My Quest Back to Life

I don't often write with deliberate, pointed emotion. Often times I skate, in varying deviations, around the emotion that may or may not be driving the words I'm writing, never directly acknowledging them, but not hiding the fact that they're present. I may never know which of my emotions are correctly inferred by any singular reader in anything I write. Today, however, I don't plan on having that issue. Today I'm not writing on paper, or on a screen, but on the nose.

College, for many, if not most of us, is the place where we shape our personal sculptures into something permanent. It's the first time many of us truly experience life... Diverse, unpredictable, exhilarating, painful, scary, awesome... Life. It's also the place where we develop many habits, both mental and physical, and where we put the finishing caulk on the blocks that were mostly-built-but-slightly-out-of-place in our developing minds.

It's a crucial time. A time to pay attention to yourself and others. A time to be nice to people, be horrible to other people, then compare the results. It's where you're a flicker away from being an adult, but can still misbehave. There are rules, but not harsh rules. Maybe you get expelled, maybe you get fined, but at the end of the day, for most of us, the consequences aren't too serious. Policing on college campus' is like small-town policing of a drunk driver in the 70s. You get a verbal warning, an officer makes sure you realize you're an idiot, then they send you on your way, so you can briefly feel guilty about your outdoor beer-holding, then wake up the next day with a weird nonsensical pride.

Because of the ghost-like rulebook that mostly just suggests you don't do certain things, college is a place to roam freely. For the mental kamikaze's like myself, it's a time to mostly roam internally, and tear your own mind to shreds. College is a place where developing minds have experiences they've never had before, with people they've never encountered before. So what am I to do other than dig into my own mind? And dig. And dig. Until there's nothing but ruffled feathers and confusion. I've never known any other way.

Aside from the night's I spent wishing I was at parties I wouldn't have enjoyed, I spent an asshole's load of time thinking about myself as a child, as an adult, as a friend, as a son, as a brother, as a white guy, as a dick, and as a sweetheart. And while that's led me to a lot of good in my life, it's also led me to a lot of disengagement, indifference, disconnection, angst, and frankly, sadness. Things I never experienced until I had the time to sit and think, and think, and think, all day, until my mind twisted itself into a knot, locking all forms of euphoria-related chemicals inside. Now, today, I sit here, 5 or 6 years away from the first time I ever laid in bed, not understanding why I just felt off. I remember the day vividly. I lay in my bed, in The Overlook dorms at Ramapo College, staring at the wall - not a, "I'm completely empty inside" stare, but something closer to a, "I just woke up" stare. I laid there. And I laid there. And to be honest, while I had just woken up, I have no memory of what time it actually was - my best guess is midday. What was weird about the moment, was not that I didn't feel like getting up. It was that I had no desire to get up. A tired mind would think, "I should go do blah blah blah, but I'm just so tired..." The moment that you realize you don't have the mental desire to get up, because you don't have the mental desire to be anywhere, is something a bit jarring. And it's something that I now know all too well.

Something to note here, also, is that I didn't have this realization in real-time. It was something that dawned on me later, when these types of feelings, or lack thereof, surfaced more often. When these types of feelings became types of days, then those days became weeks, and those weeks became life.

I can't remember when I officially lost count of these desireless feelings. Eventually, they just were, and I wasn't clear enough mentally to backtrack accurately. Following that lonely, lonely day of laying in bed in my dorm room, things just seemed to float by, more rapidly as time passed. Think of it this way... If I were able to watch time pass, it would have looked like the wings of a working ceiling fan. They're there, but not really there. You know they exist, but you can't find the exact place that they exist. They're surely moving, but at unknown speeds. They're just barely tangible.

A few more years went by, I graduated from Ramapo, and a bit of relaxation seemed to be in-store. It was time for really-real life. But the days came, and the days went. I had a job I hated, making craps worth of money, without knowing what I actually wanted to do in life. I felt I had no rope to grab a hold of to at least stop me from falling.

A few more years passed, and I was still at the job I hated, now making about $2 more per hour than craps worth. Needless to say, I didn't feel any better about things. Still no rope, still no hope. Seemingly crippling college debt, still not knowing what I wanted for my future self. Around this time, however, I found something that seemed positive. I started writing semi-regularly. I found it to be a way to explore my brain in ways I couldn't do otherwise. I also found it to be a way to speak about myself more honestly, and more poignantly - the type of poignancy I had always desired, but could never express verbally.

