With each shift in tone and tempo, the novel would veer off in a direction that matched.
What started as a fantasy romance set to the music of a young Phil Collins quickly turned to the ethnic hijinks of some merry vagabonds prancing to my Songs of the Balkans CD. By the time Flatt and Scruggs started a'pickin the banjer, the whole story went terribly south.
That was all in the first paragraph. I gave up.
I have a tremendous envy of other people.
Those who can wear their earphones so discreetly you hardly notice.
Just a white slip coming up from a secret corner of their hoodie.
Mine dangles all over me in a mass of figure 8's and hopeless knots.
I am sure people see it hanging and assume it is some sort of intravenous feeding device.
If the volume takes a considerable jump from one song to the next, or heaven forbid someone is attempting to communicate with me, I can never find which pocket I shoved it in in order to turn it down.
There is a brief period wherein I scramble my body. My hands tangle in the cords of the ear buds and accidentally yank them from the port on the device.
The person trying to talk to me assumes I was only pretending to listen to music because the headphone jack flings out, plugged into nothing.
I envy writers.
You hear them interviewed, and they talk about characters they created "coming to life". Surprising the writer by what they do or say.
"I had this guy, this character, running around in my head for awhile. And I was curious about him. Who is he? What does he want?"
I wish I could think like that, have a head filled with characters and worlds and be surprised by how they all interact.
It would be the best place in the world, and I would never leave it; just sit observing my interior, continually laughing at how surprising everyone was being.
Of course I want beautiful things to happen in there as well. It would be so great to create something beautiful.
Beautiful surprises. And then, after a series of like nine novels, I would have to kill off one of my characters. My wife would hear me crying from the other room.
"Is somebody stepping on the cat?!?" she yells.
"No," I whimper back, "no. It's just me. I...I...just killed Jeremy Titmouse. On the wall of the Obsidian Fortress. Run through by the Centipede King. The 11th of Dun, on Mondaynoth...in the..
...the year of the...*sniff* the Owl."
How do those writers do that??
When I try to create a character, I end up making myself.
I may call it some terribly bland name like Jim or Tim but it always ends up being me.
My anxieties; the exact same interior monologue as I, obsessing over stupid things in the same whiny voice.
And then I populate the world around the character with the mental equivalent of a set from a 1st grade production of Peter Rabbit.
Jim walks past tree number one. He sits on the floor in front of a cardboard cutout park bench. Ten kids sing and furiously pump their legs, none of it on beat. Jim sighs. The fourth grader playing Farmer Mcgregor hammily crosses his arms and yells Boy Howdy that dang rabbit is up to it ageeeeen. Some flatus escapes the music teacher's buttocks when she angrily shakes a finger at misbehaving boys.
Jim feels guilty all the time. He doesn't know why.
Peter Rabbit does that absolutely dreadful imitation of rabbit sniffing and whisker wiggling that theater people do, where they make circles with the lower half of their faces while scrunching up their noses.
You are not a violent person, but when they do that, you feel you have no choice and somehow you have to kill them.
The first time I ever felt irrational hatred for someone was at a play.
Our Town. The guy playing the father made an elaborate display of brushing imaginary toast crumbs from his fingers. You could tell it was one of those authentic details that actors know how to do, and the rest of us marvel at how effortless it seemed.
For some reason, I stared at him and could not stop thinking how he was a complete buttmunch.
Then Jim felt guilty.
My wife once almost broke up with me for calling someone a buttmunch.
It was an old lady who stole my parking spot.
I muttered how she was a buttmunch.
I think my wife was just repulsed that I could dismiss another human being, especially a frail old lady on her way into church, as a particularly unhygienic act of cannibalism.
I envy actors because maybe I want to be one.
There was an opening for a voice actor advertised on the internet, and I thought I could do that job.
I really did.
The description said, "Male voice needed for wake-up messages aimed at female listeners. Think warm and sexy. Sample lines might be "wakey-wakey" or "hello sunshine."
I crouched in front of the little microphone on my computer and said the lines over and over again.
It seemed OK. Pretty good, even. When I played it back it was the shittiest thing I had ever heard.
"What about being an essayist, or a man of letters?" no one asks.
A good essayist extrapolates larger truths from their personal experiences.
I can't extrapolate. All I see is me.
There is no one for me to write to. Can you be a man of letters that you wrote to yourself? If you describe yourself as a man of letters, are you a total ass?
It's like calling yourself a poet, I guess. You just shouldn't do it because it sounds kind of stupid.
You have to wait around forever until someone else calls you a poet, and then you can kind of go with it.
But the someone else can't be just your girlfriend or something; it can't be yourself as a man of letters writing about yourself and referring to you as a poet.
It's got to be someone like Oprah or Rabbi Kushner.
How I long to create something beautiful, something that truly moves the emotions of a whole roomful of people.
Or write a book that has a map in the beginning, and an appendix at the back.
My imagination is so destitute, though. The map would look something like this:
Okay, Jim. You are my character. I created you. Now run free in my imagination and amaze me with all the surprising decisions you make.
What should he do? Is he conflicted?
I hate how much he looks like an idiot.
Is there more to you, Jim?
Of course you are.
This novel sucks.
Don't characters have motivation or something?
I wish I had paid attention in all those writing classes. I wish I had paid attention to anything, ever.
Jim you idiot-looking fool, you are motivated by....your fear of people.
NO DAMMIT that's one of my fears.
JIM YOU ARE AFRAID OF....OF.....PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS.
Jim is pointing at someone who is different then he is.
One time I pointed at a midget in a convenience store and my mom refused to buy me candy because she was so mad.
I wrote that sentence and hit another wall.
Why is being creative so painful?
Shut up Jim.
But no, you're right.
I would take a break, but every time I leave a post I can never finish it. Hours later, I've lost the thread of where I was going.....
Ha ha ha.
Yep, pretty stupid.
Jim leaves. Cross-eyed boy exits the other side of the stage.
Take a bow, Peter Rabbit.
The cheese stands alone.