In A Few Words

Yesterday’s assignment involved playing with word counts. We were tasked with challenging ourselves by writing a much longer or shorter piece than we normally do. I’ve already written posts of various lengths, so for this one, I thought I’d go with something completely different.

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in just six words. He accepted the challenge and came up with this:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

While the truth behind that story is up for debate, it’s an interesting exercise. Evoke an emotion in just six words. So here we go:

World ends tomorrow. Tonight, we dance.

A Life Outside The Pen

Yesterday’s prompt asks, what do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset your internal typewriter?

A lot of times, when I’m not actively writing something, I’m thinking of what to write. Either I’m coming up with a story idea, or trying to flesh out a concept into a full-blown story. Sometimes, I’ll find myself stuck for words and spend some time thinking about how I want to portray my scene or my characters. And of course, the best way to get ideas (for fiction, at least) is to consume more fiction.

I’m not as voracious a reader as I once was, unfortunately, limited to about a half hour of reading a day so it doesn’t take over my schedule. I miss the days of my childhood, when I could just lounge with a book for hours and not have to worry about any other responsibilities. But I still enjoy reading a lot, and have a particular fondness for anthologies and short story collections. They offer a solid variety in bite-sized portions, and I find they have more value as I can always find at least a couple of stories that I like, whereas if a novel’s bad, that’s an entire book wasted.

More of my time nowadays is spent watching movies, playing video games (well, that’s another infrequent one), drawing and generating story ideas. If anything, drawing’s probably my favorite activity next to writing; at one time, I was much more of an artist than a writer. Well, I’m more of a cartoonist, really. Alright, a doodler. But I still enjoy it.

I’ve also got a fairly steady workout routine going, which keeps me active and provides a nice break from everything else. And when all other options are exhausted, there’s sleep. I’ll never say no to sleep. And now that I think of it, I could probably write a story or two based off weird dreams I’ve had.

But really, writing is my relaxation tool now. When there’s too much stress or worry to deal with, I can always step into another world and begin populating it, creating a history and a future for it.

Or I could sleep. Sleep is good.

Life over A Cuppa Joe

The latest assignment (which I’m three days behind on…oy..) is to write a post as if you’re catching up with a friend over coffee. I suppose it’s only appropriate that I’m having some coffee while writing this post.

So let’s say we met up after ages (or what seems like ages) in a favorite coffee shop. Oh, how nice it would be to meet in an old neighborhood cafe where silver-haired servers chirp in sing-song voices while taking your order and are always ready with a freshly brewed pot and a smile. Most likely though, we’d be catching up in a Starbucks or something. Which is fine.

If we were having coffee, my first priority would be the coffee itself, along with a muffin or a croissant. A slice of carrot cake, maybe. Or cheesecake, because I’ll never refuse cheesecake. I like my coffee black. Time was, I’d load up on cream and sugar, but nowadays I find that to be cloyingly sweet, so I stick with black. Though a latte or cappuccino isn’t out of the question. And if ’tis the season, some pumpkin spiced concoction. But I digress.

We’d talk of this and of that. Random happenings in our lives, major events (of which there have been few lately) and perhaps reminiscences of times past, when we were young and stupid.

I’d probably mention the various frustrations I’m facing with my job, which had seemed like something of a dream job when I’d started 5 months ago, but has proven to be mired in the mundanity of the real world. I might talk about what a drab work environment it is, and how work friends are pretty much impossible because there’s nobody I can relate to on any level. I might even go on to mention that the only people I like talking to nowadays can be found on the internet, chatting it up with me in my own living-room, and yet oceans away.

If I were to catch you up on my life at present, I’d talk about still struggling to accept that my twenties are behind me (and may have been partially wasted), hoping to one day find a job that doesn’t dissolve into dissatisfaction after a few months, looking for friendship in a world of concrete and steel, and on a somewhat fruitless quest for love (though I hate to bring up the mushy stuff if I can help it). Fiction isn’t merely escapism, but a true escape from the monochrome world I find myself in. I write tales far more interesting than the ones I live, and devour stories like a malnourished orphan. It makes my world better.

Well, that turned out to be a bummer of a coffee date. Maybe we should get something stronger than coffee next time.

But enough of my prattling.

What’s up with you?

Dear Brain

Today’s assignment is to write a letter. So I did. I thought I’d try to make it funny. But then I didn’t.

Dear Brain,

I hope this letter finds you well.

Though, in truth, I know it won’t. Forgive my bluntness, but we both know it to be true. You haven’t been well in quite some time. Perhaps you never were.

You’re always on a quest. You find yourself on an unending journey to find true beauty in this world. To find true happiness. To find the most comforting depths of peace. It always seems so elusive. I think it might be because you’re looking at some unattainable definition of happiness. When we’re enjoying a good meal or playing a fun game, are you not happy? When you think up a story and map it out from beginning to conclusion, doesn’t that bring you joy? Why should anything else matter?

Yet, everything matters. You punish yourself with needless stress and worry. I appreciate the effort you make in crafting elaborate and devastating panic attacks, but I would really prefer not to have them. The sense of anxiety that you create in the pit of my stomach on some days is another well-crafted but unnecessary touch. You’re always so concerned with staying organized and keeping order that you plunge yourself into chaos without meaning to.

I would like to urge you to take it easy for a while. I know things haven’t always been under our control, and our life’s been thrown off balance more times than we’d like. But that’s the nature of life. It throws curveballs and bobs when you expect it to weave. Trying to control every aspect of it is futile. You can’t always stop the worst from happening. The best you can do is face it head-on and learn to pick yourself up when it knocks you down.

Take things a little easier. Spend more time focusing on the good and learn to smile in spite of the bad.

