9.29.2016

Temper Tantrum

Note: I had something clever for the title, but at this point I can neither remember what it was, nor do I care to be clever. I'm calling it what it is. A good old fashioned temper tantrum.

There is likely to be a fair amount of negativity in this post. It is, after all, a rant of sorts. So, if that's not your thing, I get it. It's normally not mine, but as I've mentioned previously, sometimes I write in this blog to get that shit out of my head so I can move on to other things. Like which Netflix series to binge on next.

I also normally don't bitch about work on this blog. At least not since I actually got a job that I love, feel respected in, and feel like I'm making a difference at.  So...that isn't really going to change, but some of what precipitated this little blowing off of the steam, as it were, is work-related. So, there's that. Don't worry. If you're a co-worker that happens to be reading this-first off-how did you even find this blog?  Oh sorry. Right. If you're a co-worker that happens to be reading this, don't worry. It wasn't anything you did or said. If you are my boss or a person in management, again-don't worry. This probably doesn't have anything to do with you either.

So...temper tantrums.

I got to thinking about them yesterday as I was leaving work (because I was really close to melting down and having one).  Children have temper tantrums for one of two reasons. The first is because they are still learning the way the world works and trying to figure out their place in it and  how they are supposed to interact with the world around them.  The other reason children throw tantrums is because the old soul that is within them hasn't quite forgotten about the universe at large from whence they came and they can't believe that after all that time in the ethereal void they've been reincarnated back on to planet full of people who still don't have a fucking clue about the way the universe works.

I rather think that it's option #2 most of the time, but I think that most of the world generally accepts that it is the former.

Which is cool. If you're a child.  If you are, however, a grown ass man...neither option is really acceptable. No melt-downs at the grocery...or Starbucks...or the amusement park.  It seems, if you throw a temper tantrum as an adult, then you are scheduled appointments to have little chats with someone who is trying to diagnose you base on the psych version of the Monsters Manual.  The D-something-M-something. And once they have rolled for initiative, they prescribe little pills with exotic but totally made up names. 

So...I held it together yesterday as I was leaving work. The specifics don't matter...but the takeaway was that I'm not really doing enough to ensure that my team is successful and that I need to step it up.  This came on the heels of me saying I was leaving for the day for my daughter's graduation (which I was already pretty emotional about (inwardly) anyway).  So...by the time I got to my car, I was a bubbling mess of "what the fuck just happened?".   Not a good mindset when I have to drive home in shitty rainy weather AND then be in a good place to congratulate my daughter as she passed a MAJOR milestone in her adult life.

Had I written this post last night, hot on the heels of the vaguebook post, it would have been slightly different. In that it would have been based off of pure emotions and quite likely more venomous. I keep flashing to Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day" when he's driving with Puxatawny Phil--"Don't drive angry...don't drive angry."  I didn't. I didn't write angry. Because you can never truly take words back once they come out. I've learned that.

I did the next best thing. I got White Castles and played Bejeweled in "Butterfly" mode for a good hour or so and then I went to bed after that.  I let the thoughts about work settle and fall to the bottom of their appropriate buckets and decided that, "Fuck it. I will do the best job I can and the chips will have to fall wherever they fall.  I can't be everything to everyone."  There was more to that but that's in the paper version of this blog which I affectionately call my journal.  

So...ball of raw emotions leaving work. Then the commute home.  I shouldn't have to go in to details about that, other than to say whenever there is visible moisture in the air, people lose their shit.  It's kind of annoying, but after 27 years of driving I've come to expect it. 

And then another bundle of raw emotions hit me about 8:30.  My baby girl graduated from The Paul Mitchell School. She's had quite the 18month journey to do so, but it came to a close yesterday. 
When a student (or Future Professional) graduates, they make a tunnel and send them off. It looks kind of like this:

video


The last bit where it goes wonky at the end is because I got the first hug. I am not going to lie. I was choked up. I held back the tears--at least until I got home.
There is something about seeing your child grow up and start doing adult things. Like....actually adulting. It's surreal.  

Things fall in to perspective, at least they are for me.  The world is wide open for her. 

But fuck, man. What's going on in my life? See...this is where the rubber really hits the road. I look at the world ahead of her and I think of my life up to this moment. What would I do differently? What would I change?  

And sometimes that's a really selfish train of thought, to be perfectly honest. Because it's basically saying, "Fuck anyone I have ever interacted with, influenced even in the slightest, or touched in anyway." Because let's be honest...if you could change anything in your life that would mean that everything after that point would change.  Would it change for the better? Maybe. That's the siren song of the what-if game. We all play the what-if game as though the outcome will be to have a better life than what we have now. But what if it isn't?  What if one little choice sets everything off the rails and it gets totally boned?

I can't imagine any change in my life that having made it would still allow me to wind up here. In this moment. In this sometimes being so frustrated I could scream while still being thankful for my amazing life moment. 

I guess this really wasn't a temper tantrum. The shouting at the drivers all the way home (especially the asshat in the black Honda Civic)--now THAT was more along the lines of a temper tantrum. Or road rage. One of the two.

