a spark

Posted February 24, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Rants and ruminations

Following Saturday’s feat of will (when I rose early and managed, despite my inertia, to get two of my stories submitted to lit mags), I rose early on Sunday to see if I could do some actual, you know, original writing.

Sometime back I had said I needed to work on my Fathers and Sons stories in the order they will occur in the chronology of the tale. I assumed that by treating the cycle somewhat like a novel, I would see/know/develop the relationships between the characters, the stories, and so forth. Sounds like a fine idea, but I haven’t had the luxury lately working in a sensible, coherent manner. Any story, in any order, that presents itself to me, that asserts it should be written, is motivation enuf for me to give it a try.

And so it was on Sunday morning. One of the stories in the cycle I’m calling “Father’s Day,” and this has been the one that has been growling at me, is insisting that it be written now. I’d been making notes for this story for as long as I’ve been working on the Fathers and Sons stories (I think it’s three years now!). I’ve learned from experience that if I don’t wait until I have critical mass, an attempt to write a story that isn’t ready will fail. I took the growling as an indication that part of my creative self had decided that “Father’s Day” had reached critical mass.

And so that is the one I chose to attempt to try to perhaps maybe just maybe make a tentative, un-confident beginning with. I have the “plot” of it mostly worked out already in my head. (It begins and ends with two people together in bed, the same people but different beds.) And I certainly know the theme and tone I want to achieve. These two have, for me, been the greatest indicators of critical mass in the past. All I had to do was get some words down. I could revise them later, but I needed to get the pixels on the page (so to speak) and make a beginning.

Surprise! I managed to get 500 words strung together. I agonized over these words for several hours. I wrote them and erased them. I moved them around. I reconsidered. I strengthened. I obscured. (Can I use that as a verb?) I fussed and fretted. And I stuck with it despite my doubts and misgivings. I think they’re 500 good words, and I think they are a good beginning as well. I think I can come back to them now and pick up where I left off.

The 500 words are barely the beginning of the actual story. I suspect this will be one of the longer of my stories, so I may be at this one for a long time. That means I need to be concerned that I don’t lose the momentum or spark or vision or whatever it is that has allowed me to write once again.

But for now, I am writing. I said yesterday that I lately have felt like a stranger to myself. Today I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

stranger to myself

Posted February 23, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Process, Rants and ruminations

Okay, skip this navel-gazing post if you want. I’m pretty much just letting my fingers tap out whatever words they want in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way.

For several months I have been unable to write. I can’t seem to concentrate. I can’t enter the creative space where I find my stories. I seem locked out of my own head. (Have you ever been locked out of your house? Like you come back from a long run in your skimpy running shorts, carrying nothing more than your phone and a couple of depleted packs of GU, and you find the house locked and your wife elsewhere and not answering her phone? That’s how my brain has been lately. Oh, add two barking dogs who make a lot of noise but can’t let you in. My brain has been making a lot of noise but won’t let me in.)

On Saturday morning, in a feat of will just to persuade myself that I might still have some motivation, I looked at two of my stories that I think are more or less finished. I edited them, fine tuned them, I guess. Then I sent them to a couple of journals that are developing issues with themes that seem to match what I am trying to do with my stories. This took a lot of effort. My desire to do this didn’t come from my creative drive but from somewhere else. Maybe worry that . . . I don’t know.

(I am going somewhere with this.)

When I was reading my two stories, I was struck by how foreign they seemed. I can remember writing them, of course, but I don’t know how I picked the words I did or how I managed to structure the sentences to carry their weight. And crazy stuff like that. It was as though I was reading someone else’s stories. (A halfway decent writer, I think, whoever he is.) I was editing someone else’s stories, and I guess improving them a little, but it was as though I was never a part of their creation. Does that make sense?

This is unpleasant. It’s unpleasant enuf just to feel like a stranger to myself. But more immediately, it’s unpleasant to think that I am no longer (or at least not currently) the same person as the guy who wrote those stories. The person I am now certainly can’t write like that. (And I still have four or five Fathers and Sons stories I have to get written to complete the cycle.)

I’m not even making the notes about my stories that I occasionally would and that I could persuade myself was a type of writing. (One little idea did come up during the last week, but it wasn’t new material. It was more of a connection between two stories that I could make — if I ever write the second story.)