For the first time in my life, I found an ability to express myself. I felt validated. I felt like I truly existed. I felt connected to the world, connected to something. And go figure, at that point in time, down came the rope my sensitive hands had long been looking to grab ahold of. In my ability to express myself through writing, I found a way to better access who I was, and who I wanted to be. Soon after, I landed a new job, had a better understanding of my own skillset, and had a better idea of where I wanted to be in life. I felt that my quest back to life was just beginning. My quest back to feeling. My quest back to existing, where I leave chronic indifference in the rearview, and move to the sunny side of the street.

Today, I sit here and I write, having again switched to an even better job, with an even better understanding of myself as a person, as a writer, as a child, as an adult, as a brother and a son. It'll be a long trek, and I know that. I don't quite yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I do know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. At some point, I didn't even know there was a tunnel at all. But today, I can honestly say I'm moving in the right direction.

My plan, my hope... Is to move forward, each day, writing the most honest thing I've ever written, every single time I write. It feels good. I mean, it simply feels. And it feels good to feel. I welcome feelings, good, bad, or otherwise. I welcome the rope burn, and I welcome the loudness of the tunnel. I've lost feeling before, and it's not something I hope to experience again. I've been depressed. I am depressed... Or maybe I'm full of shit, I don't know. But, today, I feel okay, and that's all that matters.

 

B.H.

Moments in Writing: Trampoline Writing

With a clear mind, writing comes easy. It flows, it floats… It moves continuously in one direction, with a noticeable force. It carries momentum, and when that momentum is finished, the reader is left carrying that weight in their brain.

About 98% of the time, however, as per my own research, a clear mind is hard to come by…

Scatterbrained writing is one of the most difficult things to deal with when writing. The situation itself would breed impatience in most, but often times, a scatterbrained mind is one that’s already more susceptible to impatience. Creating quite the hassle for the writer.

One of the telltale signs of scatterbrained writing, is what I, about five minutes ago, decided to call “trampoline writing.”

In this case, the trampoline is your brain, and the person on the trampoline is your cursor (if you’re writing on a computer, that is). Despite the never-ending downward force of gravity, the trampoline (your scattered brain), keeps tossing your cursor back up, and up, and up, and up. With every short stint of downward momentum, comes a resistance, and then a full-blown launch back into fresh air.

There’s a reason why we sometimes refer to a personal rebound as “landing on your feet.” There’s no such thing as landing when you’re on a trampoline… Finding a steady foot proves nearly impossible.

There’s nothing worse than thinking, “I’ve probably written 600 words, yet only about 120 are on the page in front of me... What happened?”

Realizing the inefficiencies of your own brain can be depressing.

In my opinion, the best thing you can do to best handle this situation, is simply to build your own awareness of your mental environment. Meaning, train yourself to simply see when you're scatterbrained.

Pay more attention to your cursor. Pay attention to how many words stay on the page. Pay attention to how many times you repeat a thought in your writing. Always have this mental checklist lingering while you’re writing. Hell, why not, go ahead and write the checklist out and keep it by your side. Whatever works.

Once you’ve reached a level of awareness where these things are easily noticeable, you can start to play around with it.

Because, look, I get it… Some days, your brain just isn’t having it. Through and through. The best you’re going to get is through a muscle-bound strain and some serious mental squeezing. That’s okay, though, as long as you understand what’s happening.

Once you understand the situation you’re in, you'll free your mind up to move more freely.

Admittedly, it takes a lot of time. And frankly, I’m not even sure I’m there yet, or even close. But if I were to give someone advice on how to handle scatterbrained writing, I’d suggest just that… To play within your current mental environment.

It’s important to accept the fact that sometimes it takes time to escape bad environments. So, while you’re stuck there, have some fun.

Having fun brings on relaxation. And relaxation lets you write with gravity - constantly downward, with little resistance.

And as most of us know, writing is about those unnoticeable things… The momentum, the gravity, and so on. The things that are only viewable in hindsight.

These intangible moments are what make writing impossible to know how to master. Not impossible to master, you see? Impossible to know how to master.

These moments, however, are also what makes writing amazing. Because when you do move through those intangible moments, to the peaks and positives, you feel the ultimate sense of individual accomplishment. You feel connected to yourself and the world, all at once. And you don’t even know how it happened.

So, play within your own mental environment. Have some fun. While I do urge you to write as much as possible, it’s simultaneously important to understand that there probably will be a tomorrow. And tomorrow, there will be more writing to do. There will always be more writing to do.

So don’t ever avoid writing… Just know that sometimes, you’re going to write something that doesn’t make any sense. You’re going to write something weird. Sometimes, you’re going to write something that completely sucks. But who cares, honestly. If we did everything at a 100% success rate, there’d be no point to anything at all.

