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I spent a better part of the evening searching the internet for a downloadable version of Microsoft Word 5.1 (circa 1992). I did this a.) to assuage the deep nostalgia I had for it, my formative writing tool, with the hope that I could trick myself into writing again, and b.) a pretty obvious attempt to delay writing until I lost all ambition, probably sometime around midnight.
The background was a bright blue, and the letters were blocky. The cursor blinked following each word, as if it were in a holding pattern, as if it were optimistically encouraging the next thought.
It was at once sophisticated and simplistic; it was the best word processor the computing world had to offer at the time, and, as I learned during my recent search for the abandonedware, alluringly no-thrills to the point of developing a modern day cult following. (One reviewer likened it to Nirvana, for being technically sound, svelte and without bloat. That is the most 90's description ever.)
I spent a lot of time with this program, writing Star Trek fan fiction, and regular fiction that was a pretty clear knock off of other TV shows. I was 12, and this was how I got high.
There's always been some weird level of shame to writing, to me, that has no definable root, but if it did, it would be what happened next.
My parents had a tech savvy friend visiting, and he was tooling around on the computer with them watching over his shoulder. I burst into the room, fearing the worst. (The worst being, they discovered my fan fiction and are laughing at it). So when I saw they had the processor's blue screen up, I lost my shit. I had a breakdown that required me to go outside to sober up.
Things are fuzzy, however. I was convinced at the time that they were reading my writing (hence the psychotic breakdown), but now I'm not sure if that was the case. In theory, 26 years later I could ask my parents what the true story was, in theory now unashamed by the passage of time, but of course I'm still mortified.
I'm no less forgiving of myself, either, for being 12 and writing shitty fan fiction. I was a reader, and wanted to play with words too. I was a budding Trekkie, and just wanted to write myself into an episode.
So I'm not sure what it is about writing that, to me, that is so embarrassing. It officially checks all the boxes of healthy expression, and yet being revealed to be a
dirty rotten writer
is akin to finding one with their hands down their pants at church. (Twelve Hail Mary's, fifteen Our Fathers.)
So, in part, I've taken years-long hiatuses from writing, dissuaded most days by the frivolity of it, by the mental circle jerk of it, by the pointlessness of it. I have, however, thought about it
every single day
since the day I decided to write.
Around that time, I also devoured any information that came across my path that had to do with authors or entertainment. In one PEOPLE magazine, there was a feature story about a 13-year-old girl who had just had her first novel published. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, just your normal teenage girl writing about vampires and going to soccer practice or whatever the fuck she did.
I tore the article out and re-read it often. The envy was real, and toxic, and uncontrolled, just as one would expect from a teenage girl.*
*See also: Carrie, The Craft, et al.
DEAR READER, one month ago I found the original article among a pile of papers that has somehow managed to follow me through at least two decades and 12 distinct changes in residences.
I don't know if the envy has been blunted over time, but given that I immediately Googled her like an old ex, I'm going to have to say... maybe?
To my surprise, she was not dead in a ditch somewhere, but instead had followed through and had become a Real Writer (tm), with several fantasy novels under her belt since. I'm gleefully directed to her goodreads site.
HA! An average of three stars on most books. (I double check this factoid for this entry, and am disheartened to learn that in fact most are 4+ stars.)
Listen, Amelia, points for hitting the vampire trend at the beginning of the curve. But I don't understand how teenage YOU got a book deal while teenage ME is sobbing on the porch after having been revealed to be a filthy fan-fictioner. I don't understand how you rode the wave and I sublimated mine. I don't understand, how decades later, we're even still talking about this.
In the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, he advises: put your ass where your heart is. That is, show up to your passion. Physically, even. Sit in front of the canvas, sit in front of the word processor. Then do the work.
Unrelated, I quit my job the end of last month. I've got a lot of free time now. My heart is fuckall, my ass is trying to catch up. I'm not going to say I know what's next, because one of my internal conditions before quitting was to devote a chunk of time to a Vision Quest.
In my head, The Quest was going to involve a spirit guide in the body of a coyote and the voice of Johnny Cash.
In reality, it's been as expected. I am 9 days in; 7 of which were dedicated to various illnesses which, spiritually was the body purging itself of black humours, but scientifically was probably just the unfortunate Bermuda triangle of midwinter immunosuppression, germy exposures, and the cosmos
fucking me on my time off.
I've got a list of low hanging fruit Quest goals--sleep in, exercise, eat right. Short of ayahuasca in the desert, I'm not sure what to do next.
