The time for even more of my opinions has come. My essay collection, Thoughts I Wrote Down Because I Hate Talking to People is now live at several merchant sites. It will become available in several others in the coming days. Here is a universal link to see if your preferred source for ebooks has it.
As with my last free book, it is not available on Amazon itself at the moment. The reason for this is that to make something free on Amazon, it must remain exclusive for a time to Amazon, and I did not want to take that step with this book. You can, however, find a file of it among the sources that is Kindle friendly, if that is you preference. (Something should be done to make free books easier to place on Amazon, however. That’s getting a bit old.)
I don’t yet know if I will have paperback copies of this published, since by page count it is rather short. I will consider it, however.
Until then, please enjoy my thoughts, ramblings complaints, pleas and ponderings that make up this volume. As always, if you enjoy, leave a review if you please, at your preferred source.
A week from today, my collection of lie essays, which I have titled, Thoughts I Wrote Down Because I Hate Talking to People will become available for free as an ebook. Though there are some reminiscences in the collection, it isn’t a memoir, per se.
I’ve joked about writing a memoir someday. I tell people that I’m not sure when that someday would be, but it would at least have to be after my life became interesting.
I did write a sort-of memoir once, if you stretch the term to its limit that is. It wasn’t published, and wasn’t intended to be. It relayed the experiences I had being a member of a cast of a play in college.
The play, the first full length production I was ever in, had in many ways been life-changing, or even life-affirming at the time. Not because of the script, (much of which we ourselves wrote) but because of the process. From start to finish it was about a sixth month process of workshopping, writing, editing, rehearsing, fighting and eventually bonding with one another. Or so I thought when it was happening, as people I didn’t like evolved into people I did like through work, through social activity, and through familiarity.
The show, which we took out on the road a few times, brought me the largest, most responsive audience I’ve ever performed in front of. It was because of this production that I not only knew I wanted to keep acting in some way, but also came to realize (so I thought at the time) that I did in fact have the means within me to make positive impressions on the lives of people. I could befriend people. I could, in essence matter to people in the way I wanted to matter. This, perhaps more than the play itself, was the source of the power of the experience. A connection with people who at last seemed connected to a part of me I never was any good at bringing forth.
So moved by and appreciative of the experience was I, that I wanted both to remember it forever, but also gift my thoughts and feelings about it to my cast mates. After all, they helped make it all happen. So the following summer, I spent much of my free time writing a brief but detailed account of my experience in the show, wherein everyone came out looking good, and I confessed my own contributions to some of the early difficulties we went through. Inside jokes and stories we all loved to tell one another were included, as was acknowledgment that the people changed my life for the better.
The memoir, like the production itself, became a labor of love for theatre, for the production, and yes, for the people involved.
Of the six people for whom I in large part wrote this heartfelt memoir, one read it and enjoyed it sincerely. One other read it but didn’t have much to say about it. One read it, said it had it’s moments, but that I hadn’t been totally fair to everyone involved. He said his wife, (also in the show) straight up refused to read it at all, preferring to remember the show “in her own way.” Two others never read it at all, as far as I recall, though they had scattered to the four winds by the time I finished it, and may never have had the chance.
The note from the cast mate on behalf of his wife and himself was the last thing I ever heard from him. Attempts to befriend him or his wife on social media in the years since have been met with silence, and I have long since given up. I still talk to three of the others on Facebook sometimes.
Hurtful. That’s the most direct way to describe it. While everyone experiences something a little differently, I didn’t think that my memoir would cause reactions ranging from indifference to irritation. The bonds I thought that particular group had formed weren’t strong enough to enjoy the memoir for what it was in the end; a gift to all of them, as a means to look back and recall fondly what at the time they seemed just as excited by as I was.
I’m used to people opting right out of my life without explanation. Happens a lot. But their lack of explanation remains one of the more perplexing of them all.
The short, lazy lesson to take from this would be, “my undiagnosed autism at the time made me think everyone was having a great time with each other, but really they were not.” I tell myself that sometimes, but it isn’t totally convincing.
I’ve also theorized it was the memoir, and not the experience that I got wrong. I guess I wasn’t supposed to write a memoir of my own experiences. I suppose that for some reason, certain parties within that once seemingly indivisible group felt embarrassed or threatened by my own account. Even though I said nothing in it I did not say in person, and made no jokes about anyone or anything I did not joke about during the production along with the rest of them, maybe seeing it in writing was the kicker. (Though I told all of them I was writing it ahead of time.)