So relax, write with gravity, and be patient with yourself. Be patient with your mind and your writing. It'll keep your brain flowing and your cursor moving.

 

Brian H.

Why I'm Boring

Something I've experienced in my life - and I'm sure most humans do - is the gradual realization of reasons why I might not be the most amazing person on the planet.

As children, we look at the world as only ours. "This is my planet, my life experience, and everyone else is merely an extension of my experience."

Unfortunately, a lot of people still seem to have that feeling as adults. Many of us, however, at some point, realize a few things about ourselves.

We start to realize how we mishandle situations. We start to realize our faults. We start to give others the benefit of the doubt. We start to realize that there are negative traits we carry around with us.

I've spent a lot of time in my life wondering why people don't always seem thrilled to be around me.

From there, the first thought is, "Am I bummer?" Then it turns into, "If I am a bummer, why?"

Then, one day, I had to look myself in the mirror. I realized what the problem was - I'm boring. Mhmm. I'm not exciting to be around. I'm not the type of person that makes others want to do and live. I don't often make social situations better. I don't bring fun interactions to the table. Frankly, I'm not sure I know how to. I now get that, however. I now understand that. 

The next step in the thought process is me accepting the fact that I'm boring. That's where I'm at right now. I've accepted it, and I'm okay with it. My verbal hesitation and social ticks took 25 years to build. It'll take a long time to deconstruct and rebuild all of that. I must accept what's in place and move forward.

My current concern is to figure out why I'm boring - and I have my writer-perspective answer.

Anything I possess that makes me a good writer is the exact same thing that makes me a boring person socially.

I've long operated under the notion of not including anything on the page that doesn't need to be there. That's also what I do socially. But that's a problem. You can't do that socially and be a fun person to be around.

Social existence is equal parts insight, ideas, time-filling, and general comfort. If you make someone comfortable, if you kill their time effectively, offer fun ideas and interesting insights, people will love you. I have some confidence that I can get a half-interesting idea out onto paper, but in conversation, I don't know how to tap into the same thought process.

I take everything too literally. In writing, I can do that. Writing becomes more efficient and clean when things are taken literally. Writers don't have to imply what's implied. That's the point of implication/inference. There's no need to overkill the punch in writing. The problem sets in with physical interaction. There's no physical need that you need to satisfy when writing to someone.

Being social is being physical. Being social is existing. We're social because we have to be. It's as simple as that. We will literally die of our own crazed minds without social interaction. So, in knowing that, there's a lot of time to be killed. There will be waste. There will be conversations that are "useless" (by my own idiotic standards). But those conversations need to happen because social interaction is not a source of information, it's a source of connection. It's a source of comfort. It's a source of existence. Information fuels connection, but is not the end-all reason why we have conversations.

It's easy for humans to stop thinking about their own negative traits. I get it. But for me, there is catharsis in being able to justify why I am the way that I am, and move on from there. Getting mad at others solves nothing at all. If I get mad at someone else, I'd be boring, and an asshole. Why bother? Why build a taller mountain of crap?

So, the overlap of my social-brain and writer-brain is what leads me to be able to write things that I'm proud of. It's also what leads me to be a boring non-socialite.

Weirdly enough, there is a certain level of pride that I can take in all of this. I'm not just 'boring, end of story'. I'm boring because of something that leads me to success in other facets of life. What's there to be ashamed of? There's pushes and pulls in life, and mine fell in a way that make me seem more boring than I am.

At the very least, I can move forward, using this idea as a delusion to keep me sane. Hopefully this isn't an overly self-aggrandizing analysis of something I loathe about myself. Hopefully it sounds as honest as it feels to me.

In the end, this is only my opinion. Maybe I'm too hard on myself. Maybe I'm not boring, but just an asshole. Who knows. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm crazy, but I think I'm on to something...

 

Brian H.

You, Right Now

When we think about whether the audience will like our work, we tend to consider everyone. That's not right. That's an impossible group to satisfy. Everyone... Really? No. Stop that.

Sometimes I find myself filtering certain parts of myself when writing. The information may stay the same, but feelings change, and I don't think they should. When we filter human feelings when writing, we actually change the meaning of words. Every thought you have is accompanied by a feeling in that moment. It does not matter what the actual feeling is, but it matters in making the writing more sincere. Your writing should be you, right now. That's who is doing the writing. You... Right now. There's no need to match feelings to a different point in time. Your place in the past and past feelings are all implied in you, right now.

