Aug 282015

In two days, it will have been officially ten years since I had a bowel resection that saved my life. Ten years. I still can’t even really wrap my head around everything that’s happened since that time, just how much around me has changed. Maybe it’s because, ten years ago, I wasn’t even sure I would be around now. A bit melodramatic, yeah, but I spent so much time being miserable that I know I wouldn’t have wanted to be around if that’s how I felt. I’m almost grateful that time, painkillers, and everything else, has prevented a lot of long-lasting memories of 2005 and 2006 for me. Of course, there are things I wish I could remember better, things that probably mattered.

I, by no means, have amnesia. It would be more accurate to say that my body was significantly more concerned with keeping itself alive (while simultaneously trying to destroy my digestive system) than it was with remembering pop culture trivia. Combine that with being on painkillers for about half of 2006—as in, regularly popping prescribed painkillers to be able to function—it’s easy to assume that I might be a little fuzzy.

There are specifics I remember. I remember the feeling of everything prior to my surgery. A week or so before, my knees felt like they had broken. I had some kind of acute pain, radiating from my knees outward. I could barely walk across my living room floor, and each step made me feel like I might pass out or vomit. It lasted hours.

A week later, resting my head near the toilet, dry heaving as my stomach visibly spasmed. Later that day, I’m half-laying on a hospital bed, admitted, barely able to drink a CT contrast. Things get a little hazy from here, to say the least. I remember at some point essentially demanding something for my pain before they tried to haul me off to take an x-ray. Not long after that, a nurse gave me some morphine, and I can’t remember anything until I woke up after surgery.

I spent about a week in the hospital, watching CNN because my room had very few channels. The combination of then-current events, and morphine, makes a very interesting blur within my mind. Essentially, I was watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfold, half-high on opiods. Not exactly my preferred way to spend my time.

My parents told me, once, that a priest came into to my room. It was a catholic hospital, so they had those guys around. He asked if I wanted to talk, and I politely declined. This is something that I literally do not remember at all. I don’t remember someone coming in the room, I don’t remember any aspect of this. It’s not a fuzzy patch where details are missing. There’s just a hole in my memory where this apparently goes. Part of me, now, views that as a personal victory against the “no atheists in a foxhole” nonsense I’ve heard since I was little.

But even now, I still remember, somehow, the feeling of wanting everything done. People who have chronic health problems, or are in constant pain, talk about ending their lives. Other people, in return, talk about how that’s cowardly. I could not possibly disagree any more than I do. The resounding feeling that has carried on in the back of my mind was just how much I wanted to stop hurting. I was dying, actively dying. Even prior to my surgery, I was pretty actively dying. I woke up every day weak, and tired. My joints were sore, my stomach perpetually sending sharp pains if I so much as laid wrong. It was exhausting. Suicide is, by no means, an escape of anyone who is cowardly. It’s desperation. In my case, I never attempted it, but as I laid on that hospital bed before my surgery, I didn’t care what happened. I didn’t care if I died, if I lived. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore. And I think that’s important to acknowledge.

I didn’t have a focus on this post. I’m feeling kind of scatterbrained today, as it is. But I wanted to write something, because it’s been a bit of time, and I felt like I owed it to myself. Ten years is a long time, and I think even this small bit of reflection has been beneficial in reminding me of just how much I’ve done in that time. Things I never would have imagined. Maybe I’ll finish reading a book. And actually work on the stuff that I’m keeping this around to write.

Jul 152015

The Narrative Voice, if I had to actually pick a specific aspect of writing, would be the part that I have struggled with the most. The struggle has existed, for the most part, in my attempt to figure out just how it is “I” sound. That is what the narrative voice is, after all. It’s the voice of the narrator. In the case of these entries on this site, I’m writing in a much more rambling and casual style. A lot of comma-splice errors, and so forth, because of my apparently compulsion to throw in a side remark.

In the case of writing something like fiction, however, I am much more inclined to try to find a much distinct voice. With first-person narratives, I often try to imagine how it is that person would have told the story. A fault I’ve seen in some other works in workshops is that there’s nothing which makes the narrator’s voice noticeable among the crowd of other voices that exist within a story. I actually was paid to edit a novel, and sometimes would lose track of who was talking because the two primary first-person narratives read exactly the same.

Third-person presents another problem entirely for me. It’s easy enough to write a narrative of any fashion, and ask people to give their opinion on it. “The dog ran into the street, after its owner.” is essentially a third-person narrative. In a workshop, you might see people wonder why that comma is there, and so forth. However, my issue with third-person, and the main reason I thought to even start writing this, is the delivery of that narrative. And my own particular narrative voice has changed drastically over the years.

Whenever I first really got into writing fiction, I had joined a play-by-post RPG message board (an MSN site, MSN Communities which was later renamed to MSN Groups. I have no idea if it’s still around) and had fashioned up a character that fit with the kind of absence of subtlety that comes with being fourteen and playing in a gothic-themed story. It sounds silly to suggest this is the point in which I became interested in writing fiction, but it’s entirely true. Specifically, the characters I had developed while there were ones I eventually began to flesh out into something much more dynamic, and I had developed feasible stories to tell about them.