Life’s too short to panic.

I hope you get better.

Wishing you the best always,

The Rest Of Me

Feeling Animated

Today’s assignment tasks us with combing through comments that we’ve left on other blogs and picking one that might be worth expanding into a full post. As it turns out, I had just left a comment on a post by Nerd Nebula yesterday that fit the bill. Technically, it’s cheating of sorts, as it’s essentially a variation on the other post, but it is my own take on the same topic.

The original post was about scenes from cartoons that left you feeling traumatized and perhaps weren’t the most suitable for children. Dr. Slater of the Nerd Nebula talked about being freaked out by the Siamese cats from Lady and the Tramp. My comment was about the climax of The Little Mermaid, where Ursula the sea-witch grows to gargantuan size and terrorizes everyone during a storm, culminating in her getting impaled by a ship’s bow. To my young mind, that whole sequence was pure horror, and I had an aversion to The Little Mermaid for a while. Perhaps not the best thing to admit in a public space.

Of course, I was very sensitive as a kid. I remember watching some cartoon, most likely a Warner Brothers short (though I can’t remember the cartoon itself), where the main character died and, as his friends were mourning him, he came back to life. The details are a little fuzzy, so I don’t remember if the character was actually resurrected or was just playing dead until the right moment. What I do remember is bawling my eyes out over his ‘death’, and my mother attempting to tell me that it was just a cartoon and nobody was actually dead. It didn’t help. I was relieved when he got up, though.

Perhaps one of the most infamous death scenes in children’s animation is Mufasa’s death in The Lion King. This one actually didn’t affect me at all. Perhaps it’s because I was 12 and done weeping for animated corpses, or perhaps I’d gotten desensitized to that kind of thing by then (which is perhaps the topic of another discussion entirely). I remember reading how infamous it was and how it had driven children to tears in the theater. It had me worried. Should I watch The Lion King? Would it scar me for life (no pun intended)? Turns out, it didn’t. It did, however, lead me to discover my favorite Disney song of all time, ‘Be Prepared’ (I was an odd kid).

So there you have it. Cartoons that had a profound effect on me, and the big one that didn’t. How about you? Any cartoon horror stories from your childhood? Or, for the parents among you, is there any cartoon that’s had a surprising impact on your kids?

Dodgeball

Today’s assignment in Writing 101 is all about being inspired by a quote. The quote can serve as an introduction to the post or inspire the post itself. It was a tough one, to be sure. What quote would be worthy enough to discuss in a blog post? After much thought, I found just the right one.

If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!

– Patches O’Houlihan

Truer words have never been spoken.

Wait, what? That’s just a silly quote from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a comedy that contains no real life lessons and many shots of people getting hit in the groin with projectiles. Or is it?

While the quote is used for laughs, and is spoken by eccentric wheelchair-bound drunk Patches O’Houlihan while literally tossing wrenches at the protagonists in an attempt to teach them dodgeball, it contains one of the most important lessons of life: hardship makes you a stronger person.

We have all, at one time or another, had metaphorical wrenches thrown at us. At least, I hope they were just metaphorical for everyone. And each wrench has made us stronger, more capable of dodging less dangerous objects that life tosses our way.

Yet that’s not always the case. I still tend to get worked up over the small things in life, sometimes having mini-meltdowns over the most trivial issues. During those times, I need to remind myself that I’ve dodged so many wrenches in life. Major problems that should have left me in ruin, but that I overcame to be where I am today.

And at its heart, there is a much simpler lesson behind this quote: it’s important to have a bit of goofy humor in your life. When things are looking down, remembering an inspirational quote from a scholar or great thinker is no good. I know some people draw inspiration from that, but it doesn’t help me. Sometimes, what you really need is an irate drunk throwing wrenches at you to remind you of your own strength.

After all, if you can dodge a wrench, what chance does a mere ball stand?

The Writer’s Room

Today’s assignment asks us about where we write. It’s about reflecting on our writing habits and processes, and how space factors into it.

I write in my living room, perched on one end of the couch, with my laptop (often precariously) balanced on the armrest. I actually have a folding table that I bought for the specific purpose of working from my couch, but I use it quite rarely. My secondary writing spot is the office. It’s not my favorite place to write, but I only have so many hours in the day, and if I need to submit a post for a course or challenge, I’d like to have at least a rough draft down before the evening. It helps that I have my own office at present, so privacy isn’t an issue.

Now, sleeping is a favorite hobby of mine, so my bed seems ideal for writing. But it isn’t. I can’t use my computer lying down, as some people seem to do, and sitting on the bed hunched over the laptop is just painful. The bed’s much more suitable for watching Game of Thrones or Parks & Rec. Writing, not so much.

So I plop myself down on the couch and do what needs doing. I usually write down whatever ideas have been percolating in my head, trying to be as coherent as possible. Whenever I hit a wall, I stop and do something else. Maybe watch TV for a while, or read. Then, back to writing. I look over what I’ve written, editing it and, on the rare occasion, throwing it out and starting over. Once I’m done, I let the draft sit for a few hours (unless I’m running against a self-imposed deadline) and look it over again to iron out any wrinkles. Then it’s time to publish.

I realize I gave what is perhaps a very technical description of a creative activity, but I suppose that’s where my engineering background creeps in. I like describing detailed processes, but it’s rarely that organized. Ultimately, the important thing is finding the time to write. I can write in any place that lets me sit down with some degree of comfort (though I prefer a place where I can control my distractions, hence, couch), but I just need to find a few free minutes to do that, or hours for longer pieces.

The laptop is my weapon of choice, but I’ve recently got myself an iPad and this is the first full post I’ve composed on it, so this’ll definitely be another one to use.