And apropos of nothing at all...as I'm writing this...I get interrupted (because I still take my lunches in the break room, like a dumbass).  And the message is...we're behind on getting issues resolved. And that I need to put a plan together. Which could involve some additional work on the weekends. Well...it was presented as the need for overtime. The weekend bit was a suggestion.

Which...fuck.  My weekends in October are ridiculously tight. Several of the weekends are booked. But now it looks like some of that may change. Which...fuck. Seriously balls.  I am sitting here thinking that there's no way I really want to miss the Imaginarium convention next weekend, but it looks like that very thing might happen.  I've been told that we haven't actually caught up and been ahead of the curve since I came back from my surgery. That was Summer of 2015. 

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I have many more thoughts on this, but the not so subtle message here is that break time is over and I need to get my ass back to work.

Peace
-A.T.

9.22.2016

Introspection and a Brain Dump of Sorts

There is a thing that people when they fail at something. In the process of doing this thing, they look at what happened, what went awry, is there anything to be done to prevent the same kind of failure from happening in the future. And what can be done in the future, should they attempt to undertake the same challenge.  This process is commonly called 'growth.'  It requires some serious introspection and asking yourself the tough questions sometimes.

Which explains why I haven't really done much of it since the second divorce.

The last person you should really look to is the guy who has tried to be married twice (didn't really take either time). It's OK, though, from the first marriage I got an amazing daughter. From the second marriage I got some good lessons and insights in to the kind of person I am and the kind of people I need to be in my life. So...it was kind of an 'all's well that ends in divorce' kind of scenario.

If you are looking for me to bash either of my ex-wives in this piece, you probably ought to move on. That's not really what this is about. Both women put up with me as long as they could, the best they knew how.   Now--don't get me wrong, I'm not taking all of the blame for the failure of both marriages. Short of abuse or death, the success or failure of a marriage is (in my humble opinion) solely in the hands of both people in the relationship.  Marriage is (or at least I think it should be) like this thing that you both hold on to. I got my end, you got yours and we walk together through life.

So, in the quiet hours in my apartment, it occurs to me that there are some key things that, had they been in place, would have allowed either or both of the marriages to continue. Maybe.

Maybe not. Maybe I'm delusional in that regards and what follows is actually the stuff of fairy tales, but I've seen marriages work and I think that the ones that do have, at their core, the following three things:

  • A Deliberate Choice to BE in Love 
  • Open, Honest, and sometimes Painful Communication
  • Laughter

I should pause here to mention that I have absolutely no credentials in this field and this is all just stuff that's been floating around in my head. And it's been there so long that it's time to do a brain dump and move on. 

So...moving on.



A Deliberate Choice to BE in Love
I think falling in love with someone is by and large biological. We are attracted to certain people for certain reasons. Reasons that make us want to be around that person more and more. And at some point, we reach the conclusion that 'Hey...this person is pretty neat and I'd like to spend as much time with them as possible, please.' I'm pretty sure that phase is called being in love.  Being in love is such an amorphous term. It means something different to different people. I think most would agree that loving someone and being in love are two different things. Up to and past the point where the judge told me I was no longer married, I loved both of my wives. I still have a love for each of them. It's nowhere near the same kind or level of love that I had for them while I was married (or courting or whatever).  There are people in my life that I love. I tell them that I love them. Because I genuinely feel a love and gratitude that they are in my life. They enrich it.

Not at all the same as being in love. At least not for me.  

So...here's what I (think) I figured out.  Being in love happens. I think it happens at some point for both people in a relationship. Once you've both identified it, that's when it gets wonky. I think the trick is that as soon as you realize you are in love with someone, you have to actually work to stay in love.  Just loving a person, just caring for a person isn't enough. You have to do those things to express your love for that person. You have to learn their love language and have to help them understand yours. There's at least one or twelve-teen books about love languages out there, so I'll spare you the bad paraphrasing.

I never really paid attention to it in the first marriage. And it in the second marriage, I knew it, but stubbornly refused to speak it or help my partner understand mine.  

Being in love gave way in both cases to being in apathy. Being in a routine. The occasional sparks of fun and joy were there, but there was nothing deliberate. I wasn't doing what I needed to do to woo her every day. In turn, though I loved them, I think they thought I didn't--or I stopped caring. And eventually I did.

So...actively making an effort to be in love would have definitely helped. Maybe. I don't know. But that's where my head took me on that particular thought.

Open, Honest, and sometimes Painful Communication
Volumes have been written about this. Most much better than I could explain it here. You should go read some. The key with this one was the fact that I shut down.  I know that. One of of the marriages ended with a handwritten letter. The other end was precipitated by passive aggressive texting. 

Gay marriage didn't end my marriages. Todd shutting down and turning inward, however, definitely contributed to it.  And when I shut down, as I tend to do (being the introvert that I ultimately am), then my spouse also shut down. 


Laughter
There has to be laughter. You have to enjoy each other's company. There has to be silliness. Whether it's laughing at stupid shit post-coitus or finding those endearing inside jokes--laughter is critical. If I can't laugh with someone, I can't live with them. Period.

