Fun With Frivolous Description

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I’m going to set a scene. I want you to focus on the words and try to imagine you are there. Just sit and put yourself in the place I paint. I want to see how effective I am at the art of description.

Lace rustles, quiet footsteps emerge through the muffled silence. The air is heavy and smells of old parchment and wood. The only light in the room comes from a series of high windows that set the sunlight spiraling through trails of dust. The figure of a woman walks softly between tall shelves, shadowed by the looming towers of books that sit, lopsided and crooked, upon every surface. She pauses before a particularly large pile of papers, her long, pale fingers searching between them. At last, with a heavy sigh that whispers around the room, she finds what she is looking for.

Alright. Time to change the scene again and try a new one. Ready for it?

The market bustles. Horse hooves clatter upon the cobblestones, and mothers yell as their children dart, laughing, around the animals’ anxious forms. A playful breeze tugs at the crowded lane, winding itself around the coloured scarves at one booth before going to pick up the scent of frying meat from another. It dances between shoppers and vendors alike, then skirts around a fountain that sends water splashing into a deep bowl. A small child leans over the rim, his grimy hands playing with the water, reaching for the coins crowded at the bottom.

Enough of that one. Time to switch this up again.

The stone wall was rough beneath the girl’s fingertips. She bent nearer, examining it, her eyes narrowed. It was worn and crumbling, low enough to step over. Beyond it, a tangled maze of ruins lay, overgrown with thick meadow grasses. Insects hummed above the mess of thorns and flowers that ate away at the lost buildings. The girl straightened and frowned. She clambered onto the nearest wall, careful not to catch the hem of her dress on the uneven stone. From this new vantage point she could just make out the rising shape of a haphazard temple wall. 

One more, shall we? And then you’ll have to tell me what you think.

The wind whipped branches to the ground, sending cedar boughs creaking and bending as it careened between the trees. It rattled the thin window panes of the old cabin, blowing snow sideways and painting the decrepit building like a gingerbread house. The air was icy and sharp in the boy’s lungs as he drew hesitant gulps of the winter wind. He surveyed the cabin, uncertain. It was rotten and half collapsed, the walls leaning drunkenly against a nearby tree. He stepped forwards with difficulty, his boots carving trenches in the drifts of powder. 

Well… that was a fun bit of scene setting. Tell me what you think!

Writing Withdrawl

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Day Nine Without Writing:

I have not worked on my novel for over a week. I don’t know how long I can hold up under this strain. I yearn for the words to take me in their embrace. And yet I must hold out; I must separate myself from my book so that when I go back to it it will be with fresh eyes. I. Must. Not. Write. Still, I fear I am suffering from a terrible mental ailment: Writing Withdrawal.

I have run out of thoughts to think. I have run out of things to do. I have watched far too many movies, read a lot of books, done puzzles and played scrabble by myself endlessly. I cannot handle the symptoms of writing withdrawal.

Purposeless. Boredom. Restlessness. Loneliness. My old enemies have been lurking, sometimes unnoticed, outside the glow of my novel. They have been waiting for me to relinquish my constant grip of all things unreal and return to the land of reality. Now they have come forward, and only by retreating into other forms of fiction can I find safety from them. It has made me wonder if writers aren’t the people I thought they were. Perhaps we are all just humans with things to hide from. Perhaps we are the ones who cannot find true life, and so we live through books. Through words. Through stories. Never to touch, never to hold, only to shelter as a shadow inside of lands we created but do not belong in.

But perhaps that is just me, and just right now. It is hard to feel that I have a purpose that is not writing when I am living all alone in a tiny cabin on a tiny island with nothing to do but go to work, and no one to talk to but my boss and myself. The quote for this blog is one of my favourites: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” This, I suppose, sums up my current thoughts.

The experience of not writing after such an extensive stint of obsessive word collection has reminded me of two things: One, how much I need and value writing. And two, how I cannot let myself sink too deeply into my words. Writing is a healing tonic. A magic potion. Glue to hold myself together. But it is not life. I need to change my solitary existence so that writing is an added joy and not a recipe for survival. Right now, my words are my shelter. My friends. My love. My passion. My fire. I think, however, that I need them to become my second home, not my first. Something to share with the ones I love. My gift to the world, not the world’s gift to me. I need, above all, something more solid towards which to pour my love, passion and fire. Otherwise I will one day wake up all alone surrounded by books and realize too late that my skin is not paper and my blood is not ink. That I will fade away without living while my words will go on, stretching into eternity without me.

Does this make any sense to you? I’m not even entirely sure that it makes sense to me. I am hesitant to say it, because I love writing and this makes it sound as if I am saying I need to stop, which I don’t – not in the least. What I guess I am getting at is that I need to find my home in reality as well as in writing. There is more to life than words. I just need to find it.

