The (Un)disciplined Writer

“Only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions.”

That’s by self-help guru Stephen Covey. Some obnoxious model/actor/self-titled entrepreneur/(probably) bartender on my IG feed posted it under an admittedly dapper pic of himself looking like a cast member in Peaky Blinders. But he also said motivation isn’t evergreen. He didn’t cite that so I’m going to assume it’s original.

Motivation is a fickle creature, like a runaway hamster who doesn’t know how good he has it on the inside. Guaranteed seed pellets, cozy wood shavings, and no one trying to eat it.

The moral of the story is, learn to love your cage.

No, but seriously. I think escaped passions are the saving grace of a disciplined mind. Without a few well-placed indiscretions, we would all be Walter White, before he became Heisenberg. Not that I’m saying your passion should lead you to cook meth in the desert. Or fumigated homes. Or anywhere, for that matter.

This brings me to my dissipated passion. Writing used to make me so happy, because I had an itch that I scratched often. Now, there’s zero motivation. Or rather, there’s no motivation to see my thought process through to a finished product. In the past 4 years that would have meant a blog post. In the more recent 2 years it would mean a script. I used to read something/see something and then write something. Now I think of a couple good bylines but never carve out the time to really dive in.

Adam Grant shared a tweet the other day that was real AF:

The best antidote to writer’s block is to stop pursuing perfection and start writing whatever comes to mind. No one complains about having teacher’s block, accountant’s block, or plumber’s block. They just get to work.

With me it’s very much an nihilistic, adolescent “Why does it matter?” and “This sucks” attitude.

Maybe it does. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Shit–it doesn’t even have to be good. Armed with these new parameters, maybe I can dole something out worth reading.

Or not. Who cares? I’m getting to work.


Just a little flash fiction

Last night I had a dream of that second-wave feminist epitaph, the “zipless fuck.” Well, almost zipless, and almost a fuck.

He was some long-standing friend of the family. We were both in our first semester of college. I was being an Internet vagabond while he actually studied. Unabashedly, I wasted time, got caught in YouTube’s embarrassingly intuitive web of related content, and ate more shit than I care to admit.

All the while he continued to study. It appeared to be math of some sort, though I couldn’t have guessed—much less solved—if my life depended on it. We had the house to ourselves for the day since our parents were on some fabricated getaway—a fishing trip, they called it. We were generally sullen and had acquired that slow-building averseness to our parents that peaks until the moment you move out, so we flatly refused to partake of sun, salt, and conscientious parents refusing to let us drink (even though they knew we did since we were sixteen).

The last rays of the sun made their way through the west windows and I realized that Mark was still at it. Barring a couple trips to the fridge and the bathroom, he had remained statuesque.

For the first time since our childhood Freudian encounter (“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”) I really looked at him. I imagined he had grown substantially since that day, but I pushed the thought out of my head, embarrassed by my waywardness. I blamed it on those YouTube videos.

He didn’t notice me looking, so engrossed was he in his figures, calculations, and scrawling pencil. My mother had mentioned something the other day about his intent to major in Biomedical Engineering, which I enjoined with an indifferent, “Hm.” This prompted her to embark on a rant about me being an indecisive, liberal waif. “Self-discovery only takes you so far. You have to be marketable,” she would say. Charming woman. Perhaps if I sold myself as a modern-day indentured servant she would finally have something to brag about at her dinner parties. Fuck society, I muttered inwardly.

I continued to study him—the arc, or rather, length of his nose. It had, if you’ll allow, a rather “masculine” gravitas to it; aquiline and imposing. Not a single blackhead, and the color coordinated seamlessly with the rest of his face. He kept biting on his bottom lip every time an equation stumped him. The act made his bottom lip bright pink and chaffed in its plump center. I imagined biting down on it even harder.

Was I ovulating?

Something tipped him off—probably the turn of my thoughts—and he met my gaze. He questioned my stare with a furrow of his brows. I took it as an opportunity.

“What has you glued to that chair since morning?” My voice seemed hoarse and foreign to me. I wasn’t the least bit interested in his response. It was a ploy, though I had no idea where I’d take this.

“Calculus I.” There was a glimmer of interest in his reply, and maybe this was imagined, but in the curve of his smile too. The mischievous audacity of that mouth might have put Da Vinci’s portraits to shame. I wanted to dash all decorum and tell him how good his overgrown dusty brown hair looked draped across his forehead, how I wanted to pull it as I…

But all I managed was: “I’m proud of you.”

Lame. Lame. Lame. I receded back into my chair, cursing myself.

“Thanks. I heard you’re doing really well in all your classes, too.”

“Oh. Yeah, sure. My mom thinks it’s all a waste until I pick a major.”

“She’s wrong.”

The conviction of his reply made me look at him. His mouth again formed that enigmatic curve and he rubbed his shoulder awkwardly. Before giving it much thought, I stood and went over to where he sat at the head of the table. I put my hands on his shoulders and began to impress my thumbs in circles. His muscles visibly relaxed.

“Wow. Thanks.”

After a minute my thumbs slid up toward his hairline and he tensed. Mortified that he had caught on, I removed my hands. But just as they dropped, his hand grabbed one of mine. I became acutely aware of the electricity humming along the wires from the appliances in the kitchen. And perhaps beyond. He pulled me so that I faced him. I looked down at him and my bravado evaporated. He swallowed an invisible lump in his throat. We stared at each other long enough to convey a combined sense of dread and anticipation. Moments like these turned into prolonged temporal spaces, devoid of objective reality. You never really knew if it would end in an embarrassed shuffling off, or what you wanted so badly it hurt. And so it stretched before us, laying bare all the possibilities. I decided to take it, slamming into his lap and closing my mouth over his. And since dreams feed off irony, that’s when I woke up.

Kurt Vonnegut: Master of Pith

I just had to share this, since Vonnegut has become a new favorite the moment I finished Cat’s Cradle. Sorry to be bossy but…Go read it. Now. 😉

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules of Writing:

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Genius. Who needs more than this?
As I said, he is the master of pith.

Some choice quotes from CC:

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists… It is knowing what your limitations are. Page 115 (iPad)

I agree with one bokoninist idea. I agree that all religions, including bokononism, are nothing but lies. Page 127

“She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.” (22)

Second one is like brain food for the agnostic. Or the nihilistic. Fitting for the rest of the narrative, actually.

Doesn’t the last one remind you of someone in your life? Co-worker, in-law, hell, even a spouse?

This guy is so kick-ass I’m going to sit down with Slaughterhouse Five. And that’s saying a lot, since war narratives make me want to puke. Spectacularly.