#310: The Technique, Part 3

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A three-parter! Here we go. I wouldn’t have guessed having started this series that it would’ve ended up so much longer than initially anticipated.

Writing is a liberating hobby. You are always expelling some kind of demon from within you for someone else’s personal enjoyment. I think back to all the memoir writers I’ve learned about, who must’ve tormented themselves over their writing to perfect the story as it happened, while also creating a unique, memorable narrative at the same time. It’s not easy to say you’re a writer without others immediately asking you what that means, and what kind of writing you do. How can you answer that question with “personal writing” without feeling a bit selfish and self-important, as if your life is worth writing about in the first place? I wouldn’t say I’m living an especially significant life, just a normal one in the 21st century. I wouldn’t even say my story is a story that needs to be told; I don’t know who would really benefit from hearing another white, middle-class, coming-of-age story. But the reason I write is not necessarily just so that I can be read by others; the real reason I write is because it fulfills my professional goals and makes me feel productive. It makes me feel like I’m keeping track of myself, my history, and the world I live in, even while I slowly but surely lose track of it, bit by bit. I used to write frequently, and I want to keep that part of myself going, most of all. I don’t want to abandon it, so here we are, writing about personal lives because it’s often easiest to write about yourself.

In college, I wrote a conceptual metaphor paper on how teaching is performing an exorcism, every day. Imagine how exhausting it must be to exorcise demons from your classroom on a regular basis.

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#309: The Technique, Part 2

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Last time, I spoke about the technique that goes into writing fiction, as well as the general rules that I follow (or try to follow, unsuccessfully) because of my difficulties when it comes to paying attention. Having ADD makes writing an interesting hobby, allowing on the one hand for my mind to drift and visit whatever worlds it needs to in order to fulfill my imaginative vision, while on the other hand enabling a lack of focus and attention on the important details. (Is “enabling” the correct word for that? I’m not so sure.)

Regardless, I wanted to talk more about this subject. This is the first time I’m doing a two-part blog post without having written them back-to-back. As in, I’m writing these on separate days. To think it took me 309 posts before I realized I could do this.

The best technique that I’ve personally employed is writing wherever possible, whenever inspiration strikes me. Sometimes while at work, when I have a little bit of down time and can afford a few minutes of personal leisure, I turn on the computer, open up my Google Docs folder, and expel all the ideas taking up space in my head onto the page. It’s a useful and helpful habit to build upon, because the way my brain works necessitates a kind of urgency when it comes to ideas entering it. Being able to write freely helps so much, and without it, I’m not sure I’d be able to trust that the story I come up with is natural and faithful to whatever vision I have for it. Being faithful is essential, as I would hate to read a story that’s not an accurate representation of what the author wanted it to be. Writing is all about representing things, and authors are represented from their stories in great detail.

#308: The Technique, Part 1

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There’s a special technique to writing fiction, a recipe that always creates successful and thought-provoking writing. I don’t know what it is, but when I find it out, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

I write all over the place. My thoughts are so haphazard and spontaneous that I need to write wildly or else I risk losing the thoughts that organically come one after another while writing. Preserving that train of thought is essential to my writing process when writing fiction. I need to be cognizant of where the story is going, while also letting my brain handle the gritty word choice parts. I also sometimes let the spontaneous nature of my brain do the writing and planning for me, even though I probably shouldn’t.

This blog post is kind of a continuation of the previous one, “The Distraction.” They’re both about living with ADD and how that affects what I do and how I live.

Let me give an example of what I mean. I’m writing a multi-part, one-off story involving characters from an established universe. I didn’t know how the story was going to end until… probably about 3,000 words in, and the story is probably only going to be about 4,500 by the time it’s done. I wasn’t building toward an established ending in my head, so that made writing difficult at times. But I was able to let my brain dictate where the story was going, which made the story come off more naturally, I think.

(Did you see how I moved from one topic to another between paragraphs just there? I promise that wasn’t intentional.)

