Sunday, October 24, 2010

Absinthe Can Wait

I have little time or money. Had I an excess of either, I am sure that I would exercise my freedoms in excessive libations. These days, though, I am quite sober and my independent creative moments are spent in a hunch-backed fever, punching words into a keyboard or scribbling into a notebook resting on my knee. It was my plan, by this time this year, to have income enough and the open schedule to spend a handful of notable hours in blissful inebriation, experiencing the fall colors of the rural northeast with dazzling false intensity. I smoke the occasional dry cigar until I’m dizzy, but there isn’t room to drink.

Instead, I mostly scribble on the train, the bus, during lunch, and at night, when I walk from here to there and on the way I have to stop and sit down and write in my notebook on my knee. There are so few moments to squeeze in the story that I practice my personal craft of piezochronosyngraphophilia, letting the sleepless hours stack up so that I might translate the deepening lines under my eyes into published lines in a magazine or book.

Even when I go to get a drink, when I plot a trip to the building where the vending machines are, the whole way lost in a thought, I arrive to find I haven’t enough change to acquire the mixer for a beverage. So I think to myself that tonight is instead another night for writing. The ideas rise so I sit and put down two more pages in the notebook before returning home to punch them into the word processor.

It was supposed to be so poetical, drinking in the autumn sun like mead running sideways through the red and yellow trees. But maybe the harsher reality is the more poetic. Shucking the useless things from the routine until all that’s left is work and poetry. Work by day, poetry by night. It’s making the night last and last that might make them memorable and bright as lit liquor.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What is a definition?

The facts upon which definitions are based are so varied and complex and at times intangible that it requires a giant volume typeset in small print to make the “meaning” of a language understood.

Definitions appearing in the dictionary are precision essays. One takes a word out of the language, a word with countless connections to every other word; a word with history, influence, connotations, and emotion; a word with a unique sound and intonation and which attempts to circumscribe a part of the human experience and assign it to a word. The organizational human brain whittles down an infinity of possibilities, mental tokens, symbols, and feelings into a taut collective that gives simultaneously the broadest and narrowest scope allowable. This tiny audible drama draws together otherwise disparate minds in a repetitive performance, actor and audience indistinguishable in the resulting spectrum of cerebral communion.

A definition is only involved in the scientific method to the extent that observations have been made as to the character of other speakers’ uses of words; and these utterances based on nothing more than childhood imprinting. Therefore, the dictionary is not only a precision essay, but really a minute persuasive composition. It comes complete with etymology and annis and the occasional quote from a refereed source to demonstrate that this particular stance has the witness of ages.

Writers work on essays of many different lengths. Poets on poems of varied meter and line. Of all the genres, the definition is the ultimate terse expression of intellect, a paring down of all unnecessary ornament to leave just visible the outline of a single word.

Poets may weave phrases that expose more of the internal, unspoken self. Dance may connect individuals more viscerally than flapped-tongue speech. Music may move the soul more paces than any mere word can motivate. But the definition, the sweet seed of language, strikes at the core of what a word is, where it has been, where it is going, and what it can do, today, to bring minds together to work towards that singular human purpose of expanding and contracting the very universe in which we live, making it reside within and between and among us, to enrich our days under the sun and enliven the planet for this day and beyond.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Neologism: Piezochronosyngraphophilia

PIEZOCHRONOSYNGRAPHOPHILIA, n. A love for squeezing every last drop out of time in pursuit of the written word.

Follow up: This has become my theme as a writer at work.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The benevolent linguist

The ultimate role of the good student of language is to convince a majority of his acquaintances that they should use as little of it as possible.

Follow up: The conscientious linguist realizes that there is so much to talk about, yet so little to say.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing, Squeezing Time

In what felt like a brief moment of subject clarity, I scribbled a whole six front and back pages on my small notebook during the train ride this morning, writing the very last words moments before the final bell rang and the doors closed, which would have sent me racing to Manhattan instead of pacing to my occupation in Hoboken. Writers live for those closing moments of a thought, pushing the pen faster as the mind revs for the finish, extending time, even if just briefly, through the pursuit of a beloved activity. The essay, my personal retrospective on Bill Bryson, will appear here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It still rains on the staircase

Tonight I stood under a staircase to get out of the rain, and showered ideas down, wetting page after page of a notebook the size of my palm. I thought it a romantic, singular moment, a loose pen slathering the page while the lights and sounds around me spoke of the artificial environment of the contemporary world. I pleaded with the universe for moments enough to record my flooding feelings, before I had to hide my notebook from the freezing drips and chase down a car.

My thought, seemingly completed, yet ran from the spigot the next day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A writer and his tired pens

The pens of a writer, the poor utensils of a quiet trade that are yet tools scratched down to parched nibs of metal. This old-fashioned scribe persists in filling pads and margins with notes and lists and whole essays inked and carved into the paper by the work of a flowing wrist. On trains and take-out restaurant counters, standing up and sitting down, in the final moments before the last lamp burst, the writer clutches his little notebooks and fills them with tracts of human thought. The regal fountain pen, steel-nibbed and bleeding black paint onto the page; the opulent felt tip, gliding over pulp like a rower’s craft on still river water; the working-class ball point, its tiny bit of brass tirelessly treading through thousands of loops and dashes and dots and strikethroughs and underlines.

And I have exhausted them all. The pliant, sweeping edge of the fountain pen, once the source of all ink stains, is condemned to be but a shiny, oily glint on the writer’s desk. The second-in-command, a fat pen with silky ink and rubbery grip in the fingers, writes in faint gray lines as if transmitting the dying words of an ancient ghost. Saddest is the ball point, the would-be hero that faded too quickly to receive the glories of Valhalla. He was conveyed to the black river Styx in the belly of a waste basket, endowed for his terrible silent and eternal rest.

As my own quartermaster general, I strip the life-blood from my fallen pens’ fellow, a foundling blue pen without grace or gravitas, to write an order for additional troops and troop supplies. The fountain will see further action, once nursed back to health with an injection of rich black blood. His fat cousin may even be called upon again; if not, some brother may be summoned. A rear regiment of ball points awaits orders that, God willing, shall never come.

In six weeks, I have driven three pens to beyond the brink. Such is my life as a writer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My History as a Writer

I was thinking about what I have done as a writer. Although my name hasn't appeared in too many, or in too great of publications, I have spent a tremendous portion of my life writing...

I have been writing creatively and independently since I was a small child. My first book was completed when I was in the fourth grade. The Red Cross Knight, a children’s adventure book about a warrior on a long-distance quest, was exquisitely illustrated by a friend from my class. One year later, I dramatized Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park for my fifth grade class play. Fortunately, it was not performed.

Throughout middle school I was highly prolific, writing three novellas, many lengthy short stories, and two unfinished but extensive novels. In high school I collected my poems—written on small pieces of paper and kept in my pocket, sometimes at the rate of ten or more a day—into a book titled Orange Moon. I also kept, for some time, a diary chronicling the life of a fictional person.

After high school, I wrote movie scripts, both original and adapted from novels, and personal essays. Once entering college, I immediately joined the newspaper and within one semester was a senior writer and assistant section editor. At Rice University, I took Dramatic Writing four times and wrote several one-act plays and a handful of shorts.

After college, I wrote a cookbook and became a freelance writer for the Web. Currently I am a staff writer and Web content manager for a university communications office, every week producing thousands of words of original content as well as narrative and promotional videos.

I continue to write personal essays, long-form non-fiction, drama for stage and screen, new dictionary definitions, and freelance Web content.