For me, when the laughter goes away, the other two areas just don't matter. If I can't laugh with you how can I be in love? How can I talk to you if all the communication is stilted?  Short answer-I can't.



I don't know where I was really going with any of that, other than I needed to get it out of my head. Yes. I am twice divorced. Yes. Both of my marriages 'failed' as some would say. But I don't think that the marriages failed as much as the people in those marriages failed each other.  For the part I played in that, I'm sorry. I don't know that either of my exes read this blog or not. But if you are reading this, I am sorry that things ended the way they did. None of it was really fair--to either of us.   I have long ago forgiven myself. I don't know that I can really have a conversation with either ex at this point. I just don't know them. I don't know what to say. I'm not the same person anymore and neither are they.   It just feels awkward from the standpoint of knowing that I used to be intimate with someone and in love with someone and now I don't even know who they are.

The last 3 1/2 years have been a roller coaster ride for me.  I have gone through an interesting journey of self-discovery.

I'm not ready to be married. I'm not looking to seriously date. I don't want a girlfriend. Someday I may be ready for and want those things again. But I'm still learning myself, to be honest. I'm still trying to figure out what makes Andrew Todd Skaggs tick and click and whir. 

I have some amazing people in my life. And I love spending time with them. And for me, that makes me happy. Friends that I can get silly with. And watch bad movies with. And laugh all night at stupid shit. I wouldn't trade them for anything. I wouldn't trade the experiences I'm going through now--the life  I'm living now--for anything.

I am on the path I need to be on. 

And it feels pretty fucking good. I'm on a mission....going for something that might be waaaaaaaaaay up there, but I know in my head it's reachable. So....we'll see. 

For now....thank you for putting up with me and my random meanderings. It means more than you know.

Have an awesomesauce day my friends!

-A.T.



9.18.2016

Developing Character

I have for some time now been attending meetings of the North Central Ohio Writers group.  It's only been about six months, but someone in the group yesterday said that it feels like I've been part of the group forever.  Not needing to overthink on the drive home (I'm sure I'd be doing that anyway--how else do you pass the span of 75 minutes on 71-S??)--I asked if that was a good thing. I was assured that it was. I no longer have to worry about if I'm family or fully accepted by the group (although I'm sure I still will at some point because doubt is a constant spectre in my life that waits until things are just dark enough to make its presence known).

Yesterday's meeting was awesome. I learned and experienced quite a bit about how to build characters for my stories. 

And I didn't write a single word.

But Todd...a writing group that doesn't write--for a FOUR HOUR MEETING?!?!

So... I walk in...slightly chagrined that they all seem to be waiting for me.  I feel like Norm must have felt on Cheers. It was a cool feeling. Cool in a 'holy shit they're waiting for me, good thing I didn't stop to pee on the way up' kind of way. I sit down and settle in and am immediately asked to pick from three words on the board.  DARK; BIZARRE; WHIMSICAL.


Naturally I choose dark.  My second choice? Bizarre, of course (have you met me??).  Leaving whimsical for third. Apparently nobody in the group picked whimsical as their first word (further confirmation I had found my people).

A discussion about whimsical broke out like a little flash fire and I did mention that I was feeling slightly whimsical on the drive up because I had been singing show tunes (well, A show tune). I was singing "Tomorrow" from Annie.  Turns out I wasn't the only one singing show tunes earlier that day, but I'm guessing I'm the only one that was singing them for the reason that I was--practice.

So...rewind to 2012. I started my new job. I had a great boss who was the VP of IT. She had a rule--or at least I was told this was a rule--if you were 5 minutes late or more to one of her meetings, you had to sing.  Fast forward to my drive up and looking at the clock and knowing there was no way I was going to make the 12 o'clock start time (damn iron-on letters!)...and I started to wonder Holy shit....what if they make me sing because I'm late?!? Now...I know that's not really a thing that most people do. In fact, my previous boss was the only one I know of who ever even threatened it.  But I wanted to be prepared. I started going through the list of songs that I regularly did for karaoke.  I thought to my self, how cool would it be to be able to answer that challenge by saying, "which genre?"  Right?! Pretty damn cool. And that's when I panicked. What if they say 'show tunes?'  Definitely not out of the realm for this group. So...sounding like the love child of Ethel Merman and Nathan Lane, I practiced "Tomorrow."  It was awful. But I laughed...a lot. So...that was good.

Val put names under the words. These were our groups. Looking at the names in my group, I definitely knew I fit in. 

Then we started up with the games.

That's right. Games.

For this meeting of the writing group, we were playing games.

Games that required us to actually BE our characters. 

That was the point. Role playing. Acting. Improv (remember...what do we always say in improv? We always say "YES").

The first game I played as a member of Team Dark was "Gloom."  This is a turn-based card game. Everyone has a 'family.'  The point is to make your family as miserable as possible by subjecting them to events that give you negative points. And then giving them untimely deaths. When someone's family is completely dead and miserable, the game ends and the points are tallied.  