For example, write with the confidence that you feel in the moment. Don't dial anything back for your reader. If you are confident when writing something, then be confident. There is no such writer that is meek and powerful. Don't be submissive. Submit the reader. That's the point. That's what a writer is. Take control. Readers do not go into something knowing that they will put the writer in a stranglehold. They can't. They are not there when the piece gets written.

Plus, reading is a selfish act. An audience does not read something for the enjoyment of the writer. They read for themselves, and rightly so. You do your job. The audience will always do theirs. An audience is always the same. You are always changing.

It's always important to consider the point in time specific to a word's definition. An audience is something that happens after you have already written. You cannot let a potential audience change the work you have not given them yet. Do not conform to something that has no real existence. Imagine writing a current events piece about events that haven't happened yet... That's the equivalent. So let the events happen. Let something happen. Because something will happen, and whatever happens will not include the audience.

Also, consider this: there is only one person that cannot be a part of your audience: you. You will never be able to see your work the same way someone else does. You are a single person, and the audience is a bunch of not-you's. They are all singular. They are all different from one another. And you, the writer, are more different than they are from each other.

So, why would you rely on yourself to decide how the audience will react? You shouldn't. You can't. Write based on you being the audience, because while you are writing, you are the audience.

Writing is much different than speaking in this sense, too. I can be meek verbally, but I try not to be as a writer. Verbally, silence is a monumental tool. In writing, there is no such thing as silence. Space filled is the only thing that exists. So don't be meek. Fill the space with what's filling your head, and that's it. A meek writer does not write with his or her own thoughts, and therefore, does not write with his or her own words. What the hell is the point of that?


Brian H.

Moments In Writing: Seizing the Moment

My previous "Moments In Writing" piece was about knowing when to let go of a gem: the moment you decide to put aside a gold nugget for the benefit of a piece of writing. Today, I wanted to write about what may seem like a contrary idea, but it's not, I promise. The idea: Seizing the moment. Seizing the opportunity to exercise your writing muscles. Using a thought and running.

I'm referring to seizing an ability to write. Seizing moments of thought and production. It's important to know when to let go of something great for added coherence, but it's also important to write without question. These are entirely separate thoughts, because the moment of letting go of a gem happens further down the timeline of writing. I'm referring to the moment you decide to dedicate your brain to writing, and nothing else. To even create a gem, you need to have already seized the moment.

Leaving gems behind is an example of patience. It's important to be patient with your ideas and content, but not with your brain and work ethic. When ideas and coherence are hard to find, it's not because your brain is completely off, it's just because your brain is in the wrong space. The only way to find the correct space, is to let go of all patience, and write.

Any effective writer will tell you, that it doesn't matter what state of mind you are in, you need to work. And work. And write. And work. If you want to write, you have to write. A lot. If you're tired, depressed, hammered, busy... You need to dedicate time to writing. Ideas are the root of all writing, but without writing, the idea is nothing. Think about it, what is a root without a tree?

So, seize the moment. If you ever think, "Hmm, that's interesting," write about it. Go. Start ripping. Don't worry. Don't think. The worst thing to do is contemplate ideas. Get ideas on paper. Until tangible, an idea cannot exist. Write it, then read it, then edit. Your own ideas look different going in than they do coming out. Our talented brains are not talented enough to know that ink is merely a mold of the craziness in our heads.

Consider this: there was a 50/50 chance that, when I started this very post, I wouldn't publish it. So, create without question. Only until you produce something, can you know that it's worthwhile. "While," being a period of time. You can't spend "time" on something that does not exist.

It is fine if those ideas are influenced in the moment, also, thanks to editing. If you're bombed and you decide to write, at least you wrote. You see? You can't edit something in your head; something you thought about writing. We have all seen some variation of the television show, where someone has a great idea, doesn't write it down, thinks they'll remember it, then forgets it (most notably, a season 3 episode of Mad Men I recently watched). Don't let that happen. Thoughts are specific to the moment that you have them. You never have the same thought twice. So seize the moment. Write. Write things down. Take notes. Contemplate on paper. Just think of a piece of paper as the space in your brain currently occupied by thought. When you write, you are taking a photo of that space.

Seizing the moment is knowing when to question yourself. Don't question before writing. Don't question when you are about to write. You should only ask questions of produced content; after you have already written. Every time you have ever produced any kind of semi-finished work, it started with you seizing the moment.

It's a moment that needs to become a habit for every writer. Should you feel any momentum, of any kind, ride that momentum. It doesn't matter where it takes you, it only matters that it takes you somewhere. Seize the moment. Seize momentum. Write.


Brian H.