My poor anthropomorphised heart. Sitting in the back of a dirty theater, watching a movie and thinking more about the screenplay formatting than the content of the movie. Sitting in front of the lap top, late at night, pumping hard and fast in front of the word processor. Stealing moments away from the Day Career to jot down little inspirational notes (Day Career is unaware of said dalliance). Searching the internet for other kindred hearts of space. Knowing, in high school, that it was too late to change its heart-mind. And lying, always lying, when asked if it loves medicine.
what do i want to say what story will come out now i've had a few false starts with a few stories i've wanted to write but it doesn't come out... right. so those must not be it. i am at the ouija board of writing, conjuring stories, willing grandma or grandpa to come through but instead getting passing ghosts of no real relevance. the milkmaid who got kicked in the head by the cow, on my property that was once a farm, someone else's grandmother that died peacefully in her sleep in the bedroom, the ghosts of ghosts of ghosts
Without the structure of a regular work day, I'm finding self-discipline a bit harder to come by. March was actually intended to be a free-for-all, but I have great deal of anxiety and even guilt over sleeping in, or napping, or not being able to account for major daily accomplishments. The feeling of "I'm wasting time/I'm not accomplishing
/I need to do bigger things with my time" that I had while I was working, isn't amplified, but it also didn't go away; it took another form. Suddenly all the things I said I'd do if I had free time no longer seem that worthy.
While visiting Vietnam we were stopped by students in the park, asking to speak with us, so that they might improve their English skills. They were gregarious, and studious, asking questions fearlessly and taking notes.
They ask if there's a movie or show that they can watch for practice; my internal knee jerk was "cartoons", but being young adult men and women, I didn't want to insult them. I thought "Star Trek" was a good suggestion, since it's all about mankind working together for shared goals, but now all I can think of is some poor student somewhere, trying to Google Translate "plasma injectors".
I drive down to North Carolina to visit a friend, a week prior having the roadtrip bug, but now, the eight hour drive seems more onerous than inspiring. I had bought a small spiral notebook for the car, so that I could write down random bits of thought that come to me while driving, little seeds of writing inspiration that reliably arrive when left to my own thoughts for an extended period of time. I wrote down someone's license plate to look up later, thinking it might have an interesting meaning. ("Yahwahey"?) That's all I wrote. I think I am broken.
I stand at the gas station down the road from my work, pumping gas and trying to shield my face from the cold wind. The pumps are incredibly slow, and I look out over the area beyond the station. Semi trucks belch black smoke and plow through the many road pot holes. The sky is grey, with big fluffs of snow whipping around. There's a chicken processing plant next door, announced by an implacable stench. Or is it me? I smell, too, after a particularly gruesome day at work, and I find the heaviness of my environment weighs on me.
"If you use markup often, you might want to change your account preferences to use the rich text editor"
UM WHAT. Was this always an option? You mean I don't have to use the bracketed commands for line breaks? Is this a thing? Do you all use it? Does it work? My reality has shifted, and I have many questions. What other easy solutions have I overlooked? How much of my time has been spent swimming upstream when I could have just jumped in the boat? More importantly, how likely is it that I'll actually change, with this new information?
Batch 18 is
S U P E R - M E T A
, and I'm trying hard not to pat myself on the back. It's composed entirely of a 100 words of "< B R >",
but of course you can't see it so I have to explain it.
Which kind of takes the wind out being a creative
Instead I will stay in my lane of creative
, and tell you more stories about what I ate (Chipotle, Baked Lays) and Prominent Scarring Childhood Memories (never a dry well).
(Word count enhanced by invisible code).
It's a quite odd feeling to go through my kitchen pantry and see food items that belonged to [His name]. The food bothers me more than finding the errant sock in the wash, or stumbling upon a photo booth strip, depicting happier times, or at least times a step above the grief I feel now. It acts like an informal countdown clock, with the expiration of each item slowly approaching until all food belonging to him is eventually discarded. This will truly mark THE END, and even though I am in this timeline by choice, I feel I am not adequately prepared for this finality.
In the S6E25 episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", the opening scene has several crew members aboard a small shuttle, discussing the conference from which they are returning, but it is soon interrupted by some time shenanigans: one member observes the others to be frozen in time, but the others observe her soon after to be the only one frozen. Time, and the perception thereof, is passing differently for each. Only observed minutes have passed, but the once-fresh rotten fruit in the center of the table tell another story.
I think of this episode now, as I throw away his stale snacks.
I think about TNG episodes a lot more as an adult, and certainly differently, than I did as a kid. I read once that many episode writers were old-school 1950's short story sci-fi writers who excelled, by trade, at crafting philosophical narratives, or parables for the galaxy set.