You wouldn't need to actually act out your story, per se. But we are writers. So the challenge for us in this instance was to be our characters. What is the story behind them. How did this event unfold. Why did Cousin Mordecai contract consumption (turns out it was from falling in love)?

It was an interesting juxtaposition from normal game play to be able to use kindness as a weapon.   Turns out I have knack for being gloomy (and killing my family first with a series of odd untimely deaths). 

As we finished, the other group  was still continuing the game they had started, "Fiasco."  It's pretty much improv with dice. All the elements of a 'theater of the mind' are set up. Characters and their goals. Location. Various elements of the scene. The dice are used to control the scene. Each person is a character (boy howdy are they ever characters).  

I turned to see some...interesting...things being acted out from time to time.   Someone in the group left, and they needed someone to fill in for a female character. Penny, who's motivation was she wanted to perpetrate the biggest lie the town had ever seen.  I channeled Bree (because I knew she was a crowd favorite).  If you didn't pick up from previous posts, Bree is like a cross between Samuel L. Jackson and Sheneneh from Martin.  Fun as hell to play. And she may be making an appearance in my D&D group's current campaign--woot!!

I totally hi-jacked Penny. I don't know how she was played before, but by the end of it, she was a high level mob leader who was using the gun store in this little town as a traffic stop on their illicit highway all the while pretending to be a down on her luck woman looking for a job as a clerk in the gun store. 

It was fun as hell to play. 

At the end of it, a fundamental secret was revealed.  It sounds like such an easy thing to remember, but one that so many gloss over:

To write a better character, BE a character. 

Don't keep it two dimensional. Act it out. What does your character sound like? What are her mannerisms?  What's his backstory? 

I love role playing. I try to do the voices. I really try to get in to it. It's what makes it fun for me. But I've been noticing that it's also helping me add some more depth to my characters in my writing.  And that's what it's all about. 

Did you catch something? The word "fun" is in fundamental. Oh sure...so is the word "mental," but that fits too.  Writing is something that is fundamental to the core of my being. So...at my core I am both fun and mental. And I put goofy symbols down on paper to tell you all about my particular brand of insanity. 

I suppose that's kind of the point.  Now I need to go work on a new character. Bree and her cousin Penny are off on some wild adventure. I wonder who will show up the next time a character is called for?  

Hmmm....guess we'll just have to roll the dice and see.

Have a great day my friends!

-A.T.

9.14.2016

The First and Final Meeting of Overthinkers Anonymous

If you have spent any amount of time on this blog, it should be readily apparent to you that I am an overthinker. I used to think it was just me. I have a very layered thought process about things. The areas where I think I have disappointed someone, or may have done something to cause someone to think less of me (and therefore exclude me from their life) are the ones that pretty much set me in to a tailspin. 

I whipped up this crudely-drawn scenario, because, as it turns out, I'm not alone.  So, this piece is called "The First and Final Meeting of Overthinkers Anonymous"  It's kind of how I think such a group might go. The guy starts off the meeting and everyone instantly starts overthinking things.


Turns out, though, that I'm already in a group like this.  Apparently other members of my tribe (who shall remain nameless) also fall under the siren song of this affliction. But just like the Argonauts, tied to the ship's mast with wax in their ears, this group...um... No, actually I'm not sure where I was going with that. Because, thing is...I know that sometimes this over-thinking paralyzes me. I come up with scenarios that will probably never happen (or, if I do want them to happen, that's a sure sign they won't). And sometimes I have entire conversations around something that really boiled down to me misreading a signal/cue/comment/email/whathaveyou. Did I mention that most of the time these conversations take place in my head? I mean...you knew that some writers are a little off their rocker, right? No? Well....now you know of one.

Case in point - The Saga of the 10 Second Story (hashtag 10secondstory; hashtag amwriting). Tuesday morning on Instagram, I posted the following:

It was based on a few sentences I had in my little gray idea book that goes everywhere I go (including the Writer's Retreat last month).

There are a few things you need to know to put this in to context.
  • Based on the other items in my idea journal, I probably wrote this down during the NCOW Writers Retreat.
  • I had quite a few adult beverages during the social evenings at the retreat.
  • I really feel like a part of the NCOW fam and don't want to fuck that up.
  • I overthink things.
  • No, like a lot.
  • Seriously, I overthink the shit out of things.
  • I tend to assume that if something went tits up, I had a hand in it. 
  • I dont know dick about Tumblr.
Up to speed? Good. So...I posted this. I was kinda proud of it. Then one of my friends posted a comment on it that simply said, "Who gave you the right."

Now....take all of those bullet points above and swirl them in to a nice big mental stew of, "holy shit--what did I just do?!?"  And you'll have a tiny glimpse in to the brain of an overthinker.  

Here's what went through my mind before I could really even process what was happening:
  • OH CRAP. Did I take their story line?
  • Was I drunk when wrote this down? Did I just overhear it?
  • Shit. Are they going to kick me out of the group?
  • I really don't want to leave this group.
  • How could I steal someone else's idea?? That's a writer's worst sin.
And to further fuel the paranoia, others in the group liked the comment on the photo.

