Christmas Like a Friday Night

Free-Wallpaper-Christmas-Tree“Friday night lights twinkle brighter because we see them through an idealized lens created by excessive inebriation.”

It’s funny how things change when we get older. And by change I mean everything. And by older I mean past 20s. I remember thinking about Christmas like it was a Friday night. It was all hazy and warm, and I was with my friends until all hours enjoying them, but maybe not remembering it in the morning. And no matter how much money I had with me to start the evening it would all be gone by the time I came to, all groggy on someone’s seedy couch.

It was Friday night because that’s when I was the most selfish, when I didn’t care about pretty much anyone else, just my own desires. If I wanted to shop for CDs all night that’s what I did, and I used money I shouldn’t have to buy as many as I could. If I wanted to go to a club (or 10) then I did it, buying drinks that I probably shouldn’t have bought, and then buying some more. It was hedonistic at its base, and I was deliriously happy on those Friday nights, but the Saturday mornings caught up with me. They always did, but somehow I would conveniently forget each week.

Christmas used to be a series of “YESses” and “NOs” all tumbled together and shaken out to dry. Did I want a computer? Sure. Did I want clothes? Not a chance. Even though I always needed clothes back then, and even though I often wore the same pants three times in a week because I had nothing else. But my CD collection was the envy of the neighborhood. Priorities. I guess as I got older my priorities shifted to match where I was supposed to be on the evolutionary scale. Either that or I realized I was making absolutely no progress doing what I was doing. Maybe Christmas was really meant to be once a year, and not every Friday night. And maybe there was more to it than my patented responses.

And I don’t care about the Starbucks cup, but I am a little upset that they shut down all of the Tim Hortons nearby, because instead of getting drunk and buying myself stuff this Christmas all I want to do is wake up in the morning and brew myself a lovely cup of coffee. Seasons change. People change. I’ve changed. And Christmas like a Friday night is no longer something I find appealing. Now I want Christmas to be like a Sunday morning — easy.

Sam

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Flying with No Wings

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She flies with no wings
Lost in atmosphere
Chaos magnified by order
And shoved in a box
Like so many unsent letters
She was always meaning to send
As fragile as a hummingbird
In the middle of autumn
Or a gentle rainfall
In the turning of spring
Spinning out of control
She gets lost in the breeze
Inviting at the outset
But gusting by afternoon
This invisible paramour
Always dancing with the girl
Swinging her so high
That she can almost touch sky
But concrete looks so small
Until she begins to tumble
From such great heights
No wings to cushion her fall
Prayers escaping thin lips
That never knew a god
As the ground waits, ready
To catch her like a feather
From a flightless bird.

Sam

This Novel, Day 25

nanowrimoSometimes in November I look up from whatever the latest novel I’m writing happens to be, and I notice that I’ve passed a milestone in the course of my writing for the day. On occasion I’ve moved past 10,000 words without thinking of it. Once in a while I’ve blasted through 25,000 words and not known it. And even when I’ve gotten to 40,000 or 45,000 I’ve sometimes not recognized it until well after the fact. I call it being in “the zone,” and I love the zone so much. The zone is my muse, and when I’m in it I don’t want to do anything else. Other writers know what I’m talking about.

I’ve been in the zone a few times this November, most notably on this past Sunday when I wrote nearly 3,000 words without even updating my word count. That’s when I know I’m in the zone. I can write for an hour straight and not come up for air, which is what I did on Sunday. The story moves along, and I’m drawn along with it, taken for a ride that is equal parts anxiety and anticipation. Because while I love it when my characters have a mind of their own, I know it can also disturb the delicate balance I have been trying to create with the narrative I’ve carefully crafted. Of course in the end it never matters because the muse knows better where I need to go and how to get there anyway.

This November it has been tough to get in the zone. That’s not to say I haven’t had stretches where I’ve gotten caught up, because I have, but I have had so many outside things that have impinged upon my ability to just sit here and write. The starts and stops could have impeded the story, but I’ve somehow been able to keep up, to hit my word count goals every single day, and to keep the story flowing the way I wanted, or needed, to. And the numbers have been mounting. Now I’m five days away from the end of the month, and I just looked up to find…

I’m over 50,000 words! I know. I’m shocked too. The two goals of NaNoWriMo are to write a novel, and to get 50,000 words. I assume the people at NaNo think that 50,000 words is the shortest word count to classify as a novel, but I disagree. I think that whatever you as the author deem a novel then so be it. But regardless, I did reach the lofty goal of 50,000, so what am I going to do the other five days? I’m going to actually finish my novel, which may take 60,000 words, 65,000 words, or some area in between the two numbers. I’m fairly certain it will at least hit 60,000. And now the gloves are off. I’m done with specific word counts for the day. I’ll just write until I’m done writing for that day.

I’ve already reached the climax and I’ve just started the falling action of the plot for this novel, so I know I’m not too far away from the end. I’ve hit one milestone, and I’m ready for more. I’m ready to finish a novel.