If you’ve read this blog consistently, you might know that I don’t edit my blog posts. I write them and publish them as one rough draft, without any proofreading or reviewing. This one especially.

#217: The Alternator

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The alternator is dead. The sequel to my most recent blog post is, of course, about what happened next. That’ll be about $400 dollars, out of pocket. Alternators are so unnecessarily expensive. I wish we didn’t also have to contend with the repair bill, too. If only alternators were easy to replace by yourself, then the manual labor would cover the repair bill.

Well, I drove home for about an hour after my friend jumped the car. I made it home safe and sound, and being the eternally exhausted person I am, I went to bed within a few hours after getting home. We didn’t test the car again on Saturday because of that. Maybe we should have, considering what we discovered afterwards, that the alternator, not the battery itself, was to blame for this whole mess. We called Alex’s dad, only to find out that it could be anything at fault with the car.

We waited in the garage for someone to arrive to jump our car. The first person to come help wasn’t able to reach our car, because of how we parked and the fact that there was another car next to us. The second person reached us, jumped us, and got us to the AutoZone in Stamford in time for us to figure out what was wrong. That’s where we discovered that the alternator was to blame. The guy who helped us took his time looking at the car while I sat in it and Alex talked with him about it.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any mechanics at AutoZone to replace the alternator for us. So, I had to contend with figuring out how to get to work the next day. Alex changed her shift from 8-4 to 7-3, to allow us to get to a mechanic in time together. Alex also bought a manual jumpstarter so I could get the car moving enough to get it to work and back. Here’s hoping that it works on the way back, because it worked enough to get me here!

#214: The Fish Tale

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Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, especially the specific restaurant in New Haven, has a special place in my heart. It’s special for resembling a spot where my family goes to enjoy cheap seafood, but it’s also special for being a spot where my grandfather liked to go to before he passed away. The restaurant wasn’t open for long before he passed away, but we managed to go a few times before then, and every time we went, he would ask to go back. It became kind of an expected part of the day; when he had an idea to go somewhere for lunch together, it was usually Lenny & Joe’s. I would order the fish and chips or the fried clam strips, and I forget what he typically ordered but I’m sure it was good.

When I think back to those years of my life, images of the restaurant as it used to look, the tables we used to sit at, the fried calamari appetizers we ordered and ate together, I feel happy and a bit sad at the same time. Sad because it’s passed and won’t be coming back, but happy that I was able to share a few memorable moments with someone I love before he passed away. I know it feels morbid to mention death on here, but I think it’s necessary to fully understand the gravity of this emotional place for us. I know it’s a chain restaurant, with multiple copies of it across Connecticut, but it’s still recognizable to my family for this reason.

Recently, I went back to Lenny & Joe’s with my mom, grandma, sister, and girlfriend. We had a good dinner together, I ordered lobster mac n cheese and Alex ordered the lobster roll. It was a lobster-palooza. The mac n cheese wasn’t as good as it is at Chowder Pot, so that was a small disappointment, but it was still delicious and worth getting. Just didn’t compare to another restaurant’s offering of the same dish. We sat a few tables away from the table we sat at the last time we took my grandpa to this place, and my mom pointed it out for us. Instantly, I remembered sitting there, where I sat, what chair I sat in, everything. I mean, times have definitely changed in the years since then; it’s highly possible they got new chairs or tables, and rearranged everything in ways that make it completely unrecognizable from what it looked like five or six years ago, but to us, it’s still the same restaurant it was then. It’s special to us.

#147: The Pep Rally

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Pep rallies can be fun, especially when you’re not directly involved in them and you’re able to sit on the sidelines and watch it all unfold. Participating in pep rallies is a different story; not because pep rallies are bad or that I don’t have school spirit, but because there’s a lot of anxiety associated with the brave unknown of standing in front of a gym with lots of kids running around or sitting in bleachers.

