’ve got a knack for nailing everything satirical
I drink hot chocolate instead of coffee and I don’t smoke
And I’m the master of the dramatic; I always go for broke
I’m absolutely full of love and not afraid to give it up
I was the first to toss change in that poor man’s paper cup

I’m frighteningly good at lying straight to your face
And making you feel safe in my dangerous embrace
I know all the right word plays to make you melt inside
I know just how to make you throw all my sins aside
I plan on leaving you with you cracked and shattered
I know just how to make you think that you really mattered

I’m uncomfortably confident in my treacherous deceit
I’m positively certain that you will find me sweet
I’ll make sure that you remember everything I say
And have hopeful dreams of me when I've gone away
I’ll leave you hanging on my every line and phrase
I plan on making you love me in the worst possible ways

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Long Road Ahead

I wrote this in my head (and then jotted down bits and pieces on my cellphone) while we drove through some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen in my life. It's said too often, but I truly felt like I stepped right into a painting. It was so goddamn inspiring; it was surreal.

You're so full of silver-tongued lies
and your facades of maturity and faithfulness
are as convincing as your eyes.

You're so full of doubt and anxiety
and your shortcomings are intoxicatingly
lacking in class and propriety.

I broke down your walls with guiltless ease
and I made sure you'd always remember me
with my hands between your knees.

I made sure to leave you bruised and battered
because that's the only way to be sure
that it ever really mattered.

We know better than to be optimistic
because we've watched this burn before
and we're both so fatalistic.

We know better than to let this occur
because we know it won't have the pain
that we both obviously prefer.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Three Beautiful Things

1. Stepping gingerly into my sleeping niece's room in the morning and rubbing her back as she slowly wakes, then having her latch onto me as I lift her up and carry her downstairs. I've never felt bigger in my life.

2. My mother, completely free of disease and pain (if only for a moment), kissing my father on the cheek in a crowded Red Lobster bar.

3. The touched look on my sister's face after having our somewhat dejected older brother call her on her birthday and tell her that he loves her.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Predicament of Sarah Mitchell

The three selections below are excerpts from a story I've been struggling to finish for six months now. The working title is The Predicament of Sarah Mitchell.

She was beautiful in her ease, with her curly blonde hair that shaped her pale face and her impeccant green eyes that sparkled at him in the pallid light of dusk. Her small mouth with its thin red lips curled upward in a seraphic smile that made Seth's legs go limp and his face heat up like an oven burner.
Her fingers had stopped their slowdance. She was staring at him with a glint of something in her eyes, something that Seth couldn't quite place. It might have been humor, it might have been love. Whatever it was, he turned away from it and stared at the wall, because it scared the living hell out of him.
Her voice was soft, apprehensive. He could feel her eyes burning into him and it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and his skin break out in gooseflesh. His face blazing and heart throbbing, he turned to look at her. And when their eyes met, he knew he didn't have to answer.

She stood then, slowly, never tearing her eyes from his. There was a small distance between them which she closed with a few tender steps. She stood mere inches from him, her breath hot on his collar, her scent surrounding him, his head swimming. Her breast pressed softly against his chest, her hand rested lightly on his wrist. She looked deep into him with those same impassioned green eyes, and he looked right back into her.

The kiss was an afterthought.

I'm posting these excerpts because I'm currently writing the second draft of the story, and I've been re-writing these particular sections tirelessly over the past couple of days. I'm still not sure I've got the third one right - not just that excerpt, but the entire passage.

For those interested in the plot of the story, I won't give away too many details. Simply put, it's about a girl who keeps getting in her own way.


I pull a lot of my inspiration out of my dreams, mainly because I have very complex, structured dreams (for the most part - I still have the random 'the house is burning down' dream every once in awhile). Dreams are fascinating to me because they are so mysterious, so cryptic, and so brutally honest. To an extent, you can't control what you dream - your heart and subconscious do - so it's some of the purest, rawest material that you can draw from, if you ask me.

I get a lot of my poetry from dreams. In fact, one of the best poems I think I've ever written was drawn directly from a dream (you won't find it here because it was written for someone). Below are a few more that have come more or less from dreamland.

Touch the Moon
Last night I reached up and touched the moon
It felt soft and cool against my skin
I pulled it from the sky in one fell swoop
And held it tight beneath my chin
Your breath felt hot against my neck
My tears fell and stained your hair
I reached up to wipe your eyes
And found there was nothing there
Oh I reached up and touched the moon
It crumbled beneath my fingers
The dust would wash away easily
But the pain always seems to linger

I watched the stars fall and paint your face
And the moon sparkle in your eyes
I watched your lips part and quiver
And your body tremble in silent cries
I reached and held your hand
And whispered softly in the dim light
Honey, I don’t want to crowd you
But I’d like to hold on to you tonight.

