Monday, March 3, 2014

This world was never meant for one as beautiful as me

It's pretty obvious by now that I am a "creative" person.

I have all the symptoms:

And yet, I struggle a great deal with abstract thinking.

In my high school art class, our teacher, a crazed ginger by the name of 'Kitty', tasked us with creating a work that reflected our feelings towards the ongoing AIDS crisis.

Everyone took a different approach to the assignment: some people melted things, or appeared to have hurled uncapped markers at paper. The one kid who always made a Confederate flag for everything went ahead and made a Confederate flag.

I was at a loss. This was a time for metaphor, or poetic license, or some act of creativity described by a pretentious French word that for the moment escapes me.

Using a giant sketch pad, I layed out the lines for what I felt was a sincere expression of the horrors of AIDS.

Time has been ruthless to my memory, but my best recollection of the picture is this:

I remember that, not only did I title it "Positive", I wrote "Positive" on it in big red letters.

Each student took a turn showing their piece, talking about their artistic intentions, and then fielding questions from the rest of the class.

Kitty flitted around the room, nervously eating the macaroni from her necklace and cackling about how talented all of us were. 

Except me.

When I stood up and turned my drawing pad around to reveal "Positive" to the class, there was a noticeable shift in the mood. Everyone just seemed sad in their hearts; sad for art maybe, or sad about AIDS.

The great shimmy towards Relativism in our society has no greater proponents then high school art teachers; they simply will not call bad "bad".

I saw this struggle play out on Kitty's face. After clearing her throat and surveying the slumped shoulders of her students, she decided it was time at last to take a stand.

"It's's really quite bad." She looked sick to her stomach.

"There's not much to it," someone offered.

"He looks like he's laughing."

"Why is there smoke underneath the big red plus sign?"

Because it's abstract, you swine.

Kitty approached me, and there was genuine discomfort in her eyes. One of her bony fingers pressed on my picture.

"If you turn this in," she told me,"you'll get an 'F'."

I did not even know she gave letter grades; usually she just glued a word onto your report card from her collection of magnetic poetry. One semester, my friend got "unyielding". Hoping for a word as cool as that one, I flipped over my own evaluation. I got 'lobe'.

Actually, I made that last part up. I am as bad of a liar as I am an abstract thinker.

I want to lie; I mean, I really, really want to deceive people. It seems so exciting.

But right after a lie, I struggle to keep it together.

I live in fear of a scenario like this one:

It took forever to draw that completely exaggerated depiction of a fear I don't even really have.

This lack of abstraction really impacts my attempts to write creatively. 

I've even gone back to some of the old classic writing exercises to get the juices flowing. I've never much cared for the concept of flowing juice as the engine that drives good thinking. Actually, I don't have an opinion on it at all, and simply invented one right this moment because I was typing already and did not know what else to type.

I also don't like it when an author writes Listen:, and then goes on to write whatever they really really want you to pay attention to, like maybe a description of a tree or suspicious mist.

I can't stand that. It's like, oooh looka me, Ahm a story tella. Ahm part of a long tradition of story tellas going back to da dawn of man.
Gimme some candy.

Maybe I'm just jealous because I can't write a book at all.

Maybe I'd kill for the chance to write Listen:. But knowing that I shouldn't be writing a book in the first place, I wouldn't be able to keep it up, and it would become something terribly stupid, like Listen: my stomach is making hungry grumbles, or Listen: the senator farted.

So a classic writing exercise: describe a kitchen as seen by a person who has just suffered a horrible loss, WITHOUT mentioning death or dying.

I can't do it. All I get from my abstract brain is he carefully placed the vegetables on his plate in the shape of a frowny face. Discovering he had no appetite, due to...due to THE THING, he sadly put the food back in the refrigerator, and, with a heavy sigh, patted the mournfully humming appliance.
"At least you're still here, ole fridgy."

Agh, it's just wretched, too literal and unconvincing.

That's one of my problems. 

The stories I write tend to dispense with abstraction, symbolism, and metaphor all together. They read like the book reports of sixth graders:

Carl was a sad white man who was sad for reasons he could not put his finger on. Maybe it was because of the adultery. His brown eyes searched the room. He also had grey hair.  In the last chapter, on the plane home, he sees the sun setting over the clouds and gets a smile on his face that is sad and knowing.

My poetry is even worse. It's basically someone's grocery list.

leeks rhubarb
jelly two kinds
pickles-should we?
not bananas

I get to the part about chicken strips and terrible doubt creeps in. What am I even saying? I feel like all my writing is on the surface; there is nothing underneath, nothing to warrant re-readings and interpretation.

Someday I hope that a college professor will raise his laser pointer to the board and say "Which brings us to Gweenbrick. What did you think of the book?"

A young, hunky college guy will brush his bangs back behind his ear, almost dislodging the marijuana cigarette he has tucked away there.

"Um, I found the narrative to be compelling, and the central metaphor of the dynamo and the moustache to be auspicious," he says.