Perspective, correct or incorrect is a powerful thing. It’s a scary thing. Taking someone else’s perspective of common events presents us with the possibility of less stable ground, potentially challenging our own reality to its core.
Immersing ourselves in someone else’s perspective is scary for a different reason too; it’s intimate. If one presents an honest perspective on an event, a reader must partake in a certain intimacy. Both parties are powerless to truly ruin anyone else’s interpretation of events, but only if the other person possesses fundamental security in who and what they are. Perhaps some of the people I was in the play with were too insecure, are too insecure to not only read my perspective on an event, but to connect with me again long after same.
Or maybe I just pissed them off somehow. I’ll probably never know. I do know that experiences such as what I thought were taking place that half-year are for various reasons cruxes in my adulthood, and it has been no small thing to accept, with the passage of time, that in fact the experience seems to have meant little to most of the others. It no longer haunts me that this is so, but it will always perplex me.
However, I take my own advice on the matter, and conclude ultimately that the surprising and once sad distance some of the others have constructed from those events need not destroy the totality of it all within my memory. For I’m secure in what I experienced. It is what I experienced as me, far more than what I experienced reflected off of any of them that has altered the trajectory of my spiritual life.
And if some of them don’t want to acknowledge that, (or me) anymore, well, I’m afraid they can adopt a new perspective on my ass and pucker up.
Though in Maryland February felt like March, or in fact felt like May, it is still winter, officially, for a few more weeks. Come the 20th of this month, however, regardless of the temperature, spring begins.
Also on that day, I will be launching the collection of essays I’ve been working on!
Yes, that is really the title, and yes, that is really me, intentionally disheveled. And yes, assuming I can get all the grooves lined up, this is the actual cover I hope to use for this ebook. What it lacks in artistry I hope will be made up by the sense of comic weariness and total candor that I have tried to infuse with the 30 or so essays in the collection.
It’s memoir-ish in places. In other places it’s a curmudgeon’s rant. And, if I’m any good at my job, it is in places funny, thoughtful, and even touching.
But mostly, it’s me giving my opinions on stuff.
This will be my first foray into publishing a non-Fiction book. It’s also taking quite a leap to ask readers to take a visit into my mind for a while. So, this volume will be free.
I just felt there were some things I wanted to express. I also wanted to see how I would progress with a non-fiction collection, now that I have two novels and two short story collection under my indie-author belt.
The word “shit” appears 71 times throughout these 30 essays. (Longest length being about 1600 words. Average is about 700 words.) So I wanted to get that out there for you more sensitive types.
I also talk a bit about sex, in a round-a-bout sense a few times.
So if none of that bothers you, of if it does but you want to try this out anyway, stay tuned, and be ready to download on March 20th.
I’m near the end of a latter draft-a stage script I’ve been working on for about two years or so, with some time off. Comedy, with a few touching (one hopes) moments.
It’s the first full length play I have written. I like it. I think it’s funny when it should be. The plot is not complicated, but I hope the dialogue is fun for most people to listen to. And of course, fun for future actors to deliver.
The plot is straight forward for the most parts. Not many sharp twists and turns. Maybe a surprise here and there, but nothing to blow people away. It wasn’t designed to blow people away.
Some people will argue against this, but I’ve always felt that in script if the characters are memorable and the dialogue fun to both speak and listen to, half the work if not more, is done.
I’ve been in theatre for a lot of years now, in all kinds of different plays. Some had complicated plots, and some had virtually no plot. Everything in between. And while upon reading a script I can be impressed with plot depth or twists to a certain extent, as an actor it means little if none of the characters say anything memorable.
This is not to suggest that plot doesn’t matter in a play. Of course it does. But Shakespeare himself wasn’t considered a keen plotter. In fact, most of his plots are structured around plots that already existed. May not be totally fair of me to pull the Bard out like that to prove my point, but when it fits it fits; Shakespeare is not beloved for his plots. he is beloved for his language and characters.
But set him aside for a moment. Goldman’s “The Lion in Winter” (in which I played Geoffrey once) is bar none my favorite non-Shakespeare script. At times it dips its toes into “convoluted plot” territory. But I, and I imagine many thousands of people over the years (thanks in part to the movie version as well) find it easier to overlook some of that thickening plot due to the absolute brilliance of the dialogue. Seriously, if you took the 30th best line in this script and put it in just about any other play, it would be the best line of that play.
But if the characters were flat? If their speeches were droning, repetitive affairs? The script would deservedly be long forgotten, if it ever would have been published and produced at all.