I’ve been told several times that I think too much. (By people whose discernment I never had much regard for.) Am I paralyzing myself with all of this introspection? Or am I on the way to a better me?

I think I know what’s at the bottom of this (not writer’s block), but that bottom is pretty deep and getting there to deal with it ain’t no fun, folks. Writing has been a part of my entire adult life (and most of my childhood once I figured out how fiction can transport a person). I suspect I’ll get back to it, get back to that creative space in my noisy brain where I find my stories. I’m not asking for pity (and certainly not empathy). I’m just “introspecting” and writing this post to see if there is still something in me, biding its time and waiting to return.

Yeah, it sucks!

my days of inertia

Posted February 21, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

Here’s how it’s been going:

Sunday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read nothing. Slept in. Ran 6.2 good miles on the treadmill. Stumbled around the art museum.

Monday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read a little. Went to work. Went to a doctor’s appointment. Sat around like a slug in the evening.

Tuesday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read a little. Went to work. Ran 6.5 good miles on the treadmill. Sat around like a slug in the evening.

Wednesday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read a little. Went to work. Did a little weight training in the gym. Sat around like a slug in the evening.

Thursday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read a little. Went to work. Ran 7 good miles on the treadmill. Sat around like a slug in the evening. Had a generally dark and dismal day.

Friday – Wrote nothing. Edited nothing. Read a little. Went to work (but skipped out early). Went to the movies (The Imitation Game). Ate two slices of very dense and very sweet cake. Sat around like an overfed slug in the evening.

Today – Rose at 2:30 a.m. (That’s not a typo.) Edited two of my stories. Through a supreme act of will, submitted the two stories to two different journals. Fell back in exhaustion. Contemplated running on the treadmill.

I doubt I’ve broken my current cycle of inertia, but maybe I have. I’ll watch the actions of this person I am and see. Perhaps I’ll have more to tell you later.

why?

Posted February 10, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

because nothing’s happening, that’s why!

 

(I’m not happy about this!)

missing monks

Posted February 2, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Uncategorized

Green-Wood

So I was in Brooklyn, New York to see a little fellow, but I had to get some miles run, so I laced up on Sunday (when there was a break in the otherwise wretched weather) and headed out. I had a destination in mind, of course. About a mile and a half from my grandson’s apartment is the Green-Wood Cemetery.

It looks like a beautiful place, but they don’t let people run in there (and the security guard reminded me of that as I entered, though he told me there was no “jogging” allowed). I only went in (walking) as far as the magnificent entrance gate, which you can see the top portion of above. (The sky was an overcast white, but the photo turned out pretty good.)

Green-Wood is home to a number of notable people, including Basquiat, Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, and Horace Greeley, but that wasn’t why I dodged people, strollers, cyclists, cars, and pigeons to run there. Instead I wanted to see the monk parrots.

Green-Wood’s most famous newest residents are a thriving population of monk parrots, native to South America and now established in Brooklyn. There are a few urban legends as to how the birds got there, but regardless of their veracity, they are there and famous. (I’d even heard of them out in the Midwest.)

Alas, the parrots were somewhere else when I ran there. (I expect I’ll be making future trips to Brooklyn.) What I did get to see was their massive nest at the top of the cemetery’s entrance gate. Can you see it above?

close up

 

Here is a crop from the first photo. The darker snarl near the top is the nest of the monk parrots. The view from the other side of the gate is better, but the contrast was bad; the image was washed out.

As I said, I expect to return to Brooklyn, and the 6.55 mile route I ran on this day is pretty good (with a nice half mile downhill finish). I’ll run it again. Maybe I’ll see the actual parrots then.

run along

Posted January 28, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic, Running

Tags: ,

trail

Note: This post is in my “let’s diversify this tired old blog” category.

At this time of the year, when shadows are long, there are occasional periods when the season loosens its iron grip and allows a series of warm, sunny days. And when that happens, I generally lace up and head out on the trail.

The community where I live has created a series of interconnected trails, mostly along streams that cut through the area, that walkers and bikers and skaters and skateboarders and runners can use. And they do.

