Whatever "It" Is

I've talked about it before, but I go into each year with a writing goal. Last year, I wanted to prove to myself that if I wanted to, I could write a novel, so I set a goal of 100,000 words. That number seemed unattainable enough that, if I reached it, I'd have to believe that with the right amount of work, I could write a novel.

100,000 terrible words later, I had my goal for this year planned out - this time, I would write a novel worth something. Maybe even a novel worth publishing. Then, 10,000 words into this year's project, I knew I had to throw it away and start over. Last year was about writing anything. This year needed to be about writing well.

Another 2,000 words in, I had to throw it away again. Then again at 500 words. The first sentence over and over again.

Something was nagging at me, telling me that what I was getting onto the page wasn't quite right. With the 10,000 words, I can tell you pretty clearly what it was, or rather what they were. The tone wasn't right, to begin with. I wanted the writing to crackle, the quiet moments as fun as the loud ones because of the delight of the words.

And that's the other thing, too. There were no loud moments. The story lacked inertia. There was no forward push to the story, so once the initial hook of the story was out there, the main character just kind of floundered around for another 7,000 words or so. I could feel it in the act of writing the way I'm sure someone who'd read it could feel it too.

It took writing, scrapping, and starting over many times to realize that I just didn't know what the story was. I have the thing, that one little nugget, that I can use to describe the story to someone who asks what I'm working on, but I didn't have the story of it yet.

I got so used to churning out words last year, in what was supposed to just be an exercise, that I forgot almost everything I had learned about planning a story. I used to notecard meticulously. I had a table I only used for outlining.

I kept trying to build a house without knowing what the final shape of it should be. I'd put up some walls and wonder why they'd sink into the soft earth.

I now need to commit myself, if I want to write something worth something, to planning a story, not because I have to follow it word for word in the actual act of writing, but because if you don't know what you're aiming at, it's pretty much impossible to hit it.

Perchance to Dream

Maybe I’m just not the sort of guy who gets to follow his dream.
— Aiden, Life Sentence

Do you ever worry that your dreams won't come true, like I do? I think it hits me most on the weekends, or in the evenings, when I've got the time on my hands to worry endlessly. 

For the last 10 years of my life, I've known that in some way, I'm meant to write. You have to excuse some of those early years, when I called myself a writer but didn't actually write, but for the better part of a decade, I've put a lot of work, and time and heart into creating things and in the quiet moments when I can't help it, I wonder what I have to show for it.

I guess there are words, nearly endless words, in documents on my hard drives, but what is that really? Is it anything, does it mean anything, if I can't produce something that's worth sharing? And if it doesn't, will I ever write something that means anything?

Would it be better not to dream?

I want to end this post there, to wallow like I feel like wallowing. Maybe I'd get a comment or two of encouragement. My mom would probably text me to ask if I was okay. 

But the truth is, I can't do this for any of you. I can be encouraged by you, inspired by you. I can want your attention and adulation, but that can't be what it's about, not if I'm going to keep going. Not if I hope to will this dream to life.

Until I write that thing that's ready to publish, which I really hope is the novel I'm working on right now, I move the goalposts. I look for success outside of being published. 902 days of writing in a row is a success. 100,000 words, bad as they were, last year is another. 10,000 this year, already thrown away for a new draft, is a third.

Every day I keep dreaming can be a small victory, if I choose to see it. And right now, I'm looking for any little bit of triumph I can find.

March For Their Lives

All over the United States today, people are marching to demand an answer to one question - what is the cost of a gun? The monetary answer is simple: a few hundred, maybe a few thousand dollars. The political answer draws a line between friends, between families, between neighbors. 

None of those are the true cost of a gun.

Students - rightly, heroically - have stood to their feet to say that they know the true cost and that they no longer should be asked to pay it. It is simultaneously an inspiring thing to witness from an age group that is constantly told it doesn’t care about or believe in anything and a damning conviction of anyone who let the problem escalate to this point.

“Children are being murdered” should be the first, last, and only argument that ever needs to be made, although we certainly started losing the thread when we accepted any unnecessary loss of life at any age.

I’m not asking you to give up your guns though. I’m not demanding that someone come to your house and take them. What I’m asking is that, at least for today, at least for one day, you take the opinions that you have about guns and you lay them down. There is a time for battle and this is, quite frankly, not yours.

Now, I know there’s a document floating around that’s a couple hundred years old that says something about rights as it pertains to this topic. Putting aside the concept of historical context (which it’s absolutely foolish to do), I want you to think about what it really says. 