Had I looked a little more closely, I would seen that the same person gave it a 'heart' on Instagram, which is typically not done if you're mad at someone. 

And I also should have thought through the fact that this person would have just told me offline, out of the public eye of a Facebook newsfeed if they had an issue with something I had written. 

All of this made sense and I mostly calmed down about it. But not before actually sending a message to this person asking what I had done and did I really screw up?  

So...remember the bit about me not knowing dick about Tumblr? Yeah. So...apparently there is a hashtag floating out there on the interwebs that goes a little like this #whogaveyoutheright .  This hash tag apparently means, "Who gave you the right to make me feel these emotions that the thing you posted is currently making me feel?"

Which is what the comment meant when it was posted on my pic (and why others also 'liked' that comment). 

So...some good news. I didn't piss anyone off, but more importantly I didn't steal anyone's story line. And I don't have to go into hiding from this wonderful group of people that feels like a family to me. 

This got me to thinking (well...I mean, let's consider the topic of this post) about how a few things. How much I really need this group. And how much I value the opinions of the people in the two writing groups I'm in.

It's not as important that they like me. I mean, it makes meetings easier if I feel welcome and actually like to be around them, but oddly enough--it's my work more so than me that I want them to dig. I value their thoughts as to whether I have the chops of a writer as much if not slightly more than the friendship (I realize that it it tightly interwoven, but yeah...).  Thus, the thought of possibly swiping another writer's idea was mortifying to me. 

It was kind of a fucked up afternoon of worrying about what I had done. Turns out what I had done was written something good.  So...there's that.

I could probably take a pill and quiet my mind a bit. I know I could. I did for fifteen years. And I have to say that those fifteen years were terrible for my creativity. When they stopped the depression, or rather stopped me from thinking about the depression, I realized that I no longer had that wellspring of pain to pull from.

I don't know how other writers work, but for me that pain is vital.  Something goes to shit in the "real" world, so I turn to the world I can control and make something beautiful. OR (as is often the case), I make something darker so that this world that I have to live in all of the time doesn't actually seem so bad. 

I'm sure that's where the overthinking comes from. From creating the story that could be happening instead of actually living the story that is happening.

I'm Andrew Todd, and I'm an over-thinker.

Have a kick ass day my friends.
-AT

9.12.2016

In the Bag

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a bag junkie.  I used to say that I was a bag whore. But I have come to realize that someone might take that to mean I would perform certain favors in exchange for a kick as bag, and that simply isn't...um...hmm. You know what? Let's just say either one of those terms probably works, but for now we'll say bag junkie.

I'm a huge fan (read:obsessive) about having the right bag for the right items for the right situation.  To that end, there are often times where I will switch bags midstream, depending on what I'm doing or where I'm going.

I have a work bag. It's a messenger bag. I also have a work backpack that gets used if I'm traveling to one of our stores. The messenger bag is day to day work stuff. The backpack is travel to a store work stuff.  The traveling to a store backpack usually has WAY more stuff than I need for a daily basis simply because I never know what I might need when I'm on site that I won't have access to otherwise.

My creative bags are the same way.  Yes. I have separate bags for my creative side. Sometimes the very basics from my creative bag will go in my work bag(s) .

The basic items that I always carry with me as much as possible.

  • A small journal to record story ideas/thoughts in.
  • A digital recorder with clip on stereo mic.
  • Pens (a multitude of tips, inks, etc)
These items usually wind up in any bag I'm carrying (even if I'm not carrying one of my creative bags).

The Creative Day Bag:
This is the bag I take when I'm going to be out and about. It's a smaller sling type messenger bag. It has the essentials if I find myself out somewhere and suddenly overcome with the urge to write something. OR, I'm out somewhere, bored out of my gourd and need to kill some time.  I have a couple smaller bags that fit this bill, but this canvas one is one of my faves. Followed closely by a K-Swiss messenger bag. Included in this bag are the following:
  • Fully charged 11" MacBookAir
  • Moleskin journal (stormtrooper cover)--used for tracking things from the writer's retreat and this new thing I'm trying where I actually make lists and outlines related to my stories.
  • Leather travel journal for those thoughts and memories that I don't really want to share with you all just yet.
  • Small gray idea journal from a friend. This one goes with me everywhere and is where the ideas go.
  • Earbuds.
  • Pens
It's a pretty basic kit, but it's a scaled down version of what I would need to feel productive and be able to plunge ahead on one of the few works in progress on my plate.  I don't travel THAT often with the scaled down kit unless I'm going out somewhere. Usually the full-on creative badass kit is with me.

Full-On Creative Badass Kit
Got the Bosch (Olio) backpack from a friend and immediately loaded it up with all the bits and baubles that make me feel creative and allow the creative bloodletting to happen. 
The original items from the Day Pack are included.