We’ve had a string of warm days lately, and that’s meant that I’ve been turning away from the treadmill to run outside on the trail. In the photo above I am on the Indian Creek Trail, right at mile post 10, which is about two miles from my house. The ICT happens to run through my neighborhood, and the distance from my front door to the nearest access points is only .6 miles (downhill going that direction). I can go east or west from there and depending on my ambition, I may take the flatter route to the west or the hilly route to the east. (Since I’m observing Drynuary, I am not running to sports bars in either direction on this trail to meet my wife and rehydrate as I had before. And since I also expect February to return the iron grip of winter, I may not be out on the trails much then to run to the sports bars.)

I’m told (but have not personally verified) that you can, if you make the correct turns at the correct points, cobble together a full 26 mile loop on these trails, ending where you started. Part of that would involve running along much of the Tomahawk Creek Trail as well as the Indian Creek Trail. I generally find my way to the TCT on Sunday mornings (alas, three miles from my house to the closest access). Then, purely coincidentally, I finish five miles further at a salad and sandwich shop where my wife is waiting for me. I want to keep her company, so I generally allow myself a salad and iced tea (unsweetened, of course).

2.2

The trails are well maintained. In recent years, some kind soul has started painting white stripes to mark each quarter mile. (When I’m looking for an excuse to take a break, I can tell myself I’ll run to the next quarter mile marker. And then when I get there, I usually push to go to the next one.) Parts get resurfaced so that, I’m guessing, the entire route either gets new asphalt or new sealer once a year passes. (I don’t mind the new asphalt, but the sealer can by slippery underfoot for a few weeks. It also covers the quarter mile markers.) In some cities that the trails pass through, they will even plow away the snow. (Not my community though. I don’t mind running on snow, but it soon enuf turns into ice, which ain’t no fun.)

The mile post you see above is on the Tomahawk Creek Trail. The mileage there — an odd 2.2 measurement — is the distance from there to the end of the trail, where it connects with the ICT. Alternatively, it can also be taken as the distance made since the beginning of the trail if you’re going thataway. I don’t know why they put a mile post at 2.2 miles, but there is also one on the Indian Creek Trail. In that case it measures the distance to (or from) the state line betwixt Missouri and Kansas. (There are organized runs of 2.2 miles. I don’t know the significance of that distance though.) The salad and sandwich shop happens to be about a half mile in on the Missouri side, just off the trail. It makes for a good Sunday long run, though I need to start grabbing longer distances.

non sequitur

Posted January 20, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should broaden the scope of this blog to include bits of my life that are not about my (sputtering) writing efforts.

I have been posting accounts of the races I’ve run, and they seem to be appreciated. (Here’s a link to all of them.)

I’ve also started posting some things about this little guy:

bath time

(He’d just had his bath, and his hair was out of control.)

So in the spirit of diversification, let me share with you a non sequitur I experienced recently.

I was at a table with a man maybe ten years older than I. I’ve known him casually for a dozen years. He’s a nice enuf guy, but his orbit is far different from mine, so we don’t have much in common. This man is something like a business consultant. He travels the globe, telling companies large and small how to run their businesses. His advice is apparently much liked because he lives well and has many nice things. (Cars, homes, clothes)

This man was telling me the latest hiring advice he was giving his clients. He said that when an applicant came in for an interview, the first thing you should ask the person is what time it is. Likely he/she will either look at the watch on his/her wrist or pull his/her phone out of his/her pocket. And this man went on to say that if the applicant referred to a cell phone for the time, don’t hire the person!

Why is this?

Well, it seems there is a body of thought that says people who have watches on their wrists — and so in their faces much of the time — understand the passage of time better than those who must pull time out of pants pockets or purses. You can count on the former to BE ON TIME and the latter to have a lackadaisical attitude toward promptness.

He was absolutely serious about this assertion.

It has its appeal. It gives the interviewer an easy answer to a tough decision. And it has the scent of old-time work ethic-ness. Such easy answers, such sweeping generalizations are why advertising and religion work so well. They tell you what to buy, what to think, whom to hate, and so forth. You don’t have to think for yourself, at least about complex things like human interaction and morality.

Of course it’s bogus.

Before the advent of the cell phone, not everyone was absolutely prompt. I suspect the ratio of promptness to lateness was no different fifty years ago than it is today. (I don’t wear a watch, and I am chronically early.) Furthermore, many people I know with cell phones have them in their faces far more than they have their wrists in their faces. They have more ready access to the time than their counterparts.

And what would the hiring manager conclude if the applicant pulled a pocket watch out of a waistcoat pocket to check the time?


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