It starts with “A well regulated militia,” and people often try to put the most important stuff at the very beginning. How do we decide who’s a member of one of these militias and who’s responsible for their regulation? Anyway, I’m not sure a militia of any kind is relevant in a country with the largest and most powerful army in the world, but to go down the path of questioning the relevance of any part of this is to start the snowball’s roll down a steep hill.

It’s also worth noting that making something harder to do, like buy a gun, is not infringing from doing it. It’s an inconvenience, but if we’re sticking to the letter of the text, there’s nothing in there that says inconvenience is wrong, so we all should be on board.

Again, that’s just when we put the historical context aside. If we throw that into the mix, we should have some serious questions about why this one was eleven before the one that ended slavery and seventeen before the one that gave women the right to vote. Maybe these men hundreds of years ago did not write a infallible document that took into account every future consequence.

You will be asked to do hard things as an American. Aaron Sorkin once wrote that “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s going to put up a fight.”

Today, I’m asking you to do one of those hard things. Take your opinion that your right to a gun is more important than a child’s right to live and put it away. Lock it in the safe where you keep your gun. You don’t need to defend yourself right now.

There are a bunch of kids (and parents of kids, and supporters of kids, and people who were once kids, and people who are trying to have kids) who plan to march today to say that the cost that they’ve been asked to pay for your rights to possess a weapon is no longer tenable. Let them say it. Let them scream it. Let them demand our government take better care of them because eventually, they are going to be us and maybe if we show them that things can change for the better, that life can be valued above everything that is not life, maybe there will be hope for a better future.

We owe it to them to at least let them try. At the very least, let them try to be able to live their lives until they’re old and they’re asked to make way for a younger generation with demands about how things should be fixed.

Mic Check

Hopefully this thing's still on. Hopefully the people who decided to subscribe to email updates when I post (hey, you can do that too!) haven't unsubscribed when I wasn't paying attention. It's not like I was spamming their inbox.

I haven't blogged for a few reasons. The first reason, and the easiest to talk through, is that I've just been busy writing other things. January through October last year, I wrote a very bad draft of a very bad novel. Really, don't try to talk me out of this. It wasn't "probably great." It's bad. I'm fine with it. I tried my hand at my first screenplay in a while too. I still think there's an idea there, even if I don't quite have it yet.

This year, I'm determined to write a good novel. It's probably not the best sign that I threw away 10,000 words the other day to start almost completely from scratch. When you know the problems with your story run as deep as these did, though, it's hard to do anything else. I'll pull anything back from the 10,000 that I can salvage.

The other reason I haven't blogged in a while, though, is a little more complicated. I've had ideas for posts pop into my head from time to time. Monday, in the shower, I had an idea come so nearly fully-formed that I nearly stopped getting ready for work so I could get it all down.

Out of the shower though, other thoughts came to me. Like how it would make certain people feel. The post wasn't particularly aimed at anyone specific in my mind, but I could think of people who might think the fingers were pointed at them.

I don't like confrontation.

I used to be willing to write very thinly veiled posts about people close to me, then not make eye contact for a while if they realized it was about them. I don't feel that way anymore. I'm honestly not sure if that's better worse.

On the one hand, it's good that I'm not passive-aggressively hurling things at people. On the other, I've seemingly lost my ability to speak up about things I find important.

Whatever happens, Mikayla has told me I should write here more, and I'm inclined to listen to her. She's really smart.

Keep The Change, Ya Filthy Animal

"What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough."
- A Christmas Carol

In my annual watch through of all of the Christmas movie classics, you know, the movies like Elf, Home Alone 1 and 2, Die Hard, It's A Wonderful Life, Christmas Vacation, and A Muppet Christmas Carol, I noticed something (and no, that list is in no particular order).

I noticed that it's easy to care about money as much as Scrooge does. That it doesn't take much to stop letting yourself be swept up in the magic of the holidays like pretty much all of the humans in Elf. That it's easy to be annoyed at the people you love the most like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation.

That I've seen all of these movies once a year for so many years and maybe I haven't learned everything they had to teach me.

Ebenezer Scrooge just wanted to make enough money to provide for a nice life for him and his fiancé. Clark Griswold just wanted to have a Merry Christmas with his family. Kevin McCallister just wanted to be left alone. George Bailey wanted to see the world.

It is all too easy to let our everyday desires get in the way of not just a lovely holiday, but a nice life. Scrooge didn't get what true richness was. Clark didn't know what made a family holiday special. Kevin didn't realize how lonely being alone would be. George couldn't possibly imagine what it would be like to see a world without him in it.

May we all remember what is really necessary for happiness, and as we learn this about ourselves, may we find ways to make the world a little better.

Merry Christmas.