Boring characters doing something interesting will to me always lose out in a head to head battle against fascinating people doing mundane things.
Even in such genres as farce, wherein nothing is to be taken at face value and nobody represents any realistic person, we still must recall the nature of a character and what he or she brought to the absurdity. Otherwise, it’s boring people yelling, falling, and slamming doors for two hours. Who cares?
Other people will almost certainly not be amazed by the plot of this play I am writing. But I hope they will remember with a smile the characters and some of what they say.
If that happens, I will have done my job as a playwright.
On a top shelve in my closest is a set of boxes full of paper. The thickest of these contained the original first draft of my debut novel, Flowers of Dionysus. Four hundred-fifty odd printed pages. (I think the word count was around 120,000.) Those boxed pages of my proto-novel have scribblings in red ink all over the place.
If you’ve read it, (it would be nice if you did) you know that the final word count of that novel was about 80,000. I removed almost half of those first draft pages in total. Then I stuffed the draft in the box.
I printed each subsequent draft of the novel, (each one thankfully a bit smaller.) I also boxed them, and put them in the closet on top of the box with the first draft.
A lot of real estate on that shelf is dedicated to the initial versions of debut novel.
In contrast, there is zero shelf space dedicated to drafts of Murder. Theatre. Solitaire. One reason is that I only ever printed the rough draft, on which I made the usual notes. I never printed the following drafts.
Furthermore, I didn’t even save the printed first draft. I may or may not save future novel first drafts; I’ve not yet decided. But I have decided that the first draft will almost certainly be the only one that gets printed. You see, I’m not a pack rat of drafts anymore.
At first I thought it was important to somehow archive every draft of my novel. Not because I thought the library at Marietta College would one day beg for my papers relating to my runaway bestseller, but because I had learned over the years that many authors save every scrap. Every draft, every scribble, every character sketch, every abandoned story. “You never know when you might need that scrap,” said the advice articles collectively. Others also mentioned how valuable it would be to see my progress as a writer later on.
I think I’ve opened the first draft box once or twice. To the best of my memory, I’ve not cracked the boxes of the later drafts of Dionysus since I stuffed the papers into same years ago. As I said, that was the first, and last time I followed the practice.
Lest you laud me as some kind of eco-hero I must point out that I don’t save digital drafts either. I write my second draft of a novel within the master file of the first draft, according to the notes made on the printed paper.As that remains the file I alter throughout the entire process; I don’t archive previous versions. I sense how small of a minority I’m in here, but I just don’t see the point much of the time.
My goal when writing a piece is to produce a finished product that people can read, enjoy, be moved by and so on depending on the nature of the piece. That process of polishing and fixing and softening edges is just that-a process. I have certainly learned, I hope, from the process of writing any given novel or short story, or play, but as my goal is to create something that is better than the current draft, holding on to the current draft serves little purpose to me beyond nostalgia.
Don’t get me wrong. If I find any given excised scene from a novel worthy of its own story at some point I will set it aside in a separate file for future consideration. It’s uncommon, but it has happened. Yet in that case it’s more a matter of source material, than a draft, because I’ll only keep the pieces that have potential, and not the entire version of the novel by which they are surrounded.
And abandoned projects? (Defined as those that were never completed, as opposed to completed works for which I have not yet found a home) I don’t actually have many of those. If it’s a short story that I have started and couldn’t get going, I’m more than likely to just can the entire draft, and start over in the future if/when the idea can be approached in a fresh manner. I’ll be aware of what went wrong the previous time from memory. So it’s not just a matter of room or computer memory, but a lack of necessity, on my part.
As for longer abandoned works, those are even less common. In fact the only unfinished long work I have is the novel I iced (ironically) two years ago this very day. While I have my doubts that a novel will ever emerged fully formed from those pages, I have nonetheless held on to them, as much for the time I put into them than anything else. I will mention that the nature of what that novel tried to be provides some fodder for a potential short story collection, so for now it is archived and not trashed.
Abandoning a novel after that much work on it is somewhat nauseating, and I hope not to repeat the experience often. But if I do, I won’t know until the time comes if I keep the drafts or not.
I do still have what remains of my first ever Nanowrimo experience. I didn’t finish the plot, but got to 50K in a month. I’ve never dug back into it, and although I could one day, it’s still around as much for the distinction of being my first Nano than anything else.
In short, from what I gather from the comments or other writers I save far less than average. Drafts are for the most part a means to an end with me, and abandoned projects are usually abandoned with good reason.
How about you? What do you save of previous drafts or abandoned projects?