While the touching and holding of the moon are metaphors, most of what is described in this poem is a quite literal translation of a dream I had a long time ago. I was devastated by the girl in my arms, and yet I went to her anyway in search of some cold form of comfort. I went to her for solace.

This lie became me and what I've become
is nothing more than a poor imitation.
I became this lie and I've regressed
to nothing more than pathetic desperation.
The realization that this was all for naught
will leave her trembling in the streets tonight.
The realization that this was all for her
will hold her captive beneath her sheets at night.

And I made this world rise for you
And I made this world cry for you
And I made this world bleed for you
Well I made this world just to be with you

This lie became me and what I've become
is nothing more than a fractured aberration.
I became this lie and I've obsessed
over nothing more than false expectations.
The realization that I knew she forgot
will leave her lost in the streets tonight.
The realization that it could have been her
will keep her cold beneath her sheets at night.

Because I made this world rise for you
And I made this world cry for you
Because I made this world bleed for you
Well I made this world just to be with you

This one is a little more patch-work. I awoke one day with a clear image in my head: a girl huddled beneath her sheets, crippled with guilt because of something that had been carried out in her name. I took that image, and tried to apply it to a radical version of my own life. I succeeded to an extent, and Becoming is what, well, became of it.


She is beautiful in her simplicity
But she is fatal in her duplicity
She is charming with her sparkling eyes
But she is ugly in a gorgeous disguise
She is impressively capable and bold
But the fire inside her has grown cold
She is disarming with her precious smile
But the light will surely fade in awhile
She will cut him right to the bone
He will ignore what is easily known
She will lie to him with every breath
He’ll love her while he meets his death

I realize this paints women in a rather negative light, but it's not meant to do that. It's just a story about a boy and girl who graced my mind. Maybe me, maybe not. It's been too long for me to remember at this point.

I struggle with poetry almost as much as I struggle with description, perhaps because it requires me to be more honest than I'm comfortable being. I'd like to think not, but there's no use pretending - I've still got a long way to go.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Genesis 1:1

I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little boy. I used to take these left-over notepads that my dad would bring home from work and write stories on them and then force my mom to read them (the poor lady, no wonder she went crazy). None of them were very good; most of them weren't original either. I'd write Superman stories or Batman stories or whatever it was that had my attention that particular week. Like I said, most of them stunk. But through all the junk I started to find my technique. I learned how to develop a plot, how to structure a story, and how to keep it exciting. The stories lacked depth and they were extremely naive emotionally - I was only around ten at the time, mind you - but I just loved writing. I kept writing little short stories about alien invasions (Attack of the Martians was a big hit among my 3rd-grade classroom, and the first positive reinforcement I ever received from an authority figure) and government spies. Once my household finally got a computer there was no limit to the crap I could churn out and so I began to develop my skills.

I got older, I grew up a little bit, and writing took on a different meaning to me. Before it had all been about having fun, about goofing off and making shit up, but it soon became an escape for me. I explored things in my writing concerning things in my life that I was experiencing (depression, addiction, sex, love) in ways I couldn't in "real life." In my writing I could be bold, I could be honest, whereas in reality what I expected to be monumental moments in my life ended up being underwhelming and disappointing.

I experimented with poetry and was successful to an extent. However, most of what I produced was stereotypical and contrived. The trouble I've always encountered with poetry is the world's view of what it should be - it should rhyme, or it should have a certain rhythm, or it should have a certain amount of lines, etc. - keeps it from being what it should truly be, a lyrical expression of one's soul. Once you start putting restrictions on something or trying to fit some kind of mold, you stop being honest and you lose that connection with yourself that allows you to truly lay your soul out there for the world to see. You start worrying more about some stupid iambic pentameter than what you're feeling at that moment.

The trouble with writing is honesty. The world is very tricky in that while it encourages honesty, it punishes you tenfold for being honest, so most people don't know how to be honest with others or with themselves. The key to good writing is being honest. If you worry about what people are going to think (I must say, dear sir, this work seems rather trite and inconsequential. Something more fitting a junior high notebook, wouldn't you say, Albert?) you will flop harder than a fat guy trying to do a flip off a diving board. If you are completley honest with your emotions and with what you're feeling, your work will never be trivial and it will never be unoriginal. Originality isn't necessarily coming up with that idea that nobody has ever heard before - it's about offering your perspective on an emotion, on a situation, or on the world. As long as you express yourself honestly, you can't go wrong.

All the fancy words and complex sentence structures in the world can't disguise a liar as a good writer. People know when you're not being honest when it comes to writing - that's why those poems I wrote back when I was fifteen sucked. They didn't suck because I was fifteen and I didn't have a big enough vocabulary or know enough about the world - they sucked because I lied, because I forced it, because I tried to make it fit a mold.

In a world full of bullshit and lies, we need a few more honest writers.