Saturday, May 16, 2015

Having to Listen to or Read Bad Stories

There is a moment this morning when you look up at the four persons in your writing group, then realize you're all crazy.  This is the good, two- or three-drink kind of crazy rather than the six or seven drink, drinking to numb over, borderline combativeness and the facade of being rebarbative.  

Even that combativeness is not so much meanness of spirit or misanthropy as from having to listen to bad stories or, worse, read bad stories.  A drunk does not have to be a mean drunk not a self-pitying drunk, both of which introduce the trait of boredom to drunkenness.  There is only one thing worse than a mean drunk or a self-pitying drunk--a boring drunk.

Of course you are not drinking booze, most of you instead slamming doubles of espresso, although one of them is confessing to decaf and another is saying Irish Breakfast tea, which is a few clicks above Sleepy Time.  You're reading and listening and working out effective sets of notes to be taken home to look at again when you are no longer group crazy but alone with the work crazy.

You're the oldest of the group, but the four others are far from being at that beginning stage where they believe a thing will be published if it is any good and that any good means it has some kind of ending where characters find some common ground after beating the crap out of one another, if not physically, then emotionally, or possibly a combination of both.  

A story going viral on the Internet features a group of friends who have built small houses together on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, thinking to grow old together because they are such great friends now.  While you think this is a great idea and can imagine living in such circumstances when you are older, you have numerous reasons to think of this trope as coming from a younger, more idealistic vision.

Besides, you are at the stage of being old you might have thought about when idealizing the idea of living in a row of small, neat houses, out on the edge of a place, with only your friends for neighbors.  A significant factor impacting the Neighbors Plan for you is the fact of two of your longest term friends and the person you married are no longer available to live in such sylvan splendor on account of being dead.  

Such things happen to people, changing the vision and attitudes of the living.  This has nothing to do with cynicism.  For one thing, being old is relative and you're pleased to note you are still advised on occasion to act your age, which you already believe you do, which in turn speaks to the matter of you not being ready for lawn bowling or bingo at the Camarillo Seniors' Center.

Thus you are neither cynical nor overly idealistic, nor, indeed grateful to have students who are undergraduates, which is a special and wonderful time.  You've had some young students, undergrads, who were pretty good writers, aching to learn, willing to take steps into the darkness.  Through them, you remember your own times when you had thoughts about living in small, tidy houses with friends you did not yet even know.  And you thought about writing stories that would explain the hidden mechanisms of miracles.

Not lost on you, the facts of younger writers gravitating toward genera in which magic or alternate universes hold sway.  What better way to insulate one's younger self against the frustrations and bumper pool aspects of Life in the crucible of Reality.  And what about that genre known as steam punk, which is, among other things, a flat out protest against the unlit craziness of contemporary times.

Your goal through all this craziness is to shed some light on the dark crazy spots, do your best to avoid boredom, and see if you can help emerging writers of any age learn how tho write things that will have within them no traces of boredom.

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