The Obsessions of Good Music

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I have gone through many periods of obsession when it comes to music. Actually, my obsessions with music – bands or individual songs – has come to such a point that I no longer let myself get too obsessed, for fear I won’t be able to stand the band by the end of the year or month. Repeat listening can make any song, no matter how in love with it I once was, make me want to scream. I can no longer listen to the band I loved in grade nine without wanting to throw things at walls – but we’ll get to that later.

Music has played a very important role in my life. It has been my comfort since I was a tiny child. It can add interest to a boring scene, give me courage, make me cry, or bring a smile to my face. Music can do something nothing else can – without always needing words, without needing action, without needing to say anything at all, it can change how a person is feeling completely. It is my relief when life is hard – I put the headphones on, turn the volume up, and am able to feel the weight coming off of my soul.

When I was small, I hummed. I hummed my heart out, often subconsciously and almost always to the intense annoyance of my brothers and sisters. I hummed when I was happy, I hummed when I was sad, I hummed whatever the heck was going on. A major war could have broken out on the other side of my window and I would have found a reason to hum about it. One of the songs that gave me a lot of comfort was “Up on the Roof” by the Nylons. This was partially because the lyrics fitted me  – I loved heights and found immense comfort in them – and partially because my dad used to sing it to me.

As I grew up I forgot about it for awhile and moved on to other obsessions. I listened to U2 on repeat, though this was mostly because I had just been given a sony discman and the only cd I had was a U2 one. I loved their songs too however, and I wore them out to the point where I have only just gotten to like them again.

Later I began to love Lifehouse. This, unfortunately, is when we come to grade nine, the worst year of my so far relatively short existence. No matter whether or not I like them now, I owe a debt of gratitude to Lifehouse. They got me through that year, giving me comfort and hope. I got a mp3 player for Christmas during grade nine, and it meant that rather than spending every break huddled close to the walls of the hallways, or else the bookshelves of the library, pretending I didn’t exist, I could do those same things while listening to music. It doesn’t sound like much, but it made things a lot better. It elevated a bit of stress, and let me actually feel the rest, rather than hiding it in some distant corner of my mind where it could grow mouldy and infect all my thoughts.

Sometimes I think the reason I wore out Lifehouse to such the extent that I can no longer listen to it is because it had a greater job to fill than the other bands I have been obsessed with. I wasn’t listening for pleasure. I wasn’t listening for relaxation. I wasn’t listening simply because I liked the songs. I was listening so that I could weave weak threads out of sound to hold my falling-apart soul together with. I didn’t just listen with my ears.

Currently, I really like a lot of music – Switchfoot, Matchbox Twenty, Snow Patrol – and am also refusing to listen to it on endless repeat. I don’t want to wreck it. Though when I really need it, I will, of course, play that choice song a few times. Most people who are reading this will know the feeling. When the stress grows too great, when I can’t get to my writing, there is always that one song of the moment to dive headfirst into.

Quotes About Madness

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The first one sums up the only feasible solution to survival that I have currently discovered. The ones after that are my attempts to find the justification to follow said solution.

* “He spread his arms out wide. “I will go mad,” he announced. “Good idea,” said Ford Prefect, clambering down from the rock on which he had been sitting. Arthur’s brain somersaulted. His jaw did push-ups. “I went mad for awhile,” said Ford, “did me no end of good.” – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

* “Have I gone mad?” “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.” – Alice in Wonderland

* “There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.” – Aristotle
* Too much sanity may be madness, and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.” – Miguel de Cervantes
* A person needs a little madness, or else they never dare cut the rope and be free.” – Nikos Kazantzakis
* “In a completely sane world, madness is the only freedom.” – J.G. Ballard
* “Only those things are beautiful that are inspired by madness and written by reason.” – Andre Gide
* “To put meaning in one life may end in madness, But life without meaning is the torture Of restlessness and vague desire – It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.” – Edgar Lee Masters
* “You need a little bit of insanity to do great things.” – Henry Rollins
* “There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” – Oscar Levant
I’ll leave you with that last one, perhaps one of my favourite out of the bunch. The very idea of sanity is in contradiction to the universe. The universe is not sane. The universe is chaos and madness.

The End

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I finished my novel yesterday. Or at least, the second draft of my novel. 86,214 words. It took me roughly three months to write. I poured my energy, heart and soul into. Now somehow, it’s done. I’m not sure what to think. I only know that it is going to be very difficult to put the thing aside for the next two or three weeks. What on earth am I going to do in the evenings? What am I going to occupy myself with? What will be the point in having free time if I can’t use it to write?

There is a universal law about the ends of books that states, whether you are reading a book or writing it, that you must neglect every other aspect of your life for at least three hours prior to the last sentence. You must ignore your dirty dishes, put off your housework, scorn your sleep pattern, and generally resign yourself to the fact that you will be getting nothing done for the next three hours. The book will demand you to finish it. It will be impossible to stop reading at the climax.

So it was with the end of my novel. I sat and wrote for almost four hours. I kept thinking I would stop, and then changing my mind. At last I simply realized that there was no hope for it and I would have to sit until I finished the thing. I ended up writing some 3600 words at the expense of my dishes, my bath, my baking, and all the other a hundred things I had planned to do that evening. But it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. I was wrapped up in a world of my own.