When I used to work at a different school, I made sure to participate in pep rallies as much as I could. I was a judge during the first one I went to, and I was given the responsibility of judging the school spirit of each class. The classes were separated into different bleacher sections, and they wore different colors depending on their class. Red, black, grey, blue. It reminded me of what the homecoming pep rallies were like when I went to high school, except not as many people cared about those and we didn’t have as many fun side events for teachers and students. A bit of a shame, but not the end of the world. I remember voting for the junior class because they brought a special needs student out to compete during the basketball mini-game, while the sophomore class shoved one out of the way and made sure to send their best players only. Sometimes you have to make the right choice for the right people.

At my new school, we still have pep rallies, but they’re under a different name and for a different purpose. Instead of building general school spirit, they’re meant to celebrate what students are learning and reward positive behavior. They’re so much more effective in creating interest in students than the previous pep rallies I’ve seen, because the kids do care about them.

Bury the light

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Sunlight is overrated

Bury it, bury it deep below

Into a small cardboard box

Of childhood memories

Not a kid anymore, not now

It’s time for change

Stubborn satisfaction flew away

Bury the light, bury the light

The spot behind the swing-set

Is nice and dry, aching for you

To feed it the rain, the sun

And your enlightened

Dreams of yesteryear in a box.

Trail of Tears

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Slingshot knew the path back to his farm in Winston County naturally. He followed it like the wolf followed the scent of its prey, like a hunter followed tracks in the woods. The Native Americans had carved his path centuries ago. He studied their culture for years after sundown, when he no longer could work on the farm. He loved them like friends, brothers, and members of the same pack. They represented what he saw in himself, and he represented them by honoring their traditions. His radio was off. He only heard the wheels of the car grinding and the sound of a siren calling his name. His real name. The road stretched on past the capital and further into the heart of Alabama; he knew it all. In lonesomeness, he drove and the road winded onward like a narrow, slithery snake caught by its tail by a Cherokee on the hunt.

On the way home, while thinking of the Native Americans and their values, he recalled a repressed memory from his youth. He drove on with it in mind.
It was nearing the evening. His family had just finished dinner when they looked out the window. Fog clouded the sun. A dry mist enveloped the farm. The cows and the horses were lost in the confusion. They stopped dinner to try to fix the problem.

They wanted to gather the frenzied animals, and then herd them into the farmhouse by the ranch. They hoped that, by that time, the fog would have cleared.

“We should split up! Meet back here!” his mother shouted to him. “Stay here and wait awhile if we’re too slow for you. We’ll be fine. And when we’re back, we’ll enjoy dinner together at the table!”

They had not predicted this thick of a fog. If so, they would have cooperated. Slingshot ran deeper into it, disobeying his mother, and unsure where he was headed at first. His eyes followed his feet, as he slowly recalled the feel of the soil on his toes. His surroundings came to life in his head. He pictured where he was and he knew where the animals would be. He picked hollow nuts from the ground. To alert the cows, he pelted them with the nuts. The horses scurried rampantly. They trampled fervently over the grass they ate and the soil. In their confusion, they were angry. Anger translated into fear. Fear made them run uncontrollably. The fog was growing. It was late at night, and so they could not see. They could not hear each other’s voices. He gathered the animals quickly by instinct and ran with them . When Slingshot made his trip back to the farmhouse, with cows and horses in tow, he realized that his father and mother were still missing. He shouted, but heard nothing. He herded the animals into the farmhouse, then sat outside and waited.

He was patient. During this time, he imagined himself riding his horses into romantic sunsets. He imagined his family and him together eating the rest of their dinner. He imagined the animals grazing in the grass carelessly, not frightened or confused. He imagined his family joining the animals in the field, playing games and feeding them. He imagined the animals stampeding through the farm, but then he cast that dream away. He imagined them frolicking, then he was happy again. He loved to imagine.

After twenty minutes, his patience wore thin. He replaced wishful imagination with worriment. He returned into the fog once more. He traveled aimlessly. He could no longer see his toes, but he felt the trickling blood that streamed off of them. He shouted into the depths of the mist and began to cry teenage tears. He ran for what seemed like an endless stream of time, a cycle. The fog never ended, like his running. It rose upwards in the sky and above the trees. It brought him chaos. Chaos like he had never experienced before. He yelled:

“Mom! Dad!”