Honesty vs. Sincerity

This is on the same tree of thought as my last post, just a different branch. The tree of sincerity, that is. A tree that, I'm guessing, has thousands of branches. In my opinion, sincerity is something that could be written about forever, especially in art and writing. Sincerity is the truest existence of a person on earth, and it is why we become artists and writers (and do a bunch of other things I guess, too...). Regardless, with each new angle of thought that I take towards sincerity, I keep coming to similar conclusions. It's essential, it's extremely difficult, but it's worth a try.

Anyway, on with the rambling...


The more I write, the more I realize the difference between honesty and sincerity. The more time I spend thinking about them, the further they grow apart.

Consider this: All sincere writing is honest, but not all honest writing is sincere. Let me explain...

Honesty is on the surface. Sincerity runs deep. Honesty is more reliant on content, while sincerity is more reliant on intent. Intent will always bleed into content. In writing, honesty is an accuracy of feelings and facts relevant to the writer, present in the words that are written. The words themselves are not essential when considering sincerity. How you arrive at those words is what is essential. In other words, honesty is in the words that end up on paper, while sincerity is the filter used to get to those words.

A sincere writer clears out as much as possible in the writing process - the distractions, distortions, or hesitations of any kind. Being sincere starts well before you actually sit down to write. Honesty will only happen after you literally begin writing, not when you begin the writing process. Honesty can happen on a whim, by accident, and it can be drawn from many different places within a person. Sincerity is the person. It is the process.

Honesty is more physical than sincerity, as well. Honesty has an exact, distinguishable point of existence. Sincerity is always the same when coming from one source. Meaning, an author can write anything, and will always be writing with the same sincerity. A novel, an autobiography, a journal, anything... Honesty varies however, because it is specific to the medium that it exists in. It is reliant on a specific subject in the writing to which it can be attached. Honesty lies within the novel, within the journal, etc. The novel, the writing, precede the honesty. Sincerity precedes everything except the writer him/herself.

Sincerity is all-encompassing, honesty is an element. Sincerity is the universe in which honesty exists. In fact, sincerity is the universe in which all forms of effective art exist. And most importantly, sincerity is the universe in which we exist. We, you, he, she, I... Writers, artists, people. Without sincerity, we do not truly exist. Do not distort. Do not distract. Do not hesitate. Be sincere, do sincere, and keep creating, keep pushing.


Cheers,
Brian
 

Hemingway and Masterful Sincerity

Being sincere is a matter of being present in your work. The more present you are, the more sincere your work will be. And, in my opinion, the most sincere work you ever produce will be the best work you ever produce. In a certain light, writing could be considered the pursuit of utter-sincerity.

My goal is to have a clear sincerity in everything I do. I try to eliminate as much as possible in between my brain and the activity at hand. To do this, a writer must know what not to include in their writing. We do this by knowing what is implied in our work.

Every person, place, trauma, thought... Every single experience you have ever had is implied in your writing. That's your style. That's your uniqueness. That's your sincerity. Being truly sincere is being all of those things at one exact moment in time, and then creating a thought, a sentence, and so forth. There is no need to deliberately spend time considering those things, wondering how they will present themselves. They are already there. Implied. Knowing what's implied is an absolute necessity when being sincere. Explicitly stating what has already been implied is redundancy.

Sincerity is a way of writing. That may seem trite, but it's true. It's a mindset. It's the vehicle you use to transfer thoughts from your brain to your pen. It goes well beyond words, but it shows in the words. Audiences read, but more importantly, they infer.

What I'm talking about here is not a sincerity in the information provided in a written piece. It's not an accuracy of facts provided, or direct beliefs instilled in words by a writer. It's what leads us to write. It's the filter that we run information through to even begin writing. It is us. It is the writer. It is the work.

In any creative world, and especially in writing, you will find vast amounts of artists/writers that produce seemingly identical work. That is because they lack sincerity. As sincerity rises, our work becomes more different, more unique, and more specifically true. The most unique and spectacular artists of our time worked with deep sincerity in creating their work. Devoid of influence. Without conforming, succumbing, etc. What they wrote was truly them.

Perhaps the greatest case study for sincerity in writing is Ernest Hemingway. A man that could write fiction with more sincerity than most could write an autobiography. As I've gotten older, I have come to appreciate Hemingway more and more for his style of writing. A style so natural, that it's too natural. A style so natural, it's unnatural.

The only thing that is implied in Hemingway's writing is himself. Nothing else. That's not to say that he, himself, is present in the plot, it's merely to say that his human existence is present in the way that he connects to the audience. Crystal clear sincerity. He does not distort the information in any way.

