“My mouth is like a circus
But I’m always in debt”
–Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “The Pink Elephant”
I have my first author signing in less than a week and my own impending novel to come out sometime after that—and I live with my parents, broke at 28. How does one toe the lines of both rock star and loser at the same time? Versatility baby. I got range!
“I’m flat broke but I don’t care
I strut right by with my tail in the air”
–Stray Cats, “Stray Cat Strut”
“You don’t have to fill the whole cup.”
She said it in a way that suggested no mortal man had ever filled the cup, emphasizing the ridiculousness of any self-imposed expectation to. No pressure. But I had consumed a copious volume of water and I took the cup with confidence, and I walked into the bathroom with determination.
By God, I was going to fill the fucker.
I went to work with the Little Engine that Could mantra running through my head. Fill ‘er up—fill ‘er up—fill ‘er up—fill ‘er up—fill ‘er up—fill ‘er up… Pluck. Determination. That’s how you make it in the work place. Do what the man behind you could or would not do.
A standard drug test. But as the cup filled I found myself wondering if they could detect the fact that in the last two days, I’d all but finished Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in a couple mad reading binges . . . would the retroactive drugs filter through a dead man’s print down the decades? How much Hunter Thompson could you absorb before it showed up in the lab?
But we’ll get back to my job hunting . . .
. . . right now I want to talk about a writing exercise. Pay attention. The concept is deceptively simple. Follow me. You wake-up. You go to your computer and you write. Simplicity itself. But you have to go directly to your computer, make no deviation, the word-processing file should already be up (left on the night before). Don’t go to get a drink, don’t look out the window, don’t pause to say “good mourning,” don’t even go to the bathroom—DIRECTLY to your computer and you type (DO NOT STOP TO THINK!) you type as fast as you can and as long as you can…until, yes, you finally have to go to the bathroom.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s hard to take a consistent, disciplined action, every morning, before you are even fully aware. It’ll take several false starts and several days to get it right. You might fall back asleep. You might say “screw it” and hit the bathroom. You might wake up too fully before you realize you’re still in bed and then it’s too late. But it has to happen before you’re fully awake. This little bit of writing is about harnessing the last lingering threads of your dream mind. Interesting things fall out of your head this way, things that might not come out in your normal writing.
After a week or so, the behavior might be imprinted in your mind well enough that you’ll stumble to the computer with little conscious thought.
Let’s review. Wake up. Go directly to the computer. Start typing. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. Do not try and have a completed thought before you start (that defeats the purpose). Just let go and jump off the edge. Type the first line that comes to you and keep going…try, through the haze of your brain, to connect it by the end (or don’t). Again, don’t worry about spelling or grammar—if you’ve done it right, you should be at the computer before you have full motor control, your hands flopping over the keyboard like dying fish (you’ll have to sort through random numbers and symbols and punctuation mixed in with the letters). When you’re done…go pee. Then, sift through what you wrote. Don’t edit it too much, just enough to make rough sense. Then store it away. Keep a folder of these little paragraphs that you make each day. Go back later. Something may have gestated. You might find a sentence or an idea or an image or even a whole paragraph that you can use in something you’re writing (or that spawns a whole new project).
Keep it up. If nothing else comes of this, you will still be writing every single day and that is an accomplishment (even in hundred word increments).
So…here’s a sample of things that fell out of my head in the last weak. It’ll give you an idea. It’s by no means polished work. I didn’t edit them much (other than to make some grammatical sense). The goal, after all, is to harvest very raw chunks of writing, still bleeding; no scabs. The titles were added after the fact (you shouldn’t type them when you wake up…just go right to the first sentence) and are final chance to make some kind of thematic sense of the gibberish.
I didn’t mind that she ripped my head off. I didn’t mind that. Things seemed cooler, distant, easier to handle. Problems slipped away. What I did mind was that it didn’t get any darker. The lights didn’t go out. My body was torn to pieces and I was still awake. My head rolled around on the ground, kicked about by ecstatic women, shrieking, “SPOR-AG-MOS!” I tried to scream but it only came out as a song. And I kept singing. Oh, Mama. Millennia and millennia and I keep singing.
“The way to understand it is this . . .” he said to me in a moaning alleyway, through his lightening-shock beard, “. . . blackbirds aren’t really black. They’re just a strange shade of something…other…a sort of organic purple that came about on the color pallet at the beginning of squishy, fleshy life, and was used on everything we call ‘black’—false black. But there are things, hiding in the pockets of the world, that still exist, that remember when that pallet was created and you’ll know them because they wear TRUE black. I’d keep to saner thoughts and assure myself that none of this is true, that the world is not so treacherous and that I can count on the predictability of the rational things I know to be true . . . but then, I remind myself that not even black birds are black.”
There’s a serpent at the end of all. He slithers towards us or away—it’s hard to say. There is a serpent at the end of all. Pray that it’s slithering away. There is a serpent at the end of all. Sensual dance, apocalypse in its eyes. There is a serpent at the end of all. Pray it’s slithering the other way.
To supplement the above exercise, I try and make reading the last activity before I go to sleep…to absorb words and let them ferment in my REM cycle. Lying horizontally facilitates the process of osmosis, the ink words bleeding in your brain. That’s science.
Back to the job hunt! I won’t bore you with details. I’m desperately trying to find a writing job or some way of making money that uses the skills I incurred all that infernal debt for. In the meantime, I’m looking for other jobs too. The drug test is for a mosquito control job I was offered. If nothing better comes along, that’s what I’ll be doing, starting next week. It’s night work (which is mostly what I’m looking for), driving an ATV after the witching hour, spraying mosquitoes.
The sun ain’t going to harsh my boneyard tan.
If this job were turned into a reality TV show, I’d want Ozzy Osborne to sing the theme song…something along the lines of the Dog the Bounty Hunter song.
“Josh . . . the mosquito slayaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!”
I also applied to CCP/White Wolf for a full time writing job in Atlanta…then noticed their offices in Iceland…read about the city and the jobs there…and suddenly found myself feeling a very strong, sudden, and unexpected desire to live in a place where an estimated 80% of the population believes in elves.
The last month has been relatively slothful…and I’m trying to curb that. I have too many projects to work on. And maybe there is a moral somewhere in the ramblings of this post…I don’t know…maybe it has to do with a plucky little engine that could, sputtering up a hill into whatever clock-work nirvana locomotives aspire to.
At any rate . . . I filled up more than one sample cup.