A pert blond girl asks, "When he speaks about donuts, do you think he's really talking about the futility of hope in the face of modern atrocity?" She has just one piercing too many, so you know there's a dash of arty in her regular.

The professor holds up a finger and looks down at his vibrating cellphone.

"Hold it, hold it...I'm getting a text from one of you now. Remember, you can always text me your question if you feel it's too stupid to ask aloud." He reads the message on his phone and chuckles to himself.

"Yes, yes, a very stupid question indeed," he remarks.

Everyone in the class begins to laugh, except one student who looks down at his phone, red-faced, and quickly conceals it beneath his copy of my book. 


  1. That was funny AND introspective. You could always right a book about how you're never going to write a book! Or not. As long as you feel compelled to put it out there I'll come around to read. Whatever the media.


    1. Thanks NeoCleo! Your comments always cheer me up

  2. "right" -- oh well, it was a rough weekend. NeoCleo.

  3. Suspicious mist!!! Hahaha has it struck you at all that you write beautifully about not being able to write? I once wrote in my excruciating diary (aged 14 circa 1987) "I wonder what will be the first thing I write in here where I don't look back and cringe". And yes, of course it was that. The rest still makes me want to claw out my eyeballs unfortunately. You're waaaay ahead of me! Huge dollops of approbation be upon you Mr Gween :) x

    1. Thank you Esme. The fact that you wrote that in your diary when you were 14 shows a surprising amount of self-awareness. Have a dollop of approbation back at you

  4. Replies
    1. You would? You would have to write it for me as well....are you ever going to blog again?

  5. You've a talent for making one incapable of becoming disinterested. Thank you.

    1. Reallly? Cool to hear. I don't get that many readers anymore so I figured my act had grown old and boring, but I am glad to see you sticking around Kenneth

  6. The kitchen table was still covered with dishes of food from the wake. Susan stood against the sink and blew her nose on the pink flowered drapes. The swing visible through the window now twisted in the wind and sent her into convulsing sobs; he would never be coming back.

    Is mentioning a wake a cheat? What about funeral? I do poorly with creativity sometimes because I make up too many rules for myself in my head. It was the number one thing I told my art students not to do when I taught.

    1. You cheated JRose, you're supposed to only talk about harsh lighting and grim window sills...the other writing exercise I remember from Freshman comp is "describe a day at the beach from a puppy's perspective" that leaves a lot of room for creativity, and its so interesting too

  7. This was better than a Seinfeld episode about nothing. Writing humor with wit and cadence is very difficult. You seem to have it mastered. Did you turn in that artwork and take the F?

    1. No I turned in some copy art from the Japanese comic book "Battle Angel Alita" instead. Thank you for the compliments! I really appreciate them.

  8. I'm still here too. (Of course!) And I want a teeshirt with that poem on it. Fantastic.

    1. Hi asplenia! I have not messed with the zazzle thing at all, I think you were my only customer, oh so many years ago. But you can use the poem as you see fit. i could have gone on and on, its weird how gorcery lists write themselves

  9. Ah, you are wonderful. My sister-in-law just asked me what I was laughing at because she couldn't see my iPhone.

    1. Thank you esb! I am glad I could get a laugh out of you

  10. I write books (once in a while) and I think writing exercises suck, graduate writing programs are unnecessary, and most books (including my own) probably shouldn't be written in the first place, let alone published. But I would definitely buy your book, so get it down already. Also, your site is great. It kills me that you are being this funny for free. Get them to pay you! And thanks.

    1. Hi Jincy! I am so flattered that you commented. I don't know what to write a book about. I don't have any one to publish it. I have a hard time asking people for money. I could go on. But thank you for being so nice! It made my day.

  11. Haha, love the pics, this is beautiful, it's as if you're the famous author and also the awkward student. There's bits of you all through this like a creamy marinara pasta...
    and I like your poem. I can smell a sequel.

    1. Hi Julie I keep missing the appropriate time frame for responding to your comments! Sorry about that. Thanks for reading and for the gross marinara pasta comparison.

    2. My pleasure! Thanks for responding anyhow, I'm not going anywhere...

  12. Another hilarious post! I have to refrain from checking all the time for new ones. It is like saving all the best skittles a time when those skittles are going to taste AWESOME. Can't wait for the e-book!

    1. Hey thanks for reading Starle! I've never thought of myself as a skittle, but I guess I can kind of see it....there is a similar lack of angles in our physiognmygy which is a terrible word to try and spell from memory

  13. Why not publish/epublish a collection of your posts? It seems from your comments that you've got a lot of fans who would buy/read them.
    You are seriously talented, and I think you owe it to yourself to at least TRY.

    1. Thanks for the comment anonymous. I really appreciate it. For some reason, I find it kind of intimidating to figure could be that I am lazy as well, or that its easier for me to whine then to do. Its some combination of all of that probably

  14. I'm still here!!!!!!

  15. I think writing exercises suck, graduate writing programs are unnecessary, and most books (including my own) probably shouldn't be written in the first place, let alone published. But I would definitely buy your book, so get it down already. Also, your site is great. It kills me that you are being this funny for free...!!