Hemingway has the ability to say so much while writing so little. His account of the plot tells exactly what is happening, and nothing more. He gives the reader a story in it's truest form. Some authors are great because of their outlandish creativity and story-telling abilities. Hemingway is great because of his pure writing style. The pure writing is what makes the story happen. Nothing is implied; everything written is crucial. Each sentence is something that happens. Each sentence is it's own event. Hemingway writes novels with more stand-alone sentences than any other writer I've ever seen. He uses a magnitude of incremental events that sum to a more grand conclusion, whereas other writers contribute multiple sentences to one event, with a more calculated climactic push. Premeditated decisions could allow a writer to control where the reader's focus lies. Hemingway was able to drive the audience in a specific direction without ever explicitly pointing them in that direction. What's most astonishing, is his ability to present such little information to readers, yet have them all come to the same conclusion. Truly astonishing, and truly masterful.

Someone who has not read Hemingway might read this and think his work sounds bland or monotone. It's not, because it's sincere. At no point did Ernest Hemingway think about writing a story the way anyone else would. He had one way of presenting beautiful creativity to the world, and that's what he did. He stayed out of his own way, which, in many cases, is the root of sincerity.

To consider what actually exists in the plots of Hemingway novels is not to consider much, but there is a reason why his work has lasted with such prevalence. His artistic magnitude can be attributed to a unique and dark power presented in his writing. That dark and simple power in his writing, is not his writing style, but instead is his existing style. The way he writes is the way he exists; and his ability to show that to an audience proves his sincerity. Ernest Hemingway is first, a master of sincerity, and second, a masterful writer.

The most difficult part of being sincere, is that there is no writer to study to help you find your most sincere form. There has never been another you. What you are is what your writing should be. Your writing should be you molded into a work of art. You in a novel. You in a poem. You in a painting. You in a song. You. Ernest was Ernest, and you should be you. Sincerity is nothing other than your most honest and true human existence. Take that existence, pour it onto paper, and only then start writing.

Sincerely,
Brian

Moments In Writing: Knowing When to Let Go

Moments in writing... Good, bad, disappointing, strange, enlightening, frustrating... All of the above.

A moment in writing is a blip in the process. A stand-out. Maybe a sentence, a word, a paragraph, a thought... An obviously different instance that sets itself apart from any other point in time.

I hope to have a lot of these posts going forward. My intention with each Moments In Writing post, will be to acknowledge honest moments in writing: Things I've experienced. Stand-out moments that make writing an art. The moments that bring an unparalleled form of mental exploration. The moments we must remember to become better writers and better humans.

Today's moment: knowing when to let go and abandon a gem.

Here's the tricky part... In this case, it's more difficult than usual to identify the moment. You won't consciously know when the kindling catches fire. You'll feel the heat, then see the spark in hindsight. Usually because your "kindling" contained something that you original thought was a moment, a gem; Something great. Something to hold on to

Unfortunately, it's hard to be patient. You must let the flame build. Let the fire work itself out. It will come to you (the writing, not the fire, of course). You can't throw a giant log in the fire before there actually is a fire. And kindling is not kindling without a flame. Thus, every word, sentence, paragraph, and thought must contribute to the overall product. Fuel the fire, don't weaken it.

This is when you need to know when to let go.

I often find myself holding onto a specific sentence. "Man, I really like that sentence. I'll work around it." You think you have a gem. There it is. That's going to be the starlet in this piece. The outlier. But does it improve your piece as a whole? Did you write the sentence a few days prior and then force it into a paragraph? Don't toss a log on a cool, dry bed of twigs. Logs are great, but only when the fire is already roaring. Kindling gets the fire started, but the logs create an intense heat, a glow, and eventually, an unusable aftermath. When the ashes cool, that specific flame is done forever.

My advice: don't be afraid to move things to the side. What seems to be a gem might just be a distraction, but distractions are not useless... A distraction is only useless in a specific moment in time. Not forever. So keep your thoughts. Keep your words. Keep your sentences. Keep your gems. Just move them to the side if you question their place in your writing. They'll find somewhere to resonate, even if it's solely in your head.

Be patient, also. If you have a great sentence, keep going. Move away from it. The second you move away from your last gem, you're one step closer to your next gem. So keep moving. Don't get hung up on something you like. Know that you need to let go to conclude your piece.

