Saturday, January 23, 2010

Blood on Brow.

"Interest lies not so much in a topic as in what a writer has made of it" -Thomas S. Kane

About a year ago I picked up a book called The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing. This is the sort of thing that I walk past on the shelf and naively whisk off to the register with the hair-brained idea that I can become a great writer overnight. It has happened once or twice. If there is one thing that really annoys me about writers that read books about writing it is the fact that they rarely write.

I've enjoyed writing on this blog and the ones before it for five and a half years now. Looking back over that vast body of hastily and poorly written meandering prose I've realized that I write only when it pleases me to write. Good writers write to some other end. I use writing as a crutch to balance out my lack of eloquence with the spoken word - as if to say, "Hey, look how well I can put things when I have a half hour or so to think about them first." Stupid things roll out of my mouth like bullets from a mini-gun. If only I had 30-45 minutes to formulate a response to any given interaction in real life - but alas. I think that is another big reason that I enjoy writing, it affords me that luxury of editing my thoughts.

I just read Don Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It was good. In it he quotes a writer who says, in effect, that he doesn't like writing but he likes having written. What a good quote. There you have a psalm of sorts that fits into so many different scenarios. We don't like accomplishing things - we like having accomplished them. Am I right? Think about whatever it is you do and I bet you'll see that the light at the end of the tunnel is what keeps you going. You want to know that you did something worth while but that doesn't mean it feels worth it while you're doing it.

Long story short I'm going to work on being a writer for "reals." Not the kind of writer that writes to have a couple of laughs or blow off steam and get comments from two or three awesomely loyal friends  (thanks guys!) but one that really and truly can backhand the English language into submission. As such I am going to start by doing some of the exercises at the end of the chapter in this Oxford book. This is not going to be pretty. My grasp of correct grammar, usage, and especially style and mechanics leaves much to be desired. I probably violated 12 or more rules in the above sentence alone. Nevertheless, I'll never get better without first writing poorly.

Exercise 1:
"List ten or twelve topics you might develop into a short essay" then "Selecting one of the topics off your list, compose a paragraph about the readers for whom you might develop it."

1) The meaning of life and Ecclesiastes
2) The Hipster: Looking forward into a new decade
3) The New Year: an underrated holiday
4) Setting Goals vs Forcing Changes in Behavior
5) All Grown Up and No Place to Go: Graduating into a Down Economy
6) Working for the Weekend (how life changes in the real world)
7) The art of contentment.
8) The Romance of Cheap Beer
9) Life in Shrink Wrap
10) One Month Without Facebook

9) In this essay I would explore the use of shrink wrap in the commercial industry to seal products. We think of it as a protective covering but I would argue that its purpose is less tangible. The audience is 20-something pseudo-intellectuals with too much time on their hands and an inflated sense of self-importance. Coincidentally, that also describes the author. They have grown up knowing what it feels like to rip the wrapper from a CD jewel case so they will connect with experience of breaking a factory seal and relate easily to the parallels and parable used to draw real life examples of how we mentally shrink wrap our friends, families, and ourselves in one way or another.
assignment one: finished

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grand Pinano

I have found them. The world's most gifted wordsmiths have all gathered at the same place on the internet. They don't write novels or memoirs, no no. They are talented chiefly in their unprecedented gift of description. I have seen no greater example of never ending and creative adjectives than I did on this website. It isn't a travel site or a dirty girly site. These descriptions come from none other than a beer connoisseur site.

Who knew there were such dramatic and meaningful terms to describe the qualities of a glass of the brewski? I sure didn't, but if you don't believe me here are some excerpts.

The taste is surprisingly balanced. Ooh, look, here's the malt! This isn't a tooth disintegrating, cheek numbing, hop bomb of an iipa like some out there. It's got actual balance. Sure the hops are stong enough to blast your palate and drown out any milder beers for the rest of the night, but this ain't Ruination. It's balanced.

A rush of pine, candi sugar, a bit of molasses, and finishes simi sweet with a crushing spice at the end that lingers forever!

Coats the air with honey seared grapefruits and flowery resined hops. I pushed my nose close to the glass to inhale the orchestra of melting spruce and fresh pine needles. Hints of lemon soaked tangerines. Smells like they corked a pine tree and drained out all of the sap while blowing it full of toffee smoke. Citrus, berries, and perfection.

For those who care to read even more beer reviews the site is

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I was supposed to go to work today but I am sick. All night I rolled around with the cold sweats, the kind you only get by having the flu or disembarking from a roller coster after feasting on Tex-Mex. In my case it must be the former.

I'm glad I have a good family. All throughout the day one or two of them will come poking their heads in the door to see how I'm doing, bring me soup, medicine, or tissues. This is the part of living with your parents that really is cool, (the part that isn't cool being when you reveal it to your coworkers and/or attractive people of the opposite sex).

If you haven't just uselessly laid in bed for an entire day you really are cheating yourself. Tons of fascinating things happen when nothing fascinating at all is happening. Today, for instance, I stared at my legs for about 3 minutes. Before you dismiss me as a hallucinating fevered flu victim, allow me to explain. I spend every day in such a rush to get through the day that I have completely ignored my legs for months. As far as my consciousness of my legs goes, I only think about them when they hurt or when I am concerned that my pants are too short, a fear which stems from the brutal teasing I received as a middle schooler in "high-waters." If you were to ask me how I got around I'd tell you that I walked, but I doubt that I really ever actually think about it. I may as well be levitating everywhere I go. 

If we're really honest, life would be more interesting if we all levitated instead of walked. In my mind I just pictured a family at the mall, sitting Indian style in a meditative pose while floating into The Footlocker. See. Infinitely more interesting than the old ladies that power walk the hell out of those places.

After a while I just began thinking about everything in a peculiar way. Maybe this is because on a normal day I don't have the option to think about much of anything that doesn't somehow relate to better serving our members. I remember how alien the whole thing felt when I first got there. The thought that 80% of someone's waking time should be spent on doing well at work just baffled me.

"There are more important things to concern ourselves with," I thought.

Things like being a good friend, pondering the infinity of space and giving your cat a mohawk. Who could actually put the majority of their time and effort into the building or sustaining of a lifeless, dull, uninteresting entity like a company? The answer, I have found, is me. Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up and despite what your mother told you, you can't be whatever you want to be as long as you try really, really hard. Most of us will line up single file and take our seats in corporate oblivion and what is really scary is that you will start to be okay with it. Not just a little okay, but really deep down okay with it to the point that you don't even consciously think about it being unworthy of your time anymore. Well, except on days like today when you have all the free time in the world to think about such things - and to stare at your legs, of course.