Kid-me loved the novelty of time travel/loop episodes. Adult-me looks for advice, and comfort, in the interstitium of the main plot, about universal issues that even advanced, future people still struggle with.
"You were kind, and attentive, and I thought that would be enough."
Being now 13 years out from medical school, I revisit some "basic" concepts upon occasion, and find that I comprehend them on a visceral level, this being different from the superficial (maybe even the I-just-need-to-pass-the-test) level of early training. I imagine this feeling is similar to the person learning a new language, and then being able to dream in that language 30 years later.
And then I had an uncomfortable mental shift: maybe this--medicine--is really an awesome thing to know and understand, and, maybe,
medicine isn't the
soul destroying monster
I self-trafficked into after all.
Today it is hard to do the showing-not-telling. The words in my head are coming out more like a frustrated toddler.
Cold and stupid!
Town is gross and smells funny!
I hate everything!
In far more talented hands this could be translated into something brilliant, something maybe in a Appalachian Gothic vein, where the ugly is somehow made pretty with the construction of a the perfect sentence, with the right words, with that unreachable je ne sais quois.
I saw a man shit in the road today.
Well I'm not as far behind as months go, but I've still got a few more entries to finish. I can't say I'm enjoying it, which of course throws me into the tailspin of "you only like to write when it's in your head", in which case, then it's just "thinking", and to varying degrees of disordered. "Thinking" is not a hobby, and certainly "Over-thinking" is not a profession.
My cat is encumbering me somewhat, her paws slung over my arms. The dog is fast asleep and breathing heavy. I'm listening to coffee house covers of Nirvana songs.
My grandmother usually had a decent stack of Reader's Digests that, as a 9 year old, I found sophisticated, and oddly entertaining, even as the articles ("What to Know About Colonoscopies in your Fifties") had no real relevance to me. It was mostly the short form story telling that I liked, the regular entries of "Humor in Uniform" or "Life in These United States", the type of stories that at the time I imagined adults recounted at cocktail parties. I've recently come into possession of a Reader's Digest, and most of these entries now aptly read more like a cheesy email forward chain from grandmas.
Depending on the category, submissions paid anywhere from ten dollars (jokes that ran at the end of main copy, probably just to fill space), to one hundred (longer humorous anecdotes). I desperately wanted to write and submit one, but I knew that a 9 year old's experiences and humor weren't going to translate to the
cosmopolitan jet set readership
of Reader's Digest.
Now, I can't even come up with a story that isn't a.) darkly funny but wholly inappropriate or b.) down right sad.
Laughter, the Best Medicine
I've read that the NEW IT THING (like kale, or axe-throwing) is teetotalism. Companies are trying to get in on the ground floor, with O'Douls undergoing an aesthetic redesign, and the creation of non-alcoholic craft beer. (The given reasons in the articles were something something health conscientiousness something something damn Millenials).
I haven't had alcohol lately and have passed several normal opportunities to do so. It often hasn't been worth the effort, or price, or calories. And while this is all true, the real, REAL reason is I'm afraid if I get drunk, any semblance of emotional control will dissolve.
There's a writing "boot camp" online, a podcast-like set up called "Couch to 80k", with six of seven days of the eight-week program devoted to writing for ten minutes only, on the prescribed topic or exercise.
Predictably I failed about 5 days in. Ten minutes. I couldn't even manage ten minutes. And the first few prompts were the exercise equivalent of nursing home calisthenics: make a list of names; write a list of words you like, and a list of those you don't.
These are supposed to inspire us down the road, you know, eight weeks from now.
"Moist" is both my favorite and least favorite word.
So much of my time here on 100 Words now is almost exclusively auto/semi-autobiographical, with fewer attempts at fiction as the years have passed (for better or worse). This makes me feel... (flipping through the emotions Rolodex) ...hangry? I don't know what I feel, which I suppose is why everything skews non-fiction now.
I get to work that shit out in real time and you all have to read it.
Years back in med school, a psychiatrist asked me what I read. At the time it was all fiction, and he said that would change. I was annoyed. How dare he assume my future proclivities?
Once Upon a Time,
A neurotic, less-than-part-time "writer" needed to finish out a month long writing assignment, but was desperately trying to not make it a non-fiction diary entry. The NLTPTW decided that one of the best parts of fiction was the use of Deus-ex-machina, which--aside from having mispronounced in real life multiple times, and also having the narcissism to work that million dollar phrase into every day conversation--the writer knew when deployed in a fictional story can tidy things up
So Jesus came out of the sky with his magic wand and said, I hereby declare this batch OVER.
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