Then, as you continue to write, you'll gain a true assessment of your "gem." Maybe it's not a gem at all. The best part, letting go of what seems to be greatness allows true greatness to prosper in the shadows. Too much sunlight kills the plants. So knowing when to let go lies in never holding on in the first place. Don't grasp, just drop things. Drop thoughts on paper. Lay your thoughts out as puzzle pieces, then assemble. Not every piece is going to fit. In the midst of all the craziness in your brain, however, there's a beautiful portrait to be found. It's simply a matter of using the right pieces.

 

Be Patient, Keep Writing,
Brian

The Depth In Simplicity

One of the greatest compliments a writer can receive, is that his or her writing has a lot of depth.

To have depth as a writer, you must pack as much information into each word, sentence, and paragraph as possible. This means that every word carries an intense weight. A weight that goes beyond the dictionary. Each word represents it's own definition, connects to the writer personally, and connects directly to the piece of work that it's a part of. Each word should carry it's own weight/meaning, plus the weight/meaning of each word prior. 

But how do we achieve depth? How do words become heavy

In my opinion: Simplicity.

Be as simple as you can be - the "you," being the most important part of that sentence... Don't be as simple as possible. Be as simple as you can be.

Every word should be an absolute necessity... If you ever wonder if a word/phrase/sentence is necessary, then it probably isn't necessary. Wonder presents at least some semblance of doubt, and there shouldn't be any doubt. 

The more necessary a word is, the more weight it holds. The weight of each word is directly related to the amount of emptiness surrounding that word. Meaning, without fluff and filler, your words will actually gain value. Don't cloud up the true meaning of your statements by adding filler. Keep it simple. Keep shaving off layers until there is no where else to go. You should only be able to write a sentence one way. If not, keep editing, because you haven't written the truest version of what you wanted to say in that sentence.

Plus, surrounding a word with filler and clutter will bring that word closer to filler itself. The boy who cried wolf... (The boy who cried word? No... I digress). Eventually, with enough bullshit, each word loses meaning. So be simple. Write down exactly what is in your brain, and nothing else. That's it. Simple.

Now, being simple is not about writing being easy. Rather, it's about writing being easy to comprehend. The idea of simplicity is on the inferential side of something that is written. Simple writing does not require a simple work ethic or a simple-minded writer. In writing, being simple is being yourself, and you are not simple. Simplicity allows for the easiest access into a writer's mind. Simplicity is the most accurate translation of person to word.

The most simple writing lends itself to the most honest/raw writing, and the most honest/raw writing lends itself to coherence. So, don't make a sentence more than what it is. When your point is across, when your statement is made, your sentence is over. Don't add a single word. Coherence does not come from implanted transition words and phrases. Transition words and phrases are mostly the antithesis of coherence. Truly coherent writing needs no transitions, because the transitions are within the writing itself.

Coherence does not come from any single word or phrase, in fact. Coherence can only be obtained when considering a piece of writing in it's entirety. And while teachers can teach us how to use transition words and phrases, they may not be able to teach us how to write coherently. Because, to write coherently is to think coherently, and to think coherently is merely to think. Simple enough? Cut out the in-between. Remove the bridges. To reach true coherence as a writer, one must minimize the difference between thought and writing. The information should leave your brain as simply as it appeared.

Maximum coherence is the ability to make something into the exact shape of the audience's ear canal. It fits perfectly, with no wiggle room. Your thoughts went right into their brain. Easy. No air on the sides. Perfect. Simple. And for the audience, coherence proves more important than specifically relating to the narrative. There's a gigantic difference between the audience relating to a single thought versus an entire piece of work. There is even a gigantic difference between an audience relating to many separate thoughts as opposed to an entire piece of work. 95% is not 100%. When you reach 100%, something becomes 1. It then becomes a single piece of work. Only then can it even become a candidate for coherence. So, make everything you write one, single piece of work, not a collection of sentences.

So, in closing, being simple is about a lot of things. Honestly, simplicity in writing is not simple. It's mostly an idea. It's a specific way to approach writing. It's a specific brain set up that allows a writer to cut out the unnecessary baggage. Don't consider. Just do. Get to the point. Let it rip.

Cheers,
Brian

Exploring the Open-Ends

Something I struggle with personally, is looking at the finish-line from a distance - the finish-line being a goal, conclusion, or anywhere that I want to end up in relations to my life and career. In this case, the finish-line is me, sitting in a semi-secluded home, drinking pots of coffee, with pen and paper in hand, having built a lengthy career as a writer, with no real worries or concerns, other than my next piece of work (excluding the idea of a family merely for the purpose of this post). 