His bare feet bled more as he stepped through rough, unfamiliar ground. Jutting rocks and stones from beneath. He wasn’t sure where he was going. The unforgiving nature burdened him. It had never betrayed him this way; they were always together, like partners of a tribe, like members of a family. They understood each other, he thought. He ran faster and screamed louder. The earth had betrayed its most appreciative and loving son.

“Mom! Dad! Where are you?”

He thought the fog had thickened even more. It encompassed his entire world, threatening not only his vision and emotional stability, but his family. He valued his family far above the horses and the cows or the nature of the farm. He cared for his parents like they cared for him. For the first time in his childish life, he felt true fear. Fright. Anguish. His childish imagination would not cast the fog away or find his parents. His screams would not suddenly save his world. It was time to grow up. And in that instant, Lawrence Sloane, Jr., matured. He reached somewhere deep into his frightened mind and found solace. He discovered security and sanctity. Now, he stepped forward into the breach as an adult. The chaos inside the fog rose. His feet sobbed red tears uncontrollably. He felt an imprint on the soil, maybe Cherokee, but he could not make out what it resembled.

And finally after an hour of searching, crying, and yelling, he found their corpses in a field, their bodies trampled by hooves. His father’s arm covered his mother’s back. They must have found each other in the fog, and then died. He wanted to protect her. They were buried in the same way.

The fog had now faded.

He looted a slingshot from his father’s back pocket. He held it dear to his heart and felt the wet wood of the weapon against his jacket like his father’s embrace.

The fifteen year-old Lawrence Sloane, Jr., returned to his ranch and slept in his bedroom for what seemed like days. No one saw him or knew what happened; their ranch was located so far from civilization that the first police officer arrived a mere week after the event. When he awoke, he had adapted to the changes he would have needed to make; he had accepted their deaths. He had moved on. He was an adult. On the next day, he awoke early and returned to the fields, restoring order to the farm animals and renewing the calmness that once settled abound. His presence brought renewed faith to his farm. Nothing had changed, so the animals figured. He had not sought revenge against the horses; they did not know any better. They were as afraid as he was. In their fright they ran, just like he did.

Slingshot drove back to the farm he had inherited and opened the rickety front door to utter silence, for he lived and maintained the whole three-hundred acres on his own. He kept the ranch clean and tidy. He neglected fancy machinery and newfound advancements. He used proper tools, the same ones his parents used years ago. He kept the slingshot hanging from his back pocket like his father had on his dead body; it was his way to remember and accept his self-induced loneliness.

The memory of his parents’ deaths had not haunted him; it had enlightened him. He embraced it. Slingshot would never trust nature with people’s lives again. He trusted no one –he understood the world better now. The immature, ignorant fifteen year-old Lawrence Sloane, Jr., evolved into the stoic, unforgiving twenty six year-old Slingshot. When a fog rose again in Winston County, Slingshot was prepared; this time, there was no one to lose but himself.

And the memory remained with him for the rest of his existence, but he never felt sad; he felt assured. He realized the nature of evil. In the time since their deaths, through ancient Cherokee teachings which he read from books and further outside learning, he discovered that all humans contain the same evil that nature possesses; they all acquire instinct and they all act unreasonably. Some humans are left behind, while others carry on. Animals are excused, for they do not act superior to their environment like the urban human-machines act. He despised the machines as his father did, as his grandfather did, and as his children will in the future, if he even has children to whom he will tell stories and raise up to till the farm for generations to come. Thinking about life, he walked outside during sunset. He turned to his favorite horse and rode it side-by-side the others into the enveloping, protecting wilderness.

 

**This is an excerpt of a novel I am in the process of writing. If you enjoy it, let me know down in the comments and I can send you more of what I have written so far! Thanks!