Sam

I Am Not An Only Child

warning-Only-ChildI talked to my sister on the phone tonight. She is in Grand Rapids for the night, but she will be someplace else tomorrow. I am where I am going to be for the foreseeable future. And that’s okay. She is one of those fly-by-night sorts that I envy but that I could never be (and I mean that in the most literal of ways, I assure you). Don’t get me wrong, I used to be one of those people who packed up at a moment’s notice and headed elsewhere, but I think I’ve mellowed as I’ve aged. I know my hair has certainly mellowed. When I was younger I could grow an afro like nobody’s business, and now, after a year’s growth, it still doesn’t look like much more than I missed a couple weeks’ worth of cuts at the barber shop.

But anyway, I talked to my sister on the phone tonight for the first time in over a month, and while that’s unacceptable it’s certainly understandable given our crazy schedules, and our attempts to reconcile them with each other. Luckily we hit on it tonight, or at least she did, because I was just sitting here exhausted, writing, and she called my cell. Because I have a new phone it kept vibrating and I had no clue what was going on (now I know), but I called her back and we had a wonderful conversation. We were able to do that because I am not an only child.

Only children are odd, but not in an odd way. They’re odd because I don’t understand them, how they operate. My wife is an only child, and I tease her about it often, but it’s real, the struggle of only children. They will never know the joy of riding on a long trip with their siblings and playing the license plate game, sharing Twizzlers, or saying, “Are we THERE yet?!” at the top of their lungs trying to outscream each other. Only children spent all of their time either being spoiled or being told to appreciate what they have. There were no hand-me-downs, no arguments about who gets to sit in the front seat, no plethora of birthdays to remember, and no getting jealous over nonequivalent Christmas gifts.

Which is funny, because for some reason I’ve always been attracted to only children. Maybe it’s that I’ve always felt it was a challenge because their parents have invested so much in them and only them ,that the vetting process would be worth the hassle in order to say that, “yes, I’m the ONE who your ONLY daughter wants to be with.” And just reading that out loud I can see where that would seem incredibly shallow, but that’s now how it’s meant. You see, I’m not an only child, so I don’t know how the other side thinks, and I do my best to figure it out on a daily basis.

Oh, and it’s my oldest brother’s birthday today but for the life of me I don’t know how old he actually is, so I’m feeling a bit inadequate as a brother, even though we didn’t grow up together so maybe I shouldn’t know. Perhaps it’s just the expectations of society that make me feel so inadequate, but I did wish him a happy birthday. Maybe I’m covered. That’s the other thing about having siblings, though, that there are more expectations, more nieces and nephews, even more birthdays to remember, the pressures of being the best brother, uncle, cousin, and everything else that comes along with not being an only child. But I don’t think I would trade in all of that for the chance at being the only one, because I love my siblings, and I wouldn’t even know what to do if I didn’t have them.

I am not an only child, but it’s okay if you are. I don’t judge only children. They’re just different from me, and that’s okay. But I’ve never been an only child, so if you are, please bear with me. I’m a work in progress.

Sam

What is Plot? Baby, Don’t Hurt Me.

a39d3be0a3edc721c6e72181a30a9e42Plot is the way the story moves forward. Not backward, but forward. Too often plot seems a bit circuitous, wrapping around to meet itself again later in the novel, but by then you’re too confused as a reader to follow it, or you don’t care anymore. It’s called getting “cute” with the plot, and only writers like J.K. Rowling can constantly get away with it. As a writer I love plot because it gives me the ability to influence these characters’ worlds, to play a kind of god figure who has control over everything.

I like setting the plot before I begin writing the story, mapping out where I want my characters to end up, and then drawing a line to get them there. It’s admittedly old school, and sometimes the plot takes a divergence from the prescribed path because it takes on a mind of its own. I love it when that happens, but I don’t confuse it with me just getting scattered, or just being tired, and letting things wander. I ask myself:

Does the plot divergence still stick with the thematic elements I’ve set up?

Does the plot divergence help to define character motivations?

If both of those answers is “yes” then I go with it, and I thank god that I’ve been given a muse that can create those situations and meld them so well to the story as I had initially outlined it. For example, I’m working on my novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and my plot leans on the turn of the seasons. I start the novel in winter, and I was set to finish it in autumn, so that it completed the circle of a year, but as I’ve been creating the narrative it is telling me to finish at the end of summer instead. It helps my character development, and it moves my plot along at a faster pace, which keeps interest level up.

It’s a win-win.

And I love these characters too. Some writers tend to have setting-driven plots, while others prefer character-driven ones. I’ve always been a character-driven kind of guy, preferring a rich cast of characters to a lushly written scene setting masterpiece. That’s not to say I don’t focus on setting, because I do, but it’s clearly second in my hierarchy of developing the plot and moving it along. Interactions between characters tend to move my plot along, and that’s no different in this new novel.

I’m over 40,000 words in, and as of now I’m thinking the novel will end at 65,000, so there’s a lot more plot to finish up, but I’m on the way down the mountain. I’m just hoping I can bring it home in an original way.

Sam

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