Unfortunately, getting to the finish-line is not one giant leap. Getting to any finish-line is a sequence of steps. Typically, those steps are small, and can seem meaningless when viewed singularly. I have spent way too much time in my life contemplating the meaning of the next step. In relations to career advancement (my current dilemma), contemplating usually means you're staying put, which over time means you're actually digressing... That's what brings me here today. This is the first step. The first step of many. The first step of the marathon.

In moving forward with this blog, my goal is to write about writing in every way I can possibly find, while being completely open and honest. As I previously stated, I am at the beginning of the marathon. I am young and relatively inexperienced. This blog won't be Ernest Hemingway giving directions to the promised land, from the promised land. This blog will be more of a companionship. A collaboration between me and an audience. I am trying to find my way to the faraway island that Hemingway resides on, with admittedly-little knowledge of how to get there. This is my attempt to stock the supplies, build a raft, decipher the tide, forecast the weather, and set out to sea, with only one direction in mind. It's a gigantic sea to cross, but writing is an endlessly interesting craft that I feel can be explored forever (much like the actual sea... Get it? Yeah, I hate myself too, don't worry). And so, that being said, I'll consider this my first post. It may be more of an introductory brain-dump, but I'll try to move through it with grace...


I love writing, and I love to discuss writing. The process, the depth, and everything that goes into every choice a writer makes. It's fascinating to me, and it's a perfect representation of human nature and creativity. Writing is an art. It has flavor. It's funny. It's sad. It's weird. It's interesting. It's different. It's subjective. Writing is human experience, molded into human-made languages. Writing is emotional programming put to paper. In my opinion, writing is a disguised manner for humans to be completely honest, without appearing fearful of life and fate. It's a way for us to non-directly ask all of the questions that we have about existing. It's a way to move outside of conversation and present our inner-workings to others.

Writing is a way to acknowledge the fact that many things are open-ended and unanswerable, and it gives us the ability to connect with others on that thought. It allows us to say to others, "I guess we'll never know, huh?" But it's also a terrific means of exploring those existential open-ends (love, loss, despair, joy, religion, death, etc, etc). And, in my opinion, that's why we do it. 

Whether it's a novel, a letter, a poem, a biography, or simply scratching on a notepad, we're exploring the open-ends. Most writing includes some form of anecdote, which directly allows us to explore our own open-ends and concerns. Different forms of writing simply allow for different forms of personal exploration into different open-ends.

Novels present fiction, which allows writers the ability to add spice and flair to a compilation of anecdotes, while also allowing them the opportunity to hypothetically close an open-end - usually in a favorable manner. A letter is most likely an attempt to have a specific open-end closed by a specific person. Poetry is human curiosity presented through salience and imagery. A biography is simply dumping the truth on the audience, along with anything you may have derived from that truth. Scratching on a notepad is pretty self-explanatory. It's so open that there's not even an end to speak of... And lastly, blogs allow people like me to sit down and hammer confusion into their keyboards, and present it as faux-intellectualism.

Sure, there is a large disparity between all of these forms of writing. And sure, there is also a large disparity within each given form. That, is what makes writing even more interesting: the open air available for occupancy. Everybody has a different story, thus, everybody writes a different story.

And, ironically, through all of this, I can't help but consider my own open-ended nature of discussing this idea. But, I feel that this post is a good representation of writing, and the flexibility (or confusion, perhaps?) that it presents. Maybe it's just rambling non-sense, but I personally find value in exploring these ideas. I find value in taking something certainly less-than-complicated, and diving much deeper.

Now, while I have stated multiple times that writing is about exploring (personal) open-ends, I understand that the writing itself should not be open-ended, and so I'll conclude with this...

Why we write is why we live. As I've gotten older, I've realized that the outlets available for us to be creative, simply provide different portals that lead to the same thing: connection. Our brains need connection. Again, not rocket science here, but it's interesting to explore those portals. The writing-portal allows us to control time. There's no, "Ah, damnit, I shouldn't have said that." When writing, we have the ability to move backwards in time, where we can blanket and/or decorate the bleak parts of our lives. It presents a control that we don't actually have - a control that comforts us when simply considering it's possibility. And again, that's why we write. Unfortunately, that possibility is as real as fiction. Even more unfortunately, this post has turned as bleak as the moments we write to forget...

Perhaps this blog will be something I decorate or remove in future writing, or perhaps I'll look back on it as the true first step that led me to my ultimate finish-line. I won't know that answer for a very long time, if ever, but it's enough of a reason for me to continue exploring the open-ends. So now, I begin my quest for an indestructible raft, and a sea of glass. Hemingway, here I come...


At the onset of Friday the 13th,
Brian