  • Fully charged 11" MacBookAir (incl. AC adapter)
  • Moleskin journal (stormtrooper cover)--used for tracking things from the writer's retreat and this new thing I'm trying where I actually make lists and outlines related to my stories.
  • Leather travel journal for those thoughts and memories that I don't really want to share with you all just yet.
  • Small gray idea journal from a friend. This one goes with me everywhere and is where the ideas go.
  • Earbuds.
  • Pens
  • Random notebook
  • Coloring book(s)
  • Sketch pad
  • various fine-tipped colored markers for coloring
  • Sketch pencils
  • colored pencils
  • glue stick
  • copy of "Zen and the Art of Writing" by Ray Bradbury--this is a must.
  • The Writer's Emergency Deck by John August
  • Kindle
I carry this one with me most days (yes, even to work).  

Do I need to carry everything like this with me?  Yes and no.

I suffer from well...wanting to have shit and rationalizing that I actually need these things in order to be a really good writer.  The truth is, I only need a writing implement and something to write on. 

That's it. Pen and paper. Pencil and napkin. 
Whatever. Just something to get the ideas from my head down to a place where I can do something with them, because when they are just floating around up there--it's crazy. I feel crazy. I'm not going to lie.

When I am in full on 'writer mode' I find that the line blurs between worlds. I may be looking at you. I may be having a completely normal and coherent conversation with you, but I'm probably not all there. There's a real good chance that some of my brain cycles are being used to work out a plot point or story arc.

And I guess that's one of the reasons I carry so much shit with me. ("Do you have to carry so much shit with you?" "Yes...I have to carry so much shit with me. You never know when you're going to need to jet."--Breakfast Club (or a close facsimile thereof).  But yeah...I carry that much so I don't get stuck on the 'I could write this out better if I had that one pen and my certain journal.'  I just carry those around with me as much of the time and it makes the path from floating in my brain to existing on paper that much smoother.

With that, I think I need to get back to work. Last week was bananas. And this week won't be any better, but at least there's a lunchtime blog to look forward to!

Have a great rest of your day my friends!

-A.T.

9.10.2016

The Bean That Brings People Together

I'm about to tell you an incredible story. A story of a forty-four year old man who had, up to this point in his life, never had a coffee or coffee-type beverage.

I grew up around coffee. My parents drank it. Chock-Full-O-Nuts sat in the coffee filter overnight waiting for just that right moment in the morning when the timer kicked in to start the pot brewing 10 minutes before my parents' alarm woke them to start their day. I loved that smell. The smell of coffee. I love that smell almost as much as the smell of a print shop. A real print shop. With presses. And plates. And ink like a gelatinous creature in metal cans that gets mixed in to just the right color by a master craftsman (like my dad).

But I digress. Second to the love of the smell of a print shop is my love of the smell of coffee (frying bacon on a crisp autumn morning is a very close third).

Many times in my life - ok - three times in my life, I decided to try coffee. It's bitterness seemed like a cruel joke. The taste was nothing like the smell. I felt cheated. My love for coffee would have to remain one of an olfactory nature.

My dad drinks coffee. My mom drinks coffee. I can remember my papaw, coming in from the fields late in the morning sitting at the kitchen table stirring Folgers  or Sanka instant coffee in a mug of steaming hot water.

I never stopped loving the smell.

Growing up there were no coffee houses that I knew of. No Starbucks every second mile. I didn't really even see a "coffee house" until I went to college. There was one on campus, Nocturne I think it was called. I went a few times in the wee hours of the morning. My friends got coffee. I got soda. Equally caffeinated, but clearly the red-headed step-child in this scenario.

For a little over a year now, I've been part of a writing group here in Columbus.  By proxy I found myself welcomed with open arms to another writing group in Ashland, Ohio. I'm grateful for both groups.  Involvement with both groups has helped my writing (and my confidence in said writing) grow by leaps and bounds.

There's just one little catch.

Both of these groups meet at coffee shops some of the time.  Oh sure, I can get an over-priced fruit juice or water that has some charming back-story to it, but I still felt a little like I was faking it. I especially felt those ways on the days where I brought my own beverage. I mean, don't get me wrong, it didn't stop me--I just felt a teensy bit awkward about it.

Thing is...coffee houses are a part of the social landscape these days.  "You wanna go grab a coffee?" That line sparks everything from friendships to who knows what.  And, let's be honest...people think it's weird that someone doesn't drink coffee. Don't deny it. What was your reaction when you read the line about a 44 yr. old man who had never had a coffee or coffee drink? Right. You thought that guy was a freakin' weirdo.

Well, that guy was me.

Was.

Past-tense.

All of that changed today. At some point this week, I decided that I was going to order a coffee (or some kind of coffee-based beverage) today at the writer's group meeting. It was set to happen in Starbucks, so the venue was definitely right.

Last night I searched the googles for "coffee beverages that don't taste like coffee."  Hey. I know it's funny. I thought it was funny that I was searching it. I thought it was even funnier that there were MANY hits on this topic.

