Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why I write daily, at FFDO

This weekend I have an essay up at about my creative process and why I don't just write daily, but publish daily. I've been blogging at The Bathroom Monologues every day for about five years. Estrella Azul was curious as to exactly why I do it.

It's mostly about learning to criticize your inner critic, and letting the ideas you actually want through. It's also about frequent failure and my sundry insecurities. So if you'd like a glimpse of my process or psyche, click on through here.

And thank you for reading.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Tell Me About Her

Tell me about her.

Whenever I made waffles, she’d steal my fork. She’d pair it with her own, turning them upside down, turning them into stabby feet, and have them march over the waffles as she narrated Mothra’s latest attack on Japan. She pretended to snore whenever I explained Mothra was a flying-type monster.

Tell me about her.

She licked the roof of my mouth too often when we kissed. She didn’t know how to kiss very well, but she was awesome at that one trick.

Tell me about her.

She was five feet and five inches in bare feet. She was a hundred and nineteen pounds in the winter.  She wore corrective lenses because she was nearsighted. Ever since she was a kid... this isn't right.

Tell me about her.

She once waited on a rope line for two hours to greet George W. Bush as he got off his plane in the next county over. It was raining and blustery, and she put up with all of it just to fake him out and pull her hand away as he reached to shake it. She did the whole “running her hand through her hair” thing. Afterward she had to talk to a guy for half an hour. She fell asleep in his office.

Tell me about her.

She loved sad movies and never cried at them. She'd lean forward in her chair and squint, and groan skeptically, and sometimes chew her upper lip like this didn’t make sense. When we got home she’d buy the screenplay. She only read screenplays alone. They’re what made her cry.

Tell me about her.

She loved hating sports. She would say she was going out, or upstairs to read, or simply promise to stay out of the living room, and within five minutes of starting time she’d plant her ass on the couch. I’ve never seen her so animated as when she was complaining about the rules being arbitrary and the game being dumb and the losing team being treated unfairly. Never. Well, maybe it’s a tie between that and sex, but I don’t have witnesses to how animated she got during sex. I have a Superbowl party of witnesses to her throwing a bowl of popcorn at a blind referee.

Tell me about her.

She always got tired. She got tired when we were in school – she fell asleep during a midterm and snored her way to a C+, so we didn’t think much about it. I drove. I shoveled the driveway. When I think of all the things I did instead of her, without really talking to her, or asking why, or making her ask why… She just got tired. It was a quirk. Except it wasn’t a quirk.

Tell me about her.

I don’t know how.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Gifts of Spartans and Concubines

So it's Jupiter and Juno's wedding day, and various presents arrive. There are garters of stars, armor that repels war itself, and a mysterious box from Pandora, which neither of them finds funny.

Two gifts are the most curious. At 10:00, three hundred of the grisliest Spartans ever seen march to the altar of Parnassus. Each is clad in full regalias, tower shields and immaculate spears.

At 10:01, three hundred of the most beautiful concubines seen under the sun march to those same altars. They perspire ambrosia and have such golden hair that mines close in despair at having been rendered obsolete.

Jupiter asks of his bride, "What's up with those people?"

Juno rolls her eyes. "The men are from Mars. The women are from Venus."

The two gods were banned from the wedding. The Spartans and concubines were kept around.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: The Culture Machine, OR, The Five Star Scheme

“Star ratings were a conspiracy hatched by an Illuminati that seeks to de-luminate you. It’s clickable, skimmable, nonsensical and diabolical – that natural next step from awards shows. They are the neuro-cynics who make you cede your minds to their widgets.

“Annual awards slowly tricked you into thinking great stuff comes out every year. Hey, a Man Booker shortlist. Did you watch the Emmy nomination livestream? And some movie wins every year, and now ten films get nominated! Culture is so saturated with congratulation that you never have the opportunity to reflect on the last work of art that profoundly altered you. Now simply mattering in an annual cycle bestows greatness.

“And now – now it’s even easier, because everyone votes on Amazon star ratings and Metacritic User Reviews. You don’t even have to review it. Just click! Four of five available stars? That’s pretty good, and since most users are too stupid to use anything but the top and bottom of the scales, thousands of products get high averages. Good for companies, good for actors, good for authors, as you’re gradually convinced that all five-star books are the same. You don’t need truly exceptional works, because Breaking Dawn really is as good as Brothers Karamazov. Heck, it’s rated a tenth of a point higher by the average reader! And who are these readers? The five-star scale doesn’t care, because democracy doesn’t care who you are. It’s about registering to vote. Registering to churn the culture machine.”