I felt like I had a hundred random threads and I somehow needed to weave them into a snug design. I could barely keep track of all the plot points that needed tying up, the twists that needed to be revealed, and the lines that had to – just had to – be said. Somehow I needed to keep a hold of the more finicky characters, remember to include the tiny details that meant everything, and illustrate the scenes in a way where things would make sense to people who are not insane and/or me. All this while I was focusing on conducting my symphony to a roaring climatic crash of symbols and holler of trumpets. And then of course, I needed to queue the flutes into a gentle sigh, bring the clarinets into a dancing lullaby, and let the drums ease off as it all came to a carefully constructed end. I also had to keep a firm eye on that one crazy drummer in the back who is prone to fits of cacophony in the last seconds of the performance.

I don’t really know whether I did it or not. Quite possibly I forgot something, or messed something up, or composed a line of such utter incomprehensible gibberish that not even I will be able to understand it. More likely my details weren’t subtle enough, my characters lacked strength and development, and my dialog was too unintelligible. But we shall see. I could drive myself crazy thinking about it. I must resist the temptation to reconstruct my entire novel in my head.

I need to take a step back from it, you see. I need to put it on a shelf in a corner of my mind and let it have some breathing room, so that when I return to it I will see with fresh eyes. I’m not going to touch it for at least two weeks. And then I’m going to settle down with a lot of tea and a notebook and read my novel as if I am not the author. I’m going to write down every idea or problem or potential improvement that comes to my head. I can only hope that I will actually enjoy reading it and don’t find out that it sucks.

For now, I will write a lot of blogs, try not to think about it and spend occasional moments of excited panic spinning around in the middle of my room like a maniac screaming that it’s done. And if I get bored… there’s always the sequel to start on.

The World’s Priorities

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We are rearranging the furniture on the Titanic. We are fighting over which seat we should sit in in the giant car that is heading straight at a brick wall. We are discussing what type of gun the man shooting us has. We are arguing over who won the poker match as we sit in the middle of a burning casino.

Need I go on?

We are trying to stop our ice cream from melting while a lava flow heads straight towards us. We are voting on what colour the flag on the top of our sand castle should be while around us the tide comes in. We are struggling to pick out our wallpaper while our house falls down. We are selling the lumber off our roof while the storms draw nearer. We are arguing over who won the House Cup in the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts.

Are you getting the point yet? How are these next ones for incredible:

We are bickering over the shares in our economy while destroying the entire world that supports that economy. We are hoarding our money while our neighbours struggle with poverty. We are turning our trees into lumber while our air grows more and more polluted. We are dumping our sewer into the waters we might one day need to drink. We are burning our coal while our cities grow smoggier. We are choosing to spend our money on countless pairs of shoes while the sea levels rise to cover the ground we walk on.

We are destroying the very resources that keep us alive.

Who cares where the furniture is on the Titanic, can we please focus on not hitting that iceberg? Stop discussing what type of gun it is and dodge the bullet! Does it matter who won the poker game when the cards will all be on fire soon anyways?

And most importantly: Does it matter how much money we all hoard if we have no food to eat, no water to drink and no air to breath? Does it matter who is richest when there is nothing left to buy but ruin? How many pairs of shoes do you need to walk on land that isn’t there?

Please, I beg of you, let’s drop the competition between who is richest and who is poorest. The car will hit the brick wall whether or not your sitting in the front seat.

I Am Nothing More Than Words

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My life is shaped with words,

Words to fill the spaces,

Words to make the empty full,

Words to sing my songs to others,

Words to heal this broken soul

I am nothing more than words,

Nothing more than letters,

Lost in time, lost in space,

Trying to make things better

When every thing I am,

Is written on these pages,

What will be left but parchment and ink,

What will be left but broken links?

When everything I am

Has been read until it’s passed,

Will anything be left

Or will these words be the last?

There is a hole in my crumpled heart,

Where nothing hides but words,

They fill the void,

too much they cloy

My appetite for tangibles

And will I ever touch the touchable,

Will I ever really feel,

Or will life be empty ashes,

With words that do conceal

My heart is made of paper,

My blood does run with ink

But I know no one with a pen,

That can save me from this brink

And what if there is nothing

That can turn these words to life,

Please tell me there is something,

That can sheath this silver knife

When I wake up in the morning,

I wake up just to write,

To pass these moments onwards,

To navigate the night,

But I crave something more real,

I crave the flame of being,

Beyond these paper hideouts,

Is the emptiness I’m fleeing

And it does not go away,

Though I cover it in writing,

It grows only deeper,

This loneliness I’m fighting

And the words come heavy to my heart

The sentences run thick,

Just to stop my mind from thinking,

Of this dying candle wick

I am nothing more than words,

I am nothing more than writing,

And when all this does come to pass,

Will these ashes be igniting?