Any kind of Mocha came up as far and away the leader. Basically it came down to hot chocolate with a hint of coffee flavor. As long as chocolate was the dominate note, I was fine. I got in line today and looked up at the board. They had the Salted Caramel Mocha. I was set. The salted caramel hot chocolate was a fave of mine at Starbucks, so I decided to give the Mocha a spin.  I got a medium..oh...sorry...grande. I figured it was enough if I liked it and not too much to throw away if I didn't.

I don't know if the other people in my group noticed me hemming and hawing before that first sip (which, honestly, was a really tiny sip).

I had a second sip.

Then a third. I was nervous. I was trying to taste the coffee. I really couldn't. It just tasted like an exotic hot-chocolate.

Before I knew it, the cup was gone.

I had consumed my first cup.

Salted caramel mocha.  A coffee drink.

And I didn't die. I didn't make that bitter face.  I enjoyed it.

Which is cool, because I feel like it opens some doors. Going for a coffee...meeting someone for a coffee...hanging out and shooting the shit over coffee. It's kind of the new social thing. I mean, not super new, but it's pretty much a part of our cultural landscape.

I may graduate to other kinds of coffee-based drinks, but I'm not in any real hurry.  I feel like it's ok to take baby steps with this. Find things I like. And rule out things I don't.

I know...it's an odd thing to write a whole post about...but I kinda feel like it's a special day.  And Tim, Trace, and William got to witness it.  I'm sure there will be more.

But for now, we'll stick with that.

And with that, my Buckeyes are back after a weather delay.  So the afternoon of vegging on the couch continues. Tomorrow should prove to be equally low-key. I'm going to do some more work on CryoComm, Inc. Maybe I'll head down to one of the coffee houses Uptown and do some writing tomorrow.  I mean, after all...isn't that what writers are supposed to do? *wink*

Enjoy your day my friends!

-A.T.


(I really wanted to have the nerve to have them put "Rage Bacon" on the cup as my name. Next time.)

9.07.2016

Why Are You Here?

There is not really a way to ask that question without making the recipient of said question a little uncomfortable and putting them on the defensive.

Why are you here?

WHY are you here?

Why ARE you here?

Why are YOU here?

Why are you HERE?

It's such a seemingly innocuous question, but it can have many answers, depending entirely on the emphasis. Side note, I always read or say the word emphasis like emFASSis. Don't know why, I just felt like I had to share.

So. The question. Or questions, because really the same four words can make five questions. Each question can be a rabbit hole of existential self-discovery. Which, really is redundant. It should be existential discovery (the self is implied by the fact that we are talking about existentialism).

The question is too vague for the confines of this blog.   To be honest, if I'm going to even enter a discussion on that question, there will need to be a nice open field and a cloudless night. And the non-sobering machinations of your choice (I'm not Judgey McJudgerson).

I'll flip the script, then, as the youngsters say these days.  And alter the question a bit.
Let's change it to this one.

Why do you write?

Extrapolating for emphasis we are given the following four paths.

WHY do you write?

Why DO you write?

Why do YOU write?

Why do you WRITE?

It's a good question. It really is.  I don't have an answer that covers things logically.  I have a feeling. I have a drive. I have a passion.

I have an addiction.

I'm addicted to words.  Like a tiny drop of liquid gold in a filthy spoon, when that first sentence hits me. That first paragraph builds. And the whole chapter washes over me.  The book has me. I am its bitch. And I am this willingly.  Amazon does this thing with their books where you can read a sample.

That is not unlike the dealers on the street who will hook lifelong clients by offering the first hit for free.

But I'm no n00b.  I've been using words a long time. It didn't take me long at all to get addicted. It all started with the Doctor. Some of you know him as Seuss.  Then Mr. AA Milne.

As I grew, I moved on to the harder stuff. Kipling entered the mix. Riki-Tiki-Tavi was a favorite go to when I need a quick fix. Needed to escape all of those grammar school pressures, as elementary as they seem now. The threat of something going on my permanent record haunts me to this day.

King, Koontz, Clarke, Tolkien, Adams, Asimov, Anthony...to name a few. I couldn't tell you which was the gateway to the next. All I knew was the words. I needed more words.

I learned early on that I couldn't just take the words. Absorb them. Escape in them. I had words of my own that I needed to get out. It became (and is to this day) a sick game.  The words I am so gloriously addicted to come from others.  Some of the wordsmiths I know.  Some are friends. Some are still complete strangers. Suppliers of this strange formation of something I am so steeped in and yet they remain in the shadows.

Along with that intake, I find that, lest I overdose on words, I must give back. Pollute the world...or pollenate, rather...the worlds with my words. Seedlings for now, but holding on to the hope that they will blossom and grow in to mighty oaks. Oaks that may be cut down and again deliver the words to an unsuspecting reader.

It's really a vicious cycle. One, I am proud to say, that I perpetuate as often as I can.

Let's take a look at those questions again. I know you've been dying to ask...it's OK. I'll play along.

Without splitting hairs on the emphasis thing (because I'm telling you that I really am too sober to play that game), I will give you answers to the two questions.

