What’s the first song on the setlist?

 It starts.

It took only forty-four years.

Really? What took me so long?

Well, I had to wait until the stars I’ve scoped out nightly to converge at the right moment. Until that time came, I had to prepare. I had to expand and contract until I knew my limitations, taking in the rigors of failure until a smile and ‘thank-you’ masked everything. I had to constantly loom over the brilliance of others, shy away from any self-aggrandizing thoughts in the process. Such thoughts cloud personal assessment of worthiness anyway. This is the best way to remain as obscure and silent as possible until those damn balls of hot gas got together and bloomed into a blinking green light that said: IT IS TIME!

The problem is those stars didn’t exist. Stargazing isn’t even a remote hobby. This is just another pathetic instance of fear and procrastination sinking into the veins of another lost writer. Pressfield’s “resistance” in other words. When I realized that, I saw that days were just days and years just years, stars be damned. Wasted? Perhaps. Fortunately, I’ve filled those days and years with my version of life. Strangely, the type of life that spews from the faucet into this forty-four-year-old cup is a brew containing guitar riffs, fatherhood and data analytics. There are others out there leading similar lives, I’m sure. They are talented musicians. They are devoted parents. They can sing Journey songs. They drink lots of beer. They can do VLOOKUPs in their sleep. Above all that, they have a nagging need to write. Short form. Long form. They write. It’s a strange brew, indeed, but I would say hello and pass along my friendship.

One challenge of the blank page is that there is so much to say, but to say it one word at a time. The good words. The right words. Putting down the scrapings of the mind as Richard Matheson might have said. This takes time. More time because I have to take a breath and hesitate. It’s much easier to run away and go lurking in forums, posting the occasional: “Hey you know what I think is cool?” And there is a lot out there that is cool to write about. So, good words or no, here’s one word at a time (or maybe several words at once). Ride forth, Sir Jack of One-Hundred-Cover-Tunes, the first of his name.

The toy-box is overstuffed with stuff. The challenge is finding the time to open it up and pick through the things to play with, or in this case, to write about. Let’s see… Here’s an old robot-looking-thing missing an arm. What was this one called? Shogun Warriors? Oh look, there’s that magnetic action figure with the cool red bat-wing helmet. This is all old crap, though. Find something newer; or even better, find something to complain about. No. Forget that. Save the negative for later. Ah, here’s something.

For those that are not parents and never want to be, that’s totally fine. I don’t hold it against them. Freedom is as freedom does. It doesn’t make one with children better than one without. There’s probably enough bratty insolent kids in the world anyway that outnumber the many suffering children desperately in need of help. Besides, this isn’t a matter of population control. It’s just that kids really do say the darndest things. After reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, what still resonates to me is the little quip her son says after being asked if the night air smelled wonderful. His response was that it “smells like moon”. Whether we are a parent or parentless, we cannot deny that we were once children, and as children we had such brilliant child logic. These little versions of ourselves observe life while learning the language but fitting words together like wrong pieces on the puzzle board. As adults, we want to laugh because of the naivety involved, but we ponder further because these children’s misplaced words provide a lucid brevity we as adults would never have thought of, and from that gain a greater understanding and longing for the innocence of our misspent youth.

Here’s some more kid-wit heard in my lifetime:

“The sun has hot breath”

“Daddy, you’re late. I thought you died.” (said nonchalantly)

“My poop stopped. Why did it stop when I still have to poop?”

“These Cheetos are the best. I’ll bet God eats Cheetos?”

Eating vegetarian bacon: “These aren’t real pigs. They had to kill fake pigs to make this.”

Sometimes they are brutally honest.

“Why does he smoke if it’s going to kill him?”

“Daddy you drink too much beer.”

“He smells like diapers.”

Our goal is to continue to listen, and to laugh.

Let’s put this back in the toy-box and grab this other one for next time: How to write a novel during weddings.

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