However, as one might expect, I did not sound like me. In fact, I sounded like a fourteen year old desperately trying to sound like Anne Rice. I had gotten into her vampire books around the same time, and had been borrowing them from friends or the library to get through as many as I could. Being so engrossed in the stories unconsciously shaped the way I was writing. I took on her purple prose, and by and large just sounded awful and unnatural. It was made all the worse by the fact that I hadn’t been writing anything as long as her, and I was also trying to work within the confines of the universe of the story my friends on the MSN group had been creating. There were a lot of very handsome vampires, running around in gloomy stormy areas. And they were having a lot of fights involving magic. Because of course they were.

After a few years of that, and slowly shifting away from that main story, I took to reading Douglas Adams. Which, admittedly, also influenced the way I wrote. As did whenever I started on Neil Gaiman. And, to a lesser extent, Albert Camus. I could certainly make the argument that Neil and Douglas still are a primary influence in the way I write, but I don’t really think that’s the case. Both of them had distinct methods that I personally don’t feel I’m talented enough to try to copy, and I have worked very hard over the past several years to try to write in a way that I feel best captures what could be considered “me”.

And it’s hard to keep this up. I will admit to cheating at it, if it can be considered cheating, by really just writing things I know to keep it sounding natural. To my credit, when I actually do decide to write things like this, the workshops I’ve been in have often said that my narrative voice is very distinct. It’s not usually included with any actual qualifiers, but that my voice is heard whenever someone reads my words is generally something I feel like being proud of. Granted, if you happen to stumble upon this, you aren’t exactly going to read it in my voice. Without hearing how I verbalize these things, you may very well miss emphasis that I had. I do feel like how these words are appearing in this post are more natural than they were, say, seven years ago. I can hear myself better than I could before.

One of the biggest steps for me in establishing this voice was realizing, on a third-person level, what it is that people may believe about the narrator. A common trait that I remember seeing in various play-by-post forum games is that beginning writers feel the need to exist in that state of near-purple prose where everything is described with a level of pretension reserved for the J. Peterman catalog. People don’t “look” at things, they “turn and gaze with crimson-hued orbs, narrowed by pale lids, toward” things. Being someone who wrote like that, I can safely say that it’s pretty exhausting trying to come up with such elaborate methods to say “he looked over there”. The kind of stuff I mention up there does not sound natural, and often times seems to be there to just make up for the fact that the person isn’t writing anything of substance. I make up for my lack of substance by having a lot of long sentences, and a lot of tangents about things, in the middle of my paragraphs. Also, commas. Commas, like adverbs, are generally frowned upon. But I kind of like the way they can be used to imply certain things, if you know what I mean, and bend the sentence in a way that allows for an expression of mood that might otherwise be missing. Adverbs, not so much. “He laughed sadly” is usually what you end up with that, and there are many better ways to say that.

To give an example: In one of the essays that I wrote for a creative nonfiction class, I chose the topic of anxiety. And in the workshop for that piece, I had a specific paragraph that was pointed out as being probably the most accurate representation of anxiety that one of my classmates had ever seen. Said person also was one of the people who said that I had a very distinct writing voice. It was a nice feeling of accomplishment, to have that moment where I really felt like what I was writing was something that was mine.

I’m hoping, to say that least, that if I manage to keep doing this that I’ll be able to recapture that feeling.

Jul 082015

It’s been… quite some time since I’ve actually sat down to write anything that I would consider “of substance” or “worthy of a phrase in quotation marks”. Years, really. There’s been a few reasons for that, but the majority of it can be easily summarized by me saying that I simply… didn’t want to. And on some level, I still don’t. I have ideas constantly, things that I think might make great entries in a blog, or things that may end up as good stories, but ultimately my enthusiasm fades before I get a chance to open up Word. The last time I really felt the urge to write with any strength was back in college, in the middle of a group of people who also really wanted to write things, and who took pleasure in writing. I work in an office now, and the environment is as far removed as my writing classes as I could possibly imagine.

So what am I doing bringing back this website, when I’m surely just going to abandon it again after a couple of weeks and maybe three entries? Well, because I’m not going to just let myself atrophy in terms of my writing abilities anymore. And I know that I only really want to write when I’m doing it, even if it’s just writing out these kinds of crappy little blogs. There’s a vague sense of accomplishment here, in the ability for me to express an idea and it come across, that makes it worth it.

Okay, so, that’s a noble goal of mine. But what the hell am I going to talk about? I don’t really read comics anymore, which is why I cleared the database of entries so that all the old ones are essentially gone. Well. Since the hardest part of writing, for me, is the actual writing part, I’m going to start off only half-writing. I have some essays that I wrote for non-fiction classes, essays that I have been meaning to revise, and revisit, for quite some time now. There’s a narrative between them, as well as in some others that haven’t been written yet. So, ultimately, I’m going to start by making these kinds of half stream-of-consciousness entries, and then working on this essay project of mine. If I have other ideas, I’ll post them as they come to mind. Provided they aren’t in that frustrating moment when I’m trying to sleep, and I think of something.

At this point, I know I don’t actually have any readers. Popularity on the Internet isn’t really my end goal, though it would be a nice thing to have. Instead, this is just me trying to get myself to write again, so that I can justify both having this website, and the $50k in student loan debt I gained in my four years earning a degree in creative writing.

For the most part, I think this will nonfiction. I’m too removed from fiction (i.e., I haven’t really been doing a lot of casual fiction reading) for me to be comfortable posting things here. But I won’t really rule it out. I don’t know when the posts are going to be, either. The nature of it being as it is makes it so that I may have many come out in a week, or just one. Who knows. I’m hoping that this will give me the push I know I need to get me going again.