Why are you here?
Assuming "here" is this day and age, I am here to be creative. To give light to a hidden layer of the universe (whether you call that layer the name of a deity or not) and in doing so, shine that light of creativity on another in hopes that they, too, are excited. And that excitement leads them to create.

I'm here because this is the time and place that this particular reflection of my soul decided it needed to be in to accomplish the above.

Why do you write?
This question has been the topic of many standalone meanderings on this blog, but the short answer is simply this.  I write because it is as vital to me as breathing. I can go so long without doing it, but eventually I pass out, my body, knowing what to do. And I begin to breathe again. With the overwhelming thought that I just need to stop trying to fight it. My body knows what it needs.

And with that, I'm heading to bed. I have some things sitting on my workshop over in Dreamland that I need to flesh out before dropping them in to this corner of the universe.

Until then, have an awesomesauce evening my friends!! And if I don't see you until tomorrow--may that day kick ass too!!

Peace Out!
-A.T.

9.06.2016

Which is better? One or Two?

Just over a week ago I threw up a post on ye olde bloggy blog that wound up getting 188 views.   That is the highest hitting post of mine on this blog to date.

Don't you hate that? That feeling like you have to write and then when the time comes to actually put pen to paper, the words flee.  I hate that.

But I keep writing. Because those words. The words that flew away may never return. They may light on the tip of another writer's tongue. And that's OK. They will make their way in to this world one way or another.

I had to get an eye exam today. Aside from being required to for my whole diabetes thing, I am overdue for an update to my current prescription.  And the eye exam confirmed that. Then I got the dreaded question, "Do you have problems when you're reading?"  I tried to look confused. It worked.  "What I mean is, do you ever take off your glasses to read."  I nodded before I could even stop myself.

That started a whole new stream of "This is 1. This is 2. Which is better? 1 or 2? One?  Or Two?" Only this time it was for reading. Adding a reader element to my lens prescription.

Which, I later found out, is actually all bifocals are. Regular glasses with reading glasses built in. Shit. I was sweating that for nothing. Combo glasses that mean I don't have to carry a pair of reading glasses around with me everywhere and switch them out when I'm reading them? Hell yeah. Count me in.

I settled on some no-line, progressive glasses with frames made by Realtree(tm). Which, I suppose, means if I lose them in the woods, I'm hosed.  The vision insurance footed half the bill so, all was well.

I posted a couple of pix about the whole bifocals thing. Playing up the whole 'getting old' thing more than I really feel. Here's the thing--every day, everyone that is living is getting older. You're six years old? Guess what? You're getting older. You're ninety-three? Guess what? You're getting older.

My dad has a question that he often asks. He may have read it in a book or saw it in a PBS special. But I choose to exercise my right as a son to attribute this squarely to my Pops.  He asks, "How old would you be (feel?)  if you didn't know how old you were?"

It's a brilliant question. Forget the turning pages of your Franklin-Covey Day Timer. Forget the date on your driver's license.

For me, it's twenty-eight. It's been holding at that age for quite some time. I hadn't yet hit the oh-shit moments of my thirties. I was three years past my open heart surgery and I had a finger on the pulse of the universe.  It all clicked with me. Unfortunately, dreaming without action is worse that dreaming, it's stagnation.  So at twenty-eight, I knew what I needed to do. At 44, I'm doing it.  And that's OK.  The years in between better shaped who I am. The Todd that was the writer at Age 28 had almost no support system. I wouldn't have gone to a writing group meeting if you paid me. I had a MASSIVE case of Poseritis then. Sometimes it flares up, but it's pretty easy to squanch these days.  When writers, peers, friends, people that I respect for the works they've written tell me that they want to read my work and what to know what happens next--the poseritis goes away quite quickly.

Oh...I almost forgot...speaking of the 'raw, under the hood' post that garnered 188 page hits (here, if you missed it).  There is a follow up.   I went back up the next week. News of my poor (to say the least) customer service experience had reached the desk of the GM of the dealership. And as soon as I got there, he assured me that he would do everything to make the situation right. I was grateful at that moment that I hadn't gone total batshit crazy the week before.

Turns out the reverse camera malfunctioned at pretty much the exact time they did the update. I guess there are sometimes coincidences.  They're going to order the replacement and get it all taken care of.

I was again struck with the thought of, what if I had given in to the rage?  I mean seriously. I know it was over nothing. I know that in the grand scheme of things it was pitifully small. And I know the full rage reaction wasn't sparked just by the pissy customer service. There were other factors involved. I don't really think I need to make those other factors public domain just yet, but suffice to say--shit was building.

It's a good thought exercise. As a writer. To take a situation - as it's happening, or just after - turn it in to a thought experiment. A character analysis. If I were writing a character in this exact scenario (or one that elicited the same reaction), what would that person do?  What would be their next step.

That is where I'm glad the writer's brain saves me jail time.

Alright. That blue plate special at the MCL is starting to talk back to me. Time to watch some Matlock and call it a night.

Have a great evening my friends.

-AT

In The Bag

There are a few common threads throughout this blog if you read it long enough. One of these threads has to do with my obsession...er...ques...