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: “But when we look around us at the state of literacy – and in particular at all those signs for “BOBS’ MOTORS”….” –Lynn Truss, “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”

But Carmen couldn’t wait, not with that sign in the window. Her mother was an English teacher, damn it. She told Samuel that she’d pay and stormed into the gas station. She saw the clerk and was fixing him with her stare before she was even at the counter.

“I want to speak to the owner,” she said.

“I’m one of them,” he said, taking off his hat. “What can I do for you?”

“You’re Bob, then?” she said, glancing at the “BOBS’ MOTORS” sign in the window.

He nodded and shrugged at the same time.

“Like I said, I’m one of them.”

“One of them?” She gawked. “How illiterate are you?”

Another man came in from the back, this one taller, his overalls stained with oil.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Bob answered. “I think the lady wants to speak to us about literacy.”

The other man rubbed his hands on his overalls and looked at Carmen.

“There’s a rack of paperbacks by the door if that’s what you’re after.”

“No,” Carmen said, almost stamping her foot. “The sign on your store is incorrectly punctuated. If the store belongs to Bob,” she pointed at the man behind the counter, “then the apostrophe goes before the ‘s,’ not after.”

“Well, yeah,” said the guy in overalls. “But it doesn’t. It belongs to all of us Bobs.”

Carmen took a moment on this.

“You’re Bob?”

“Yeah. Bob McClane.” He gestured to the Bob behind the counter. “That’s Bobby Green. His dad’s Bobby Green Sr. I’ve got a cousin, Bob Jaffey. All four of us have a stake in the place.”

“In Bobs’ Motors?” she asked, regretting having not let her husband come in to pay.

“Yeah,” said both Bobs.

She looked down into her purse.

“Twenty dollars of unleaded, please.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Foot Stopped Working

So on Thursday the 3rd I was in the hospital. I’m going back this week for updates and more tests. It’s nothing serious; I just can’t feel my foot, and if the condition spreads, I’ll never walk again.

We’re calling it “neuropathy” for now. It feels like nothing serious because of how I’ve been jerked around. The podiatrist gave me non-prescription drugs that did nothing and seemed annoyed that I wanted to know why my toes had gone numb. My regular doctor was too busy to see me; his physician’s assistant was willing, then too busy, and on our make-up, caught a cold and left work early. It took me four tries to see anybody.

But man, fourth try is the charm! They drew a dizzying amount of blood for three pages of tests. I’m fielding a new unit of measurement for blood: “the Tarantino.” Sally extracted at least a Tarantino from me to see if this is a blood disease, diabetes, hepatitis, MS, or, well, I hadn’t heard of half these things. Eventually the joke became that maybe I was pregnant (it doesn’t know where to grow in me, you see). I promised to name it after Sally if I was.

So now I’m editing my next novel and waiting for a phone call to find out if something is enormously wrong with me. Is this just my foot, or will it spread? Will that symptom turn out to be the tip of an iceberg? Hurry up and wait.

I’m going to blog about this going forward. I believe in publicly exposing our most sensitive moments. While fiction is my favorite means of self-expression, this is a gaping wound in my life. Every living person walks around pretending they don’t have gaping wounds in their lives, and so I’m going to show mine, in the hopes that more people don’t feel so uncomfortable or driven to hiding theirs. Hiding what’s eating you is a terrible idea, not only because you often avoid the kind of reflection and feedback that might help, but because human history is littered with people who hid that their fuses were burning until they blew. Whether it’s closeting your depression, or shouldering cancer on your own, or a marriage that needs scrutiny and only receives silence – there are too many ways we hurt ourselves. I’ll happily embarrass myself to do a little good for somebody else.

If that makes no sense to you, we can talk about it.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bathroom Monologue: Paper Vs. E-Books

Your book is made out of dead trees.

Your Kindle sucks electricity.

Your book doesn't work in the dark.

Your Kindle needs to be plugged in or it goes dark.

Your book is the same book every day.

An e-tailer can't rescind my paper copy of 1984.

If my Kindle falls apart, they’ll send me a new one.

I love the smell of my old books.

I love the grayscale on my reader.

I like to make notes in the margins.

I like never losing my place.

My book never runs out of batteries.

My Kindle never runs out of stories.

Yours is worse.

Yours is worse.

Both are risky in a bathtub.
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