For Fear of Writing

I’m scared.

I envy writers who don’t feel this crippling dread when they start thinking about a new project.  I went to grad school with a girl (we’ll call her Princess) who seemed so blissfully unafraid of writing, most likely because she was — no hyperbole here — the worst writer I’d ever read.  But Princess just kept pen to paper, throwing out the opinions of “haters” who told her she needed to pay attention to “sentence structure” and “plot” and “not writing mentally-challenged characters like SNL skits.”  I admire her complete idiocy, in a way, because every minute of every day I am seized with the chest-crushing anxiety of failure.

I just finished devouring Gone Girl in anticipation of cage-fighting my way for a chance to review the film adaptation in Something Awful’s Current Releases, and I was absolutely blown away by Gillian Flynn’s seemingly effortless prose.  But more, I was blown away by how she allowed herself to write.  Alternating first person narratives?  Diary entries?  Time shifts, flashbacks?  All that stuff was driven out of me with a lash in undergrad. No, no, no.  And I listened, because I am nothing if not obedient.  I wanted to write a story people would read.

So I wrote straightforward, first-person narratives and, occasionally, in third person.  I kept things clear and uncomplicated.  But now I want to experiement

There’s just one problem — I don’t know how.

Well duh, you’re saying, that’s why it’s experimenting, dummy, but somewhere along the line, I lost my ability to write for fun, to stretch out and try and fail and try again.  My day job is driven by deadlines and facts — I cannot say that the Town Board was attacked by aliens unless the Town Board was, in fact, attacked by aliens, which would probably liven up their meetings a tad.

But I’ve got this new story idea, something that I’ve never even attempted before, a story that I don’t even know how to write.  I’ve got a general atmosphere and some characters sketched out, but I don’t know what they’re doing or what will happen or even how to write it…but I know when I do, I want it to be something new and strange, something i haven’t written before.

So wish me luck…

Mix Tape Blush

In an effort to make some sense of the chaos that is my existence, I’ve been on this big tear of organizing ephemera into more chronological categories.  I just recently finished the photographs…and now it’s onto the mix CDs.

And, whoo-boy, are some of these embarrassing.

My earliest mix CDs were similar to radio tapes — collections of random songs culled from borrowed CDs.   A little Zevon, some 80’s stuff, a Lenny Kravitz song I must have liked but have no recollection of ever listening to.  Some of these CDs are 10 tracks long, not creatively named or anything.  My dad had a CD burning machine that you programmed tracks into, but if you didn’t fill CD, it would just repeat the last track until the end of the CD, which explains how I ended up with 7 plays of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” on a CD titled Totally 80s Mix (Train would be so proud).

The 80s stuff is almost cliched nowadays, but it’s the 90s-2000s that are really mega-dorky.  One mix, titled Wussy Songs No One Must Hear contains The Corrs, Faith Hill and Celine Dion.  I try to pretend ‘m so fucking cool, with my Tom Waits and my Warren Zevon and my suitcase record player, but I have Natalie Merchant’s “Wonder” and “Thank You,” two songs specifically designed by space-robots in broomstick skirts to be played as a Lilith Fair encore.  All of my nerd-punk Talking Heads posturing is completely undone by two John Mayer songs (“Clarity” and “No Such Thing”) and Jason Mraz’s “The Remedy” on my Chill mix from my junior year of college.

But it’s fun, you know?  Hearing all these songs I haven’t heard or thought about in a decade or so — my deep, Freshman-year love for Lifehouse’s “Hanging By a Moment” or how Dave Matthew’s Band’s “Trippin’ Billies” is a pretty good song…and trying to figure out at what time in my life I would have come across Good Charlotte’s “Festival Song” and thought “Yeah, I want to listen to that on a 4-hour bus ride.”

There are party mixes for 80s parties and Halloween parties and my infamous Sin City shindig.  There are compilation mixes and theme mixes, driving mixes and archived copies of CDs I made for other people.  There are songs I listened to yesterday and songs I haven’t heard in ages.  It’s one more way to trace my history, to